Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Summer-afternoon Ecosystem — Dehradun 1



In summer afternoons, Daalanwala would gather an air of full-bellied somnolence, draw its curtains and go to sleep in darkened rooms. You could hardly discern the movement of its breath. When we would return from school at about 2.30, and trudge trudge to our homes from the bus stop, an intense blue sky would be pouring yellow sunshine on a silent world of impossible peace. We walked down a silent road, crickets the only sound. The boundary walls of houses on both sides were low, moss covered, a secret world in themselves. Behind the walls, the homes were hardly visible from among the heavy litchi, jackfruit, guava, apricot, or mango trees. Old silvery Eucalyptus stood like patient elephants teaching the riotous red and yellow flowers in the lawns to shush for a while, people are sleeping. We picked their fallen leaves, and inhaled the lemony scent. 




At this time of the day the lawns would be content just being green. The houses themselves, low and bungalow-style, separated from each other by acres of land, asleep. Their windows asleep, curtains asleep. The odd stray dog on the road, her pups gathered around her, also asleep. Only the bumblebees brought life to the portrait, weaving along their drunken trajectories, their buzz and drone holding up the summer afternoon. 




When I reached home I would open a small black gate. To my right, a lawn with two bottlebrush trees, to my left a small mango tree, and in front a generous bougainvillea creeper going up the pale yellow house wall. The house was clearly well settled, full of rice, daal and raita, and dead to the world.




I would scrunch my way on crushed pebbles towards the porch which sheltered the old grey family Fiat. On one side of the car, the giant Bhotia we had – more hound than dog – would open exactly one lazy eye, move its tail sufficiently to make place for, say, a friendly ant, and go back to sleep. On the other side of the car, the orange cat would be magnificently uncaring, and would manage to show it with equal efficiency, using closed eyes or a direct basilisk glare. From beneath the car, two protruding human feet would welcome me. Chacha’s voice would emerge with absent-minded affection as he tinkered with the car’s undersides – the only human awake for miles – “Arre, tu aa gayi?”




2 comments:

  1. It evokes siestas and somnolent summer afternoons so evocatively that one reads it with heavy lidded, yet wide awake eyes. Well done Juhi.

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  2. Hi Juhi, I read your article in The Hindu, the one you wrote about rain and the inexplicable nostalgia we have attached to it. I could not find your email or any other contact anywhere therefore I am leaving this comment on your blog, hoping that you'll read this and respond.

    Your writing is mesmerising and ethereal in a way that evokes a sort of heavy feeling in the heart; I am barely 20 and somehow even I could feel the nostalgia that you so eloquently mentioned. I love the rains, and to read something that so beautifully captures that which is so close to my heart was an ineffable experience. Right from the first line, I was hooked, and there were parts that evoked vivid images and got me a bit teary eyed.

    I would just like to thank you not just for your brilliant piece, but also for reminding me that it is never too late to fall in love with life again.

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