Tag Archives: sunset

Stars: Candles of our Childhood

Stars. Hot balls of illuminated gas millions of miles away, results of narrow cosmic chances.

The same stars, due to these enormous distances, appear as pinpoints of twinkling light. And so distant these stars are, that the light that left them eons ago, reach us now. And in that way, looking at them is like peering into the past. But that is not the only way stars make us look back in the past. Some of us travel time in our own ways.

When I first wondered why stars existed, I was perhaps six or seven, enjoying my summer vacations at my grandma’s house. These were times of the mid-90s, and there was less pollution than there is now. Moreover, there were frequent power failures in Mumbra. As irritated as we were due to the extreme May heat, we were helpless. This was the time when color televisions were still not that popular, but I was still happy that there was a black and white one at my grandmother’s house. In my house, however, the only electrical appliance of note was a cassette tape. But these were useless boxes during power failures. My cousin and I were little, and not too comfortable playing in the dark, so we would often sit surrounding a lit candle after sundown, and this would really annoy the adults, because our shadows were proper hindrances to their chores. Consequently, the candle would be placed atop a small wooden cupboard. This was still manageable for us, as the light wouldn’t hurt our eyes now. We would sit in the candle-lit room till power resumed, or till the only source of light flickered away and extinguished, after which we’d run to the kitchen. It had the only emergency lamp in the entire house, but we avoided it out of fear of being scolded.

Just before one of these unpredictable power failures, our mothers decided to take us to the building terrace. They told us we would enjoy the cold evening breeze, though I knew the enjoyment was more theirs than ours. Part of the terrace has a sloping roof, with one half of the slope descending toward the rest of the terrace. We liked it immediately! Due to its smooth tarring, we could slide and roll on it. We enjoyed so much that we didn’t realize that the lights had went out. About half an hour later, tired of climbing a slope rather steep for our age, my cousin and I sat at its base, reclining and looking up at the sky. It was a beautiful sight! The waning moon hardly disturbed the darkness of the rest of the sky. I knew my cousin looked up, too, because we both were quiet. Being the younger one and looking up to me for knowledge, he asked, “How does the sky have so many stars?” I was as clueless as he was, and regarding his question carefully, I looked up again. Indeed, there were a huge number of them, so many that I had never seen so much starlight in one go.

“I think these are candles”, I replied.

“Candles? Why would someone light candles so high up?” he enquired.

“Simple. When there is a power failure in grandma’s house, we light candles so we don’t get scared. In the sky, when there is a power failure, God lights candles so that those living there don’t get scared”, I said.
“What is moon then?”

“It is the largest of the candles.”
I looked at the moon to escape the discomforting ambiguity of my answer.

“A candle?”

“Of course, or why would it become smaller every day?”

“But it becomes larger too, sometimes. And look at its shape. I don’t think it is a candle.”

“It appears to be a different type of candle.”

“Why don’t we have a candle like the moon?”

I was growing irritated, not because of my cousin’s questions, but because of my own inability to answer them. I remained quiet. At the same time, I was curious, too. Were these really distant candles? How did they last all night? They would flicker, but why wouldn’t they get extinguished? And why would someone light so many small but only one large candle? I continued to wonder, while reclining at my new favorite place in Mumbra. We drew imaginary lines between stars, forming patterns, mostly letters in our names. We wrote in different styles, inventing many of our own constellations in the process. For reasons I was not yet familiar with, I felt at peace looking up. The sky had a quiet way about it. The soft breeze had put my cousin to sleep, but I wasn’t really sleepy. We remained till power resumed, and our mothers took us away.

At times, when I look up now, I find myself remembering that night. I smile at the how stupid my answers were, at my lost innocence. I try to recall the patterns we created, but I am largely unsuccessful, perhaps because I cannot find many of the stars that completed our patterns. It saddens me, but it is not difficult to not think about it for long. We live busy lives now, and we have other things to worry about. Not that our childhoods were not busy, but somehow it was far more enriching and gratifying. It was easy to be curious about something as commonplace as a night sky filled with stars.

Stars. Hot balls of illuminated gas millions of miles away, results of cosmic narrow cosmic chances.

And it is because of one of these chances that we exist, and are capable of wondering.

(Image Credits: Marc Van Norden. Click here to be redirected to the  original image)

The Promenade of Hope

Marine Drive – what are we reminded of when we think of this place? The sea, the breeze, the sunsets, and the lovers (and their antics, too). True, this place is popular for all this, no doubt about that. A lot of people come here just to have an eyeful of the romance they find people indulging in. Perhaps, it is entertaining or just plain too arousing (I am sure people who have witnessed some serious PDA know what I mean). Yet, every few yards one can find someone sitting alone, most likely from a recent heartbreak, sometimes with that empty look on their face, sometimes with tears in their eyes, but always quiet and isolated from their surroundings.

Foursquare Check-in: Marine Drive.

Comment: “Two reasons I come here – when I am alone, when I want to be alone. Reason 2 this time”

Of course, I didn’t mean it. There were others reasons why I would come to this beautiful place. For me, this promenade has mostly served the purpose of connecting with myself. Perhaps, it is the only place in this entire world where I don’t have to stress on NOT thinking, concentrating instead on the sound of the waves and noticing each change in the notes of this wonderful music of nature. There have been times when I would engage in a conversation with the sea for hours, to the extent of considering it as one of my most honest friends. For hours, I would just ‘talk’ to it. However, whenever I was with someone (Yes, I have performed my own set of antics here, as well, minus the PDA!) this sea would keep listening to me, choosing to answer only when I diverted my attention to it.

I found it extremely futile to understand the exact reason of not only commenting on my check-in like that, but also the check-in itself. To top it all, I shared it on Twitter, too. I knew I had just broken up with my girl-friend, I knew it was painful, I knew I needed to be alone for a while to convince myself that things would be okay if I wished they were. But what prompted me to post such a comment still couldn’t be figured out. It was like Math. I sat there facing the setting sun, with tears in my eyes, quiet (Right, I was isolated, too, just like I previously mentioned – why would I waste almost a paragraph on it, if I didn’t feel it myself?) Staring at the sea but choosing not to converse this time, I wept slowly, making sure my sobs did not escape. It was difficult, but even more difficult was trying to accept the fact that I had just broken up. It was like breaking a house I had painstakingly built, brick after brick, for 4 years. I recalled making a sand castle at Chowpatty (not too far from where I was) when I was a child. I remembered sitting there and staring at my ‘achievement’ for a long time, even as my playmates frolicked in seawater. I must have sobbed the same way when I had to leave it back there in the evening.

The waves crashed the tetrapods harder, as if urging me to speak and relieve my heart of the heaviness it felt. I gazed at them with the same vacant expression I had since I spoke to her on the phone a few hours back. I had come to the Hutatma Chowk, one of my favorite places in the entire city – partly because I loved taking walks here and partly because of the famous large open second-hand books library near Flora Fountain. I have always loved the books over there, though not as much for reading as for the large piles they were neatly organized in. I found being surrounded by these piles immensely fascinating.

I went to one of the book-sellers and asked if he had old National Geographics. Nodding enthusiastically, he guided me inside through the maze of papered knowledge, pointing at a pile of yellow-bordered magazines as high as I stood. The other piles behind it were even larger, and many such piles acted like walls of the ‘room’ I was in. I expected myself to smile at this lovely sight as I often did, but I did not. I could not. I crouched and pretended to carefully examine the spine of each book, as if looking for a specific issue. As I saw the book-seller leaving, I wiped the trails tears had left as they trickled down. I felt it was better to get inside an open book shop and weep, rather than walking on the road and doing the same. Perhaps I was being too much of a ‘cry baby’, but I knew that it was all I could do. It was hard to believe that minutes earlier, I was absolutely happy, with everything to look forward to… Because minutes earlier, I had someone I was sure to spend my life with, though a bit scared because there was a marriage proposal for her, which her family had approved and the guy’s family were highly likely to follow suit. Minutes earlier, I had someone who would rejuvenate my hope when it faltered because I knew that with her by my side, I would never lose.

But I lost. The very rejuvenator of my hopes had to extinguish them by saying that the nuptial was approved and that she couldn’t do anything about it. She said she loved me but could not go against her family. I was still proud of her, because she chose to obey her parents over me. Not for a moment did I feel betrayed. Instead, I felt that she was being as honest to me as she had been in the past 4 years. But yes, I was extremely sad. I listened patiently to all that she said, by the end of which I had reached Flora Fountain from CST station. I hadn’t spoken a word and, worried, she asked if I was alright.

“I am going to the Marine Drive.”

“Why?”

“I want to be alone for a while.”

“Okay. Please take care, and call me when you can.”

The waves still tried to coax me to speak, but everything I experienced since she had called me was playing in an endless loop in my mind. The sea roared louder, attempting to distract me. “Why did this happen?!” I exclaimed slightly louder than I did in the course of the day. Half an hour later, my phone vibrated for the third time. It wasn’t her as I had expected, but another girl, an ex-colleague who replied to my check-in on Twitter.

“Why alone on Marine Drive? Where is your girl friend?”

“I don’t have a girl friend anymore.”

“:O Ohho! #Facepalm”

She then messaged me privately to ask for my phone number. I replied back with my number at once. I got a missed call, and I politely messaged that I had no balance. She then called me and asked me about what happened, and I answered. I went walking all the way back to CST, talking to her. Apart from asking about me, she also spoke a lot about herself – How she was, her own break-up and how she had to deal with it, how she believes in the Zodiac, her love for the clouds and how she thought they conversed with her. By the time I got the train, I realized how better she made me feel just by talking to me. I was still sad about my break-up, but not as sad as I had been at the Marine Drive.

I still go to this promenade, but never alone. The sea still talks to me, sometimes making me close my eyes so I can concentrate on what it says. This happens when the person in my company talks to the clouds because she loves them. But she loves nothing else the way she loves me. This person is the same girl from Twitter. She gave my life a new meaning, teaching me how to feel free to express without inhibition. It is not that I didn’t know how to express, but she perfected and polished my expressions by helping me remove each spec of fakeness from within me. She completed me.

Whenever I come here, I remember my state on that day, and I wonder what made me check-in at Foursquare and share the same on Twitter. Perhaps it was in this manner I was destined to meet my cloud-lover, at least in theory. But whatever it is, I am happy. And in the end, that is all that matters.

MarineDrive