If I go anywhere else and settle, I fear, I’d miss this night.
Of course there is night everywhere – the fields awash with faint starlight could continue to trigger weird imaginings in other villages as well, the night-time aromas could detonate the same memories in other towns too, and even the orchestra of nights could be recaptured faithfully to the last note anywhere else in the world. What else can one miss!
But, still there is something here which cannot be repeated.
Something enigmatic, sharp like razors, elusive like yakshis, which cannot be carried across the ocean, or put under the microscope, or at least pinned on the kanjiram tree in broad daylight to study it in detail.
If you’re one who has gone far away from my land and settled in some other place, tell me truly. Do you miss the nights here?
I know why you’re silent; some of you’re a bit unnerved.
With all those nighttime fun under hundreds of blinding lights (see the irony!) which keep those faint stars and a meek moon in shame outside your flats and villas, you won’t have time to remember the darkness you once relished when there was a power-cut at home (The whole family gathered around a pale candle and talked. The power-cut is still here, but you’re far away now much more enlightened).
Kamala Surayya in her poem, ‘The Grandmother’s House’ waxes on a kind of warm darkness she left behind in her childhood home. Now a woman, begging for love at least in small changes from door to door, she wishes in vain to go back to that house and:
“In wild despair, pick an armful of
Darkness to bring it here to lie
Behind the bedroom door like a brooding Dog.”
How many of you’d love to bring a handful of such nights which you left back at your home long back!
Not all, I know.
Because a night evokes complex feelings. It brings to a few, warm feelings filling their heart with ecstasy but it also drives a few others insane with its sheer depth. In darkness each one is absolutely alone (You can share only the light. Darkness is custom-made).
Have you ever savoured the beauty of the nights in villages? You toss something into the darkness, you wouldn’t even hear it fall. The nights are that much deep there, the gloom absolute.
(As if the nights in a village are little black holes that descend with sundown).
That’s why some of you are not eager to come back to your childhood villages to go through its nights again. You are scared of nights where you can do nothing but stare into its vacuum, which reflects something deep within. You’ve filled your life to its brim with noises and lights because you know the moment you turn down your chatter and dim the lights you’d start listening to the deep baritone voice of your soul.
You’ll be unnerved by the truths it tell stirred by this chilly night.
Cool down, my friend. What are nights if we take its spookiness out of them!
Thirty years back I still remember the scared little boy who used to go near the veranda of his mother’s home at Vamanapuram to peer into such nights. He was so scared imagining that the darkness before him was a huge tunnel which would suck him up any moment into its vortex and dispel him at some faraway planet. I might have grown up, but the creepiness of such nights still stay young at heart.
Still one must give the devil the credit it deserves. A single night can set off more sparks in our mind than a thousand days put together can ever work up. My writings are my nights expressed.
As a wanderer I have spent my nights in strange places across Kerala – in villages, towns, forests, big resorts and motels, dingy hotel rooms, little shacks, adivasi settlements, machaans(treetop houses), log-houses, mud houses, farm houses, estate bungalows, beaches, river banks, islands, bus stands, ashrams, seminaries, wedding halls, theatres, hospitals, buses, tanker lorries, cars, and boats.
I’ve seen nights in her many moods while lying under open skies.
Do you know a kind of breeze that personally hands over with her frigid hands the cold message of rain, just to see us smile? Sometimes the twinkling gems would shut their lights row by row behind letting the dark clouds sneak over us in silence.
I too pretend not watching.
In the pitch of the night, shivering under a mundu which now doubles as a cover too, I have been startled up many times on my terrace by a thousand stars suddenly lit up(it was dark when I slept!) as if it was my surprise birthday party thrown by a bountiful night.
How can I sleep now with all the candles lighted!
Around 3 O’clocks in the morning, there is a particular moon which pokes me with her slender white finger through the window (My wife and daughter have never seen that moon, they swear). I saw the same moon scrawling on the dark floor in a thatched house of a farmer where I’d slept long back.
Were you too disturbed by her white madness, my friends? Do you still remember that meek light she used to sprinkle on the dirt path on your way home, with thick dark foliage lining up the borders? Have you walked with eyes as big as saucers through a country road fearing that every step could possibly land on a coiled neurotoxin(spelled snake).
Nights are nothing if not laced with terror.
The frogs and the cicadas which divide the nights between them in villages and forests deepen the fears. The screeches of nocturnal birds may set forth a chain reaction of wild imaginings. The starlight pulls out limbs from innocuous plantain trees waving their leaves from the farm far out there.
You might have chosen one such night to fill the ears of your brother with horrific accounts of ghost sightings. Just to see him shake in fear. But nights they are, they play strange games with us.
There is a moment in every storytelling when the teller begins to believe the tale he tells.
Especially in a night like this.
The pala has bloomed. Listen! The owl hoots!
Earlier 101 Stories
101 reasons to Love Kerala: Bus Journeys in the North
101 reasons to Love Kerala: Go Mountains!
101 reasons to Love Kerala: Tree Shades
101 reasons to Love Kerala: Villages