By Dr. Santosh Bakaya
It is 3 A.M., and for nyctophiles like me, the perfect time for doing so many things: allowing my mind to go on flights of fancy, indulging in a little bit of self-introspection, or listening to the sounds of silence. But what does one do when even the sounds of silence appear very loquacious- to the point of being ear-callousing?
Or maybe try to read meaning in the hoots of the two amiable owls which have always been a part of the nightscape?
But, today, they are in the midst of some sort of nocturnal adventure, misadventure probably. Both trying to out-hoot each other in a maniacal frenzy. What are they discussing? The devious ways of human beings?
What man has made of man? How a virus has gone berserk?
Was Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘stately Raven of the saintly days of yore’ about to make a cameo appearance, with its screeches of‘Never More!’ My mind was abuzz with scary thoughts. Maybe, I should get up and scribble something.
I could sense a whining, buzzing wail of fury coming right at me. The night does that, you know. It has its own code of conduct, its own etiquette. It also has a panache for creating sounds – weird, surreal, bizarre.
I could hear a motorcyclist hitting the gas and making a lightning-quick jagging move that seemed to bring him right next to my window. I shuddered.
What did he want?
Picking up pieces of my shattered courage, I tip-toed to the window, there was no motorcyclist there. Nothing stirred. No leaf rustled.
I was bewitched to see the tree fronting the window, flaunting the posture of a ballerina. Would it break into dance?
The cicadas burst into staccato bursts of chirping. What was the source of their excitement? Was there a snake slithering around in the dark, chased by a mongoose?
Many such thoughts ricocheted in my head, flaunting grotesque dance steps of a maladroit dancer, as I headed back towards my bed.
No sooner had I thrown myself on the bed than I heard the pitter-patter of rain outside.
One more sound plonk plonk plonk was added to the nocturnal orchestra.
This catapulted me to moments, buried under the palimpsest of time, to find myself as an eight-year-old, gawky girl, dancing in the rain, precariously perched on a slippery boulder in Pahalgam, near the River Lidder.
An absolutely ancient, pheran-clad man, probably a goatherd, stood a little distance away, watching my antics. He smiled at me in avuncular warmth and then shouted in Kashmiri: “That rock is very slippery, go back to your cottage, little one.”
When I kept dancing, undeterred by his warnings, he scooped me up in his arms, hoisted me on his shoulders, and deposited me on the patio of the green thatched cottage, where mom and dad were having Kehwa.
“Shukriya, Basheer, come and have kehwa with us. She is an incorrigible brat. Always does her own thing…”
It was a ritual for us to visit Kashmir from Jaipur, every summer vacation and spend at least a fortnight in Pahalgam. Those moments form a soothing collage of memories, nestling close to my heart.
I recalled being asked to change into dry clothes, which I did grumpily, while the rain pitter-pattered outside and Basheer had kehwa sitting on the patio, discussing sundry things with dad.
And time passed.
Now, it is time for the dark night to slowly gather up the hems of its long, dark skirts and disappear, making place for another new morn.
But my ears are still pricked to the ripples of River Lidder, back home.
I can hear the musical notes of resurrection in them.
Dr. Santosh Bakaya is an award-winning poet, novelist, short story writer, biographer, TEDx Speaker, essayist, creative writing mentor, internationally acclaimed for her poetic biography of Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi, Ballad of Bapu,