Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Open Window 1

I may have a problem. I get claustrophobic if all the windows are closed in the room I'm in. Regardless of the weather, at least one window should be partially open. In heavy rain as well. A few raindrops never hurt anyone...

The window of my room looks out on to the busiest part of the locality I live in. It is a junction where six roads meet around an eye-shaped traffic island that has recently been renovated. The island has a statue of Swami Vivekananda painted in a glossy shade of virulent saffron. SV in stone faces west-north. He has his back to two much smaller statues painted in glossy milk-white which too have their backs to him and they face south-east. I wonder if it's some Vaastu influenced positioning. Strange... These two figurines in their typically seated position on the gate-posts of this little island are those of Shri Ramakrishna and Ma Sharada Devi, SV's real life gurus. SV's statue is in the middle where the pupil of the eye should be and is enclosed by carefully tended foliage of different shades of green. Somehow the designer of this installation has managed to fit in the colours of the national flag into the whole scheme of things. When dusk arrives, a man comes and switches on lights which shine on spraying fountains that ring the railings enclosing the island and its occupants. Every morning, another man balances on the locked iron gate and religiously garlands the statues of Ramakrishna and Sharada, after removing the dried garlands from the day before. The island and garden are ornamental, and the public cannot enter or use it. It serves no purpose other than to minimally regulate the heavy, unruly, constant traffic flowing noisily around it and under the view from my first floor open window.

A friend once commented, after visiting for the first time, that if we could somehow mute the noise of traffic, the sight could be akin to an acid trip without taking recourse to LSD. I had to agree. The noise is deafening. The roar of buses, horn-happy drivers, revving engines, broken exhaust pipe mufflers, loud voices of passers-by and irate drivers are a fugue in cacophony.

The world passes by under my window. People... Animals... Things... Somewhere between 2 and 4 am there is a distinct respite in the traffic noise and the streets are eerily empty of human life. Stray dogs rule then, and once a week a man herds goats down the road, presumably to be slaughtered. The patter of their hooves on the tarmac sounds ghostly when I'm in bed in the dark. The sodium vapour street lamp casts a glow through my open window that etches pictures from my imagination into the ambience.

One night, awakened by the strained growling of a diesel engine under tremendous stress that was rattling the glass panes and causing seismic vibrations to course through the walls of my building, I looked out to see a lorry carrying three huge, thick logs of wood trundling off. As the noise began to fade into an echo, leaving behind a hollow silence, I turned to return to bed when jingling bells suddenly punctuated that emptiness. The moment was surreal. In my sleepy state, as if in the grip of some psychotropic substance, I watched a small wooden cart drawn by an emaciated pony, carrying milk canisters, canter around the corner and up another street. The bells were strung along the harness, and their sound was an amazing contrast to the lorry's that had just gone by.

In retrospect, that scene was a film noir camera moment from a B-grade movie with nothing available to record it but my mind. I imagine the long, terrified scream of a woman in the silence left behind by the horse's bells. Cut to shadowy presence in darkened window looking down on street from where scream originated.


Prerona said...

i really enjoyed the description / the tone - liked the way the words flow describing

when i was in pune, i remember feeling surprised at the huge popularity of swami vivekananda there. i was chastened for not taking it seriously enough, inspite of being a Bong. When i tentatively mentioned Ramkrishna, he didnt really get much attention :(

anway, nice post :)

i had fun reading ...

patrix said...

you're very kind. thank you! look out for the next one... ;)