I never put morning alarms and I terribly fail at adapting to changes quickly so I’m not going to change a routine I’ve been into, for so many years now. But my sister has the perfect routine, where she gets out of bed at an ideal hour and in her soft voice, as soft as hazel and her charm, she starts her day with “Ehy, are you ever going to see the rising sun? Do you question what it looks like?” She puts a soothing alarm tone on her newly bought clock, from her favorite gadget shop and even she won’t change her routine of waking up to nothing but cold breeze, early in the morning, to that music, and who wouldn’t want to open their eyes to something that calming? And maybe her ways got into mine, that I’m used to lying down on my bed, or maybe I’ll paint on someday, and sketching on others. I hustle at night, as if there was no tomorrow, until her alarm goes up the next morning, and it’s time for both of us to get set and go. And maybe that’s why, I don’t put alarms. Because I’m too fond of hers, it makes me go to sleep and dream, as peacefully as ever, as if there’s no tomorrow. More than just a routine, it’s a habit now. And old habits die hard, very hard.
As much as I like doing it, but sometimes going down the entire staircase at 11 in the morning becomes a task, especially when the sight of my morning cup of tea is missing from the wooden table, over which our family discussions take place. “Politics is a long-run, dadi ma, it isn’t refreshingly easy as sowing seeds into brown soil, neither is politics that pure”. Each day, for an hour or so, my dadi ma chants her “Hari Om, Hare Ram” and intrudes into political philosophy, Mama pictured it for me, one day while saying, ” Chote, do you not wish to come and sit with us every morning? Next year younger you’re going to turn into an adult, an elegant one at that, but we’re going to miss you. ” While I’m probably missing out on a lot of it.
But somehow, today, I was up before my sister’s alarm went off. I was hooked at the sight of a vintage scene right infornt of drooping, sleepy eyes.
Concentrated. I could hear my breath.
An old man with a dusky and divine face, lean hands, a highly over grown beard, delivering the morning newspapers. The chirping of the birds was his wake up call, I’m pretty sure, and amidst this I couldn’t even hear my sister’s alarm tone. How strange is that? I clearly can’t remember the last time that happened to me.
While I was sipping tea from a mug which was slightly broken from it’s edges, the man had his aesthetics so right and on point. I wasn’t quite enjoying the tea today, I had some other plans in mind.
He had his pair of earphones plugged deep into his earlobes, that I couldn’t scream and tell him how perfectly he poses for the sun and how he shines for it. He’s probably listening to some classic from the 80’s but he needs to know how important he is to my early morning phase of imaginations. The chirping of the birds get louder with each passing hour and I can’t stop admiring his potrait that I’ve already built in one full corner of my head, with the sun rays falling straight onto his caramel brown hair, as curly as they could get, while he struggles to throw the newspapers with so much precision, that I almost want to paint the entire scene on the last page of the same piece of paper(s) he goes on distributing in the whole of this lane.
Except for the fact that I want to paint colored balloons hanging upside down from the basket on his two-two-tyred bicycle. Not the black and white newspapers.
And yes, I’ll probably paint his picture without his earphones too. I’m guessing.
Just when I’m planning it all in my head, I hear voices in the background, discussing so much so that the words manage to overlap inside my brain. Economy, hunger, poverty, crime, habitat destruction..and the list goes on.. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reach a point where I can be conclude over these issues, without remaining in the greys of it. I’m so much unlike my family. But I want to be so much like them.
“Chotu, read your newspaper”, Pappa intervened. Since it’s not a lazy day today, I simply walk to the front door of a room, bring out yesterday’s newspaper and start from the front page, and I keep going on, for the next one hour, while everyone’s had their share of morning tea and they are all scattered around the house, to fulfill what life demands out of them. I’m talking about the daily chores, my friend. “And me? I’m still reading.Yesterday’s newspaper.” I was a day late in learning the fact that reading the everyday news has to become a part of my day, however slow, but it has to. And a little too late in knowing facts, in this world, would cost you a lot and you won’t like it. So, I read it all, to be able to discuss is with Baba this evening. He’s a sweetheart. He has already had discussions over yesterday’s news and media reports with the family, with his colleagues also, for sure, because who doesn’t discuss the headlines these days, huh? But he’s ready to do it all over again. With me, for me.
7 o’clock in the evening and it was time for Baba and Amma to return back from their jobs, while I prepared them a cup of coffee. We had our mornings and evenings quite sorted. My sister would come back from her guitar classes and we would sit across the same table, where my father and I used to start off with the debates in full swing, keeping all of our opinions forward and I would return back to my bed with a cleaner head and content heart. But I’d like to admit the fact that I still used to remain in a grey zone.
Baba and tai put an end to the evening with a melody, the one they used to sing to me as a lullaby when I was five, “Zindagi, ek safar, hai suhana, yahan kal kya ho kisne jana?” and “do any of us know the answer to that?”, I smile.
Before I place my legs on the purple colored sheet covering my bed, which is in contrast with the color of walls of my room, I’m suddenly reminded of the old guy on the bicycle with curly hair and his aesthetics so right. I look at the paint brush and a whole lot of watercolors lying on a sheet of paper, ready to be splashed in a way never before, to create something I’ve wanted to, since this morning. I’m no more satisfied.
While I’m caught up in my own thoughts, my sister sets up her alarm for the next morning, with the same soothing tone, on her favorite clock from the same old gadget shop, and I look at her in complete silence. “What is it? Are you wanting to snuggle in?” She knows this for a fact that I’m a non-hugger and cuddle is a nightmare. She reacts with a grin, and continues, “I know you a lot kid, it’s difficult for you to hide things from me. I know what you do on so many nights and I know what you did today morning. Good night.”
I wonder, if I could peek-a-boo her ways into mine, every now and then, I wouldn’t miss out on the morning discussions my family has, over headlines and maybe then, I’ll be able to keep up with the world and it’s running pace? Mama told me the entire story in such a way that I couldn’t resist from keeping away, you see.
I turned my head to the opposite side of the room, set up an alarm, which took me sometime for I was deciding on the music part. I couldn’t think more about it so I stole the chirping of birds from the video I recorded this morning, and that was it. I pulled up the corners of the quilt strongly, straight upto my face, clinched my fingers into a fist, started the backward counting inside my brain, tried hard to sleep. “Twenty seven… Twenty six… “
Concentrated. I could hear my breath.
Thirty seconds into it and I was fast asleep, quicker than on most days.
The watercolors remained still, on the same left corner of the desk, as usual. Untouched, and that was not usual. A habit in me died that day. It died in the hardest, but also in the most subtle way it could, but it surely did. So subtle that I couldn’t even notice it passing so far away from me, no matter how much I dilute the watercolors to create a smooth shadow for a background, even the shadow won’t be visible. It won’t look beautiful, no more.
I did not paint the man that day. The canvas is blank and as empty as my color palette, when unused. But Baba and I have our discussions over the morning tea now, with the entire family and that’s a good sign of improvement. We still have our evenings over coffee but now we have shifted to karaoke, and that’s again a good sign. Baba is still a sweetheart.
I keep promising to myself, that when I’m coping well with the world and the innumerable headlines for the day, from all over the world, I’ll be able to take a break somewhere, someday, and paint the old man, with all the shades, as colorful as my then palette, when used.
Atleast his habit didn’t break. He’s still there, on his old bicycle, not as old as him, throwing newspapers inside so many houses with the same precision. That made me remember him, each day and wonder, when is the day going to arrive when I’ll be able to do what this man’s dedication towards his work demands for, from an audience like me, who watches him from a far distant space, wanting to praise him in the most creative manner. I want to paint him and it lies pending. Until then, let him keep his earphones intact, but the rainbow balloons aren’t going anywhere. Just that, his hair have turned a little dull now. I don’t know how to blend the white into the black, I’m bad at that, so I’ll refrain from doing it. Until then, I’ll just read the newspapers he delivers to us, early in the morning.
That’s also a type of ode, isn’t it? With a little bit aesthetics here and there, and not as correct as his’.