Kiss the cracked lips of May
“We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection. Something closed must retain our memories, while leaving them their original value as images. Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Places.
Summer is refusing to arrive even as April this year is not really the cruellest month. Indeed, even as April ends into a soliloquy of cool loveliness, and sweet sunshine, there is no impatience or irritation or signs of inevitable forebodings. The cracked lips of May have arrived but the lips are still eminently kissable, waiting for the yellow gems of the amaltas to arrive, like emerald necklaces shining in a distant mountain fire. The Saal leaves are blooming even in some primordial areas of the capital, the gulmohar bursts in its subdued redness, and one misses the flames of the forests in the dense forest of the central provinces and tribal areas of this vast landscape, still unexplored. In the absence of the scorching white sunshine, when every little object is so transparently and strikingly visible, the flowers and the new green leaves, don’t shine with that stunning luminescence. That’s a contradiction of sorts. Two extremes balancing each other in its zone of possibilities.
But this April has been different, with rains lashing the evening, sudden storms and cool winds blowing from the north, the cloudy nights of a full tidal moon and faint breeze full of fragrances, and the sweat and humidity still not sticking to the insides of the mind and eyes and fingers and skin.
The morning stretch into the green across the Humayun’s Tomb, and the nights are full of nocturnal delights, fantasies, intoxications, stories, friendships and songs. I touch the night and it ripples like streams of memories, the sound of the pages of books turning with the wind, the smell of the tree bark and wet mud, the unfamiliar darkness which cools the skin and light eyes of invisible hope.
This is like a courtyard full of childhood narratives, spilling over into the layers of a moist, dark night, protected by a mosquito net on a terrace, gazing at the endless sky of morning stars, eating a half-peeled orange, listening to ghost stories and the Urdu service of All India Radio, like a little stem of grass with wild flowers inside a book, the small town terrace becoming an epical novel, moving from terrace to terrace, with the wind from the mountains.
She is not there, Mother, but the sound of her bangles move like tinkles of everyday protection. The rectangular house becomes many rooms, indexes, footnotes and corners. Inside, dark with a red marble floor, cocooned in its cave-like cool coldness, the room with its white-washed walls and old Godrej almirah with childhood stickers, hiding an old polo neck sweater transported from Guwahati in a long distance train with a junction at Rangya. The yellow trunk, her trunk, discarded and lonely, as solitary as the wooden ‘aalna’ where she neatly placed her simple, faded sarees, still holding her smell, her slow presence like the absence of eternity.
The house becomes ephemeral, the open to sky courtyard suddenly empty of its expanse, the juhi tree with white flowers blooming, growing taller and taller, creating a canopy of protective shadows, with little humming birds tweeting, even as the hundreds of flowers on the terrace have disappeared, like the encompassing tree in the courtyard on top of which I read Enid Blyton stories, or the jack fruit tree with no fruits, or the pumpkin branches rolling on the door, and the big green lemon tree, its leaves as fragrant as the fruit.
This was the poetics of space which stalks the emptiness of the present, the strange, uncanny, fearful darkness of the night, the incompleteness of a lost paradise, the end of an epic; perhaps not rich in wealth once upon a time, but as transparent as the sound of tubewell water and the smell of mother’s food and the rough cotton shirts and trousers stitched out of old shirts and trousers.
The night is still beautiful, but the morning must arrive yet again. One more day in the life of a house, alive and gone.