Dr. Elizabeth V.Koshy, Professor in English Literature at Dr.A.B.Telang Senior College, Pune, India, writes about relationships, memories, nature and women’s issues. Her poems have been published by Sweetycat Press, Clarendon House Press, Gertrude’s Writing Room, Caesurae.org, The Writers Club (Grey Thoughts), Lothlorien Poetry Journal, The World of Myth, Stacy Savage in Poetry for a Cause and Indian Periodical.Her CNF and memoirs have been published by Sweetycat Press, Academy of the Heart and Mind and Impspired.com.
Waiting for the light.
I sat looking out of the window in the golden hour before sunset, watching the sky turning orange-pink before leaving the earth and me, in growing grey-gloom as it dipped below the verge. As the lights in our suburb grew brighter, I sat in the darkness.
The current had already gone since the morning when my husband and kids were home. I had left home for work at 7.15am. When I returned home from work, I had plugged my phone into the socket to realize that there was no current. I had watched an episode of a series and had begun another when my phone got discharged, at around 5pm. I’d been sitting in my favourite spot at home, my green-leaved balcony, till the sun had dipped.
The maid who came in the evening to make chappatis for dinner was surprised that we didn’t have current. She promised me to ask the security guard at the entrance whether only the lights on our side of the building were gone. She also promised to send her neighbour, an electrician, if the current had gone only in our flat.
The night air was chilly and there was a light mist. I got into the house and fastened all the sliding windows as buzzing mosquitoes had started circling my arms and feet. The corridor lights were on. Waiting in the dark I wondered what had happened to the lights at home. I wondered whether only our flat was in darkness. I checked whether the lights from the other flats could be seen, leaning out of my balcony. Both the flats above were in darkness. Two flats below, I could see light filtering into a balcony decorated with Diwali oil lamps and I thought that perhaps they had a generator.
A thought crossed my mind that if the fuse had blown out, an electrician would have to be called. Would my maid remember to tell her neighbour? What if he wasn’t at home? What if there was no security guard at the entrance when she reached there? My mobile was drained so I was not able to call the security personnel or my husband. I did not want to change my clothes to go down to the entrance to meet the security guard. I decided to wait for my husband to return. I wondered whether I had matches and candles but decided against searching.
It was not all darkness: The lights from the under-construction building adjacent, lights from slow-moving vehicles outside the exit gate, colourful lights of other buildings down the road, each lit up like huge Diwali lanterns, far off lights like the night-view from an airplane before landing and tricolour (orange-white-green) lights on a crane being used for construction, half way down the road in front. The lights from moving vehicles cast fleeting shadows across the walls. Silhouettes of plants in the balcony made pretty moving pictures on my walls. I sat admiring the play of shadow and light.
Lying on the divan in the hall I decided to exercise. First I completed all the stomach crunches done lying down, then did all the exercises sitting up in bed, then got off the bed to do stretches for my legs, then completed the standing exercises followed by jogging first at one spot and then around the house. It had been a long time since I had exercised and it felt good. The only exercise I had everyday was walking to the canteen for tea at college!
Next, I decided to water the plants. They did not need watering as I had watered them the evening before but decided to water them anyway. My daughter wouldn’t have to water them the next morning. I saw an excavator and two trucks moving into the adjacent plot. It raised its giant proboscis and plunged its huge iron-clawed bucket-mouth into the earth to excavate a load of earth to be dumped into the waiting trucks. That marked the beginning of unrelenting noise, dust and no ventilation for the next twelve months as a 21 storey building would be built, blocking a part of the wonderful view of the suburb that we had. Unhappy with the development, I rued the silence of the night.
It was already 7pm. My 87 year old mom-in-law confined to bed after a knee operation would be waiting for her tea which we usually had after my husband returned home. He was getting unusually late that evening. I decided to make tea in the darkness. The light from the gas burner was sufficient. Expecting Vincent to come home soon, I made tea for him as well. I then opened my steel tins in the dark, shaking them and feeling the contents with my fingers, searching for something to munch along with the tea. Neighbours and friends had given a lot of Diwali ‘Faral’ (karanji, shankarpali, chiwda and chakli). I was able to find my small steel bowls easily. Filling one with the snack items, I took the bowl and the tea to my mom-in-law, who was sitting on her bed in the dark.
The curtain over the sliding windows was only partially open. I drew the curtain all the way up to the wall. A live painting of twinkling lights lay in front of our eyes. I went back to the kitchen and kept all the washed utensils in their allotted places. After tidying the kitchen, I tidied the hall and my bedroom. Then I folded the washed and dried clothes on the bed and kept the piles in their respective cupboards. It was already 8pm.
I then lay down on my bed wondering what to do next. I told myself that Vincent would now return only with Esther, whom he picked up daily after her class, at 8.30pm. I found myself listening to the sounds outside. The silence inside the house was a stark contrast to the noise outside: of the JCB, of the trucks carrying earth, of the vehicles on the road, of children playing, of children practicing their karate moves on the lawn and of children bursting the last of the Diwali crackers.
There was a lot of silence inside my mind too. The continuous train of thoughts playing in my mind was stilled. I found myself calming down, at rest in the ‘Shavasan’ (Corpse Pose in Yoga), spread-eagled on the bed with my hands and legs splayed out. I must have lain there like that for about 10 minutes when I heard someone banging the door. I found myself loath to get up.
Yohan, my son came in. As soon as he came in, I told him to check whether the current had tripped. He said that the current had gone while he was ironing his clothes in the morning after I had left. Perhaps the current had tripped then. He checked and switched the lights on. Within seconds the house was flooded with lights and the quiet and peace that I experienced over a period of around three hours became an oasis in time, to be remembered like this, nostalgically!