Life is Beautiful

Amit Sengupta

As I write this one day after Holi, April has almost arrived, but it might not really be the cruellest month, as the poem goes. The cracked lips of May might actually scorch the eyes, and fingers, and the soul, with its hot desert winds. Winter has gone, but there is still the fading, fleeting, familiar nip in the air, as the North Mountain Wind caresses the rough cotton of my long baggy white cotton shirt, and becomes longing and desire, leaving nothing but the coolness of the wind, like the smell of wet jasmine.

I am as illiterate about Hindustani classical music as about the names of birds and flowers, but that only helps to enhance my other senses, innate instinct, impulses and lack of inhibitions; gaze, smell and sensibility, the slow, nuanced unfolding of unfinished sentences. So the music moves from inside the window and floats in the sunshine wind across the green of the expanse, and all the colours of the flowers enter my courtyard, hanging on, leaving their lingering absence and fragrance in the nocturnal open-to-sky sensuality of a night of exile.

So what is it with untouched flowers that they give you so much in such stunning silence, unless you want to listen to the language of leaves and petals, and dew drops on leaves and petals, like silent, solitary forest nights so full of nocturnal sound, heightening your murdered sound systems of urbanity, resurrecting both lost memories and lost instincts. We are eternal victims of dubious excess: clichés, megalomania, trivia, hysteria. That is why, these are nights of revelations, of quiet withdrawal from fame and the obscenity of success, and the neo-rich prosperity of our lives and times. And then the dawn arrives, not like an illusion, but as a smooth, lucid, fluid movement of changing seasons, like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, Mozart’s 40th or 42nd symphony, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Salil Chaudhury’s melodies, Sahir’s lyrics.

It’s like flowers and leaves changing colours, an entire tree becoming soft vermilion with leaves falling like shooting stars; the fiery orange and red Tesu flowers, pulpy and velvety like pulp fiction, moving into the blue of the sky across infinite flyovers, suddenly putting brilliant, balanced ancient architecture and modernity’s insatiable ugliness in perspective. They make orange and red carpets with no sign or symmetry, and if you touch them, they tell you that they are not really pulp fiction. They are flowers. And they wilt and wither away, as they arrive so suddenly and for such a short while, like reprieve and repose, and they retreat without making a dying statement.

 We are eternal victims of dubious excess: clichés, megalomania, trivia, hysteria. That is why, these are nights of revelations, of quiet withdrawal from fame and the obscenity of success, and neo-rich prosperity of our life and times. And then the dawn arrives, not like an illusion, but as a lucid movement of changing seasons

The leaves continue to fall and a festival of little pink, black, blue, yellow, white flowers line our imagined homelands like a meticulously embroidered Persian carpet. If this is the meaning of life, like sensitive human fingers making a Persian carpet, then so be it; and hence I remember the finale of Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, as much as Albert Camus’ Exile and the Kingdom. So how many colours can one leaf become in one lifetime, how many magical realism leaf storms, how many manuscripts unwritten, how many fragrances inside a cotton shirt in the wind, how many early morning extinct sparrows and chronicles of a life foretold? 

I no more cross the street like a comic strip of desire. It is just that the night wind is making me crazy and I have learnt to heal myself with the colours of the seasons, slowly turning the corner of the next bylane, not waiting for a familiar face at the crossroads. A stranger among strangers, it’s the fleeting music which travels through the open window which is a friend, and distant fragrances,
and petals and leaves, and the wooden smell of an old second-hand book which can be opened anywhere, anytime, across any page or chapter, like a Jorge Luis Borges poem.

Outside our little workplace in the invisible backyard of an urban village, a huge tree has shed all its leaves. A lame crow has made a makeshift nest. The crow is always alone, single, even while little green shoots are being reborn, and you can smell the old bark becoming new. Next to it, a shahtoot tree is in full bloom, its green fruits beginning to ripen. A procession of rare birds has arrived to celebrate the new birth of a new fruit. You can hear them chirp, and you can see them play.

Life is beautiful. 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2013