Why Evenings Have Changed

Sunset
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.

Snoozing Cats

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.

Chasing Sunshine

Last week, from Monday through Friday, the sun came up every single morning. It was bright and sunny at 6 AM and the rest of the day remained pleasant, even if not too warm. This was a welcome change from the long winter months of grey skies and snow and rare, if any, visits from the sun. I determined to make the most of this change over the weekend when I would venture out into the sunshine and let it warm my winter-beaten fingers and toes. I would also finally discard my black fur jacket which has been my constant companion in the last few months. While it is pretty and smart (considering I made sure R spent quite a lot of time helping me pick one), I have tired of its weight and its brooding reminder of how winter beats down on us still, relentless and forlorn. Continue reading

The Sounds of Solitude

Vaccum cleaning that starts at 7 AM in the morning. Drilling work at the house being constructed across the street. Wailing toddlers making a last attempt at looking miserable so the parents would say it’s okay, school is off. Barking dogs enthusiastic about their morning walk.

Who says the mornings here are quiet?

My little residential area here in Vienna is full of odd noises throughout the day. Things slow down in the afternoons, when the leaves sway in the wind and the rainclouds pour. But there is still the sudden shout from the kids going back home from school, a distant volley of giggles from a group of college students. And sometimes, people calling out to each other in a mix of sounds that could even be Hindi. And yet, I hear a lot of, “Isn’t it absolutely quiet there? Don’t you get bored?” Continue reading

Exclaim Not

We learnt many punctuation marks at school. A variety of ways to express emotion in writing. Figures of speech. Multiple sentence forms. And yet, today, all of that has boiled down to, for so many of us, a single measly symbol. The exclamation mark. It has become the universal symbol of expressing all sorts of emotions – from urgency to happiness and disdain to anger. Now while I don’t deny that all of us have the right to exclaim as much as we want, I cannot also deny the intense reaction it provokes in me. Continue reading

Year-End Resolutions – or Not – and Some Thoughts

New YearIt’s that time of the year again. When the year that’s been by your side all this while starts feeling old, and you can’t wait to shake it off, like a bad habit, and embrace the new. Or, at another extreme, you cannot let go of all that the year has shown you, and are afraid that the coming year may not be as compassionate. At this time every year, many of us ritually go through the process of thinking about resolutions. In simple terms – what can I do to become a better and happier person in the times to come? Sounds very noble when put like that, doesn’t it? After all, what’s the human spirit if not keen on bettering itself continually? When I think about it, there are so many resolutions I could make. Continue reading

Ghosts From the Past

Our paper skeleton didn’t look half scary. To be honest, he had such a goofy smile on his paper face that he couldn’t scare anyone even if he started jumping on the parapet. By his side, our felt-paper witch stood demurely, waiting it out till the sparkle on her hat dried.

“They make quite a pair, don’t they?” I asked Mom, nudging her as she put some final touches on to our jack-o-lantern. It was quite a task placing it at a location where our curious cats wouldn’t be able to overturn it and create a fire hazard. I watched as she carefully set it aglow and put the lid back on. The stairway lit up – a soft, gleaming light that dispelled all melancholic thoughts of early winter, even from my granddad’s mind. He joined us in looking at it and also dropped a few chocolates into the owl-shaped pouch we had hung by the window. We hadn’t explained to him yet what it was that we were celebrating. But he knew very well that chocolates were universal tokens of celebration. Continue reading

Shades of Autumn

I loved drawing big leaves all over my school art-book. I would then colour them in green, orange, red and yellow.

“The reds and yellows and oranges are for autumn,” I’d tell mom knowledgeably, “You know the leaves turn into those colours before they all turn white in winter!”

It is another story that I never really saw these colours in the trees outside my house in Delhi. They’d sometimes get a muddy yellow at best. This is why, when R and I ventured out for a walk by the Danube the other day, I was in for a glorious surprise.

All the trees around us have metamorphosed into autumnal delights. Their leaves have been painted, presumably by the heavens, into striking colours that look very like the crayon drawings in my old art-book. There are huge scoopfuls of leaves strewn all over the roads, almost like a leafy carpet. It is the proverbial autumn. And if it wasn’t for my jackets and headgear that kind of restrict movement, I would have jumped into the piles of leaves like I have seen some dogs do.

Vienna in Autumn Continue reading

Of Red, Hormones and Girl-Things You Shouldn’t Discuss

White and Red Skirt

She ran to the nearest washroom. It was the PT period and everyone was down at the playground. Nobody saw her running to the washroom. She shut the door on herself, almost throwing up at the stink. No matter how highbrow the school, the washrooms oddly started to stink toward the end of the day. Now, she told herself, surely it wouldn’t be so bad. Surely it would last out for another hour or so. Continue reading

9 Rules of Partying For Introverts

Tangy TuesdayIntroverts at a party

Wait, why do introverts need to party at all? I give you this, my dear: destiny. Sometimes, no matter what you do, destiny makes its presence felt. There will invariably be some party you just cannot miss – an office do of the husband he has to attend to be polite, a family gathering you must go to or risk being called snobbish, you get the idea. Considering I already battle my fair share of “why don’t you talk to us more often”, I try and avoid this scenario with R. So, when he whisked me away to this event, I found I couldn’t say no. Continue reading