It’s 2.45 in the morning and I am sitting on my terrace. The drowsiness that had been weighing on my eyelids not five minutes ago has turned into dreaminess. After standing in total silence for a while, I slip down to the floor and rest myself against the wall, my back crying out in gratitude for the support. Noddy, my dog, curls up next to me, reluctant to be out while the storm threatens to create mischief. And yet, he is apprehensive to leave me by myself. He shifts his position to be as close to me as possible and we both are comforted by each other’s presence.
The breeze tugs at my hair tied into a shapeless bun at the top of my head. I let my hair down – perhaps figuratively as well, and it falls in an uncombed mass around my shoulders, no doubt looking every bit as unruly and unkempt as it usually does. Delighted to find a playmate, the breeze whips strands of hair across my face, tickling my nose. I brush them away impatiently, holding back the impulse to sneeze, but they are back to woo me with gentle caresses. I tuck my hair firmly behind my ears, but the rebellious curls manage to escape, to play, to be free, revelling in the rare opportunity that has been afforded to them. I leave them be. Something in me doesn’t want to bind them for now. At least one part of me is free …
A blinding flash lights up the sky, but the very next instant, the world is plunged into darkness once again. Noddy shifts restlessly next to me and lets out a small whimper. The magnificence of the sight leaves me spellbound – the light, the darkness that followed … each as beautiful as the other; each incomplete without the other. I am trying to get my eyes to focus to the darkness again and realize that I had been holding my breath all this while. I eagerly wait for action replay – hoping another such spectacle takes my breath away.
A shadow looms up behind me and I look up startled. It’s only an owl. With a whoot-whoot, it settles on the Gulmohar, swinging comically as the branch moves to the tune of the wind. It regards me with a sage expression, perhaps weighing his disapproval of my late night sojourn against his curiosity to find out what coaxed me away from my bed at this time of the night. A scurrying mouse at ground level puts an end to all his reflections and he glides away as soundlessly as he had arrived – a ruthless hunter out to get his next meal.
The Gulmohar continues to sway peacefully. Its friends standing solemnly in a row join in the dance, moving gracefully to the right and left and stretching their limbs to the sky. In the dark lane, lit up only by what little light the moon and stars can afford, the trees looked like gigantic ghostly shadows. I half expect them to come to life like the tree ents Tolkien talked about in the Lord of the Rings and start their march for some obscure mission they hold close to the heart. For now, however, they are content stretching their limbs to the sky, trying perhaps to reach for the stars and pluck a few for themselves. They seem determined in their pursuit and I won’t be surprised if I see some stardust scattered on the ground in the morning.
I am rudely jolted out of my romantic fantasies by a crash of thunder. Out of the corner of my eye I see Noddy bolting for the sanctuary of the house with a frightened yelp. He’s had enough and he certainly isn’t sticking around for an encore. The thunder echoes from one corner of the horizon to the other, hoping to send people burrowing into their bed sheets in terror. “You may have scared Noddy,” I think, “but I am not scared of a bully like you. You have got to do better than that.”
As if on cue, the thunder lets out a ferocious growl that threatens to rip the very fabric of the universe. I stand firm with a stubborn expression on my face, although I can feel the ground beneath shivering in its boots. The heavens too reverberate dangerously, threatening to break into a million pieces above my head. I look up, half expecting to see pieces of the sky rain over my head. I wonder if I’ll get the bits that are encrusted with the stars. They’d make for a fabulous keepsake.
A piteous whine near the terrace door tells me that I am not alone. Noddy is begging me to come inside. For him the idea of being alone in the bedroom is as distasteful as being outside in the storm with me. I ignore him for a while, hoping he’d go away. I am not ready to go in yet. But his pleadings become more urgent, more forlorn. Muttering a few choice curses at this mongrel I love so much (despite him being the biggest scaredy-poo in the world!), I decide to go in. It’s already close to dawn and I should get some shut eye.
I walk to the door and it must have been my imagination, but I feel my companions were sad to see me go. They would like me to stay and enjoy some more quality time with them. The wind, the trees, the stars, the moon, and the skies … they are all reluctant to say goodbye. Before I lock the terrace door, I stop, turn around, and whisper, “Goodbye my friends. We will meet again … soon!”