After a exigent return from India to London due to some circumstances, I have spent the last few days in a state of fugue of anti-climax. Coming back into my body after several hours in flight between time zones and countries, I started to look at the world around me and take note. A gaggle of geese flew low over the Thames as I jogged beside the river this morning, I met a friend for lunch. I took the tube to class. A woman in a grey hijab pulled my seat down for me while I struggled with my bag, coffee mug, books and I sat down gratefully next to her. Walking to class over the London Golden Jubilee bridge, I saw the same two petitioners asking for alms. One is always bowed over as though in prayer while passersby walk by her, their feet dangerously close to her head on the ground. The seasons are turning around and the days are just a little longer, the light a little brighter. One would hope that occasionally one can say the same thing about life.
Like the women in Ray and Tagore’s work I find myself today standing by the window, this first day back in Kolkata, still in my airplane clothes, eyes gritty with fatigue and yet unwilling to sleep, because the world is outside these windows and I want to see it and if possible be a part of it. A man passes by carrying a knife sharpening tool on his back. Have you seen them? A block of wood on which is a spinning wheel of sorts that you pedal with your foot like an old sewing machine and you sharpen knives on the wheel. Your body works through it, bending and straightening over the wheel while your hand caresses the edges of the knife testing it for sharpness. A whole family dressed in bright winter woolens pass by. I wonder where they are going. A blue and yellow bus with Alipore Zoo written on it in black paint is stopped to a side. More people in bright sweaters. No blacks or greys or dark blues I suddenly realize, my standard Western garb for winter especially. Two young men, tall and gangly, one in a bright red sweater, the other in a white one. I am loving the colors. It lifts me into being in India and even in this fatigued jet lagged state I want more. There is the smell of wood burning and food cooking and there are the sounds of horns and bells. Kolkata is pushing me to wake up and take it all in.
For the last couple of days the sun has come out briefly every day, yellow and gold in blue and purple skies and in the evenings the light seems to linger just a little while longer than it normally has during this long dark winter. I feel greedy for the sun, I want to swallow it up, steal it, put it in my bag or pocket and peep at it time to time to let it illuminate my face, I want to keep it jealously for myself, no I can share it as long as I am sure that it is mine and will not go back to its wintery state of unkindness.
This winter has dragged its feet in the muddy verdure of London and I have dragged my own feet too wanting an out from the gloominess of the days. I need sunlight and sunshine and sun rays and sunniness, all things sun. I need it on my skin like a lover need to be touched, I need it in my belly like food, I need it in my brain to be able to write and create, I need it in my heart to be able to love. How do people survive and live and thrive in weathers such as this? Perhaps it is my own shortcoming but why blame myself for this sunless state?
On sidewalks around London Christmas trees are still piled up in their now inglorious state. No lights on them, no decorations, tinsel or ornaments. They block your way sullen and rude as you navigate the sidewalks. They do not comprehend their current state. I see myself reflected in them. They had their glory in the ground and then they were raised to the state of almost worship, at the center of homes and palaces and living rooms, gifts poured at their feet, candles lit around their bowers, families gathered around their branches. Now banished to the sidewalks they lie unclaimed for weeks, not even a decent private burial, they must wither and die next to cemented roads, passing dogs pee on them gladly, such ignoble ends they meet on their backs and sides.
I am impatient and turn my face away from their faded greens and browns as I continue to seek my sun.