It is early evening. I can hear the birds chirping excitedly, convening to discuss the night’s meal and if the chicks are going to be happy with what they are taking home. The lights have started coming on in the windows I can see from mine; there are candles in some. An old man is slowly walking on the pavement, carrying a bagful of pastries for his grandchildren. I can hear their faraway giggles from the neighbourhood’s park; they are glad the swings are no longer covered in snow. Perhaps they aren’t his grandchildren. Perhaps his grandchildren are away, in another country, and he only gets to talk to them on Christmas and birthdays. Maybe he is taking the pastries for his wife. Maybe for himself. But I digress.
It is early evening still and I am sitting by the window, staring out into the slowly darkening sky. While I stare – idly, here and there – I am reminded of another time like this, many evenings ago. I had just finished revising my History syllabus for the school term-exam.
“Was it the seventh round of revision, or the thirteenth?” Mom giggled as she watched me venture out into the balcony. I was always getting teased at school for being a nerd, but she didn’t spare me even at home. Standing in the balcony, I could see the cats snoozing. Still snoozing. The birds flocked on electricity wires. Old men walked across the street, carrying bags of dhaniya patta, green chillies and fish for dinner. Staple dinner for my Bengali neighbourhood in Delhi.
What has changed really? Evenings still happen around the same time. The skies turn the same vibrant colours of yellow, orange and violet. The air still gets fragrant with evening snacks and the joy of loved ones returning home. But why does it feel so different? Why do past evenings seem tinged with emotions I cannot name, cannot fathom, cannot relive?
It is then that I realize what has changed. I have. Unknown even to me, time has brought about subtle changes in the things that make me happy, the things that get me going. They are still there, deep inside, but under layers of chores, stress, anxieties…So well hidden that even I sometimes cannot ferret them out.
Is it night yet? No. Time to look at this evening afresh and forget everything but the happiness of birdsong.
Of the breeze brushing against my cheek.
Of feeling mom beside me, joking about how I should come in and drink my milk before the winds blow me away.