Till the beginning of this year, if I had been asked the question, “What are you afraid of?”
I would have answered, “Not talking to or meeting anyone.” In my opinion, solitary confinement is the worst possible punishment. Going five minutes without talking was equal to solitary confinement by my dictionary.
Gregarious by nature, I needed to speak. And talk I would irrespective of an audience- captive or otherwise. It could be a friend, an acquaintance or a vendor. It could be my children even if I had to talk through a closed door! With 1.3 billion of us living under the sky- so to speak, I never had dearth of a listener to strike up a conversation. Silence to me was an anathema.
Now that you got the drift, I loved living within an apartment complex. On the other hand, my husband of thirty one years preferred an independent house- a stand-alone one. Comparatively reticent, he often joked that I needed to converse across the threshold or to the doorjamb if there was no one within hearing distance. I gave in to his wish for I did feel that he deserved that move. When both our adult children flying the nest a few years ago, we are just the two of us and pottering around this ‘too big for just the two of us’ home, we have been desultorily contemplating making a move but by the time, we took a firm stand, this pandemic and resultant lockdown came upon us.
That is when I re-discovered my happy place -my terrace.* Sipping the cup of tea as I take in the view from the same, it is as close to bliss as possible.
Terraces* in India, is the roof top of a house and can be accessed using a flight of steps. In the late seventies and eighties, it was a go to place to study in the early hours of the morning. It was also a place where most people made a beeline to spend their evening times or even to spread a mattress and sleep on it to beat the sweltering Indian Summer Heat. I, for one found the stars, the breeze and the quiet a perfect getaway for the ‘dreamy me’ and it was a popular hangout for the 80s children of the then India.
As the houses gave way to apartment complexes, the rooftops became inaccessible except in fewer houses particularly in bigger cities. Even if it could be accessed, the time spent there became next to negligible thanks to the world of technology and mosquitoes!
Once the lockdown began, we had been spending more time on our terrace.
Watching the eastern sky light up as the chirping birds make their way across the skies for foraging food, I feel the glow of the pleasantness that creeps into my bones. I watch as the sun rise and watch my city come to life. There are many like me, who have discovered their own terraces and though we exchange a wave, the lack of proximity saves both of us in indulging in small talks.
I look around at houses coming alive. The blessed quiet continues without the constant sound of moving traffic. This lockdown has made me look at options. Using the space for some ‘terrace gardening* has extended my happy time taking care of the plants and having freshly grown vegetables on my table. This time away from the indoors, away from the gadgets makes me open up to possibilities and outlet for my creativity. I make my way once again towards the late evening to watch the setting sun create its magic. I watch the birds making their own way home to seek the shelter of trees. There are many such houses where I see people gather on their own terraces. After spending time with myself than I had ever done before, I realize that I was a compulsive speaker. Today, I am comfortable with my thoughts. I don’t feel the need to fill up the silence.
So am I always in the state of pleasurable contentment? This uncertainty is something I am battling with all the time. Worry about children and their future is predominant in my mind. Looking at the distress around me with lost jobs, shut shutters and the indoor life of children caught in the eternal world of technology and the on-line classes worries me quite a bit. Hence, I couldn’t have put it better than Stephen Chbosky when he said, “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
Whenever I feel low, I make my way to my terrace and as I climb, a little bit of gloom is lifted and Robert Browning’s words seeps into my psyche, “God is in his heaven and all is right with the world!”
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