Monday, September 07, 2009

There Are Days

There are perfect days and there are perfect days. Yesterday was a perfect day.

It started early. Too early but there was the anticipation of a good day to come. A drive through the mountains just as they surrender themselves to the rising sun is a good start. The mist withdrawing its smoky curls slowly, reluctant to reveal the mystery it had enrobed. The notes of the flute, sighing as they flitted away into the air. The darkness of dawn making silence a very comfortable companion.

Then, the full burst of the sun that cajoled us out of agreeable languor and into visible excitement. The river was wide and calm, held together by unbroken lines of tree green. There were instructions that sounded complicated till we got into the raft and tried them out. This is not so difficult after all. Mistakes that don’t have big consequences are very reassuring to commit. There was also an entertaining guide who couldn’t stop talking and seemed very intent on establishing his youth and bachelorhood, an arrogance upheld by unfavourable comparison with the rest of us in the raft.

Rapids accompanied by frantic rowing, exclamatory shouts and showing of teeth. Then floating along, thinking verdant is the perfect tranquil hue. The last even stretch of river beckoned but the invitation was viewed a little warily, afraid of underestimating it. Then the foretaste of the regret of not having tried overcame other fears and they were allowed to flow away into the water. But still tentativeness. Then the reminder to be calm and surrender to rational thought. A life jacket doesn’t allow you to drown. The body floated and then it swam. Then it thought, this is awesome. I’m actually swimming in a river.

A face splotched with sunburn maintains temporary testimony to the awesomeness.

A wonderful day so far. More than good. But perfection was still hiding in the unexpected.

The drive back in the full splendour of daylight. Green hills swimming in and out of the clouds. Green valleys dancing in and out of the sunlight. Sheer cliffs an inch away from our noses sporting waterfalls down their backs. Docile, undulating hill tops caressing threatening, towering crags. Gasps of awe. How is it possible for anything to be so beautiful.

Yet, perfection laughed. You don’t know who I am yet.

Then we saw it. Beauty is neither tame nor inhibited. It rumbles out of the earth, magnificent and overpowering. Submission and awe. That’s all that’s allowed of you. Sheer expanse of rock. Swift clouds unveiling and veiling them. Waters roaring down into a needle-thin crevice that expands into a narrow crook of trees that ends in a coiled river which disappears into a blanket of fields sprinkled by light through every cleft of cloud.

The drive home in the comfort of people you don’t share your secrets with. But they have shared in this experience. That makes them beloved.

Then the stumbling upon the perfect movie. Not a brilliant one, maybe not even a good one. But the perfect one. The one that takes the textures of your mood and sketches out for you the perfect full stop to your day.

There are days. Then, there are days.

In Preparation

Tomorrow she was going to die. It was a certainty she couldn’t explain. She sat up in bed, thinking about what it was she would like to do in her final hours here on earth. She felt that she should fill them with profoundness to give them the respect they deserved. Then, she lay back down, thinking, I’d much rather just sleep.

She woke a few hours later to find the room dissolved into the moonlight. Crickets sang gustily, the rhythm broken once in a while by the sound of animals she did not recognise. Death would be like this, she thought—still. She would never have to think another thought or feel another emotion. Sixty years of life wasn’t a bad deal, though she couldn’t remember anything of significance that she had done. She put on her glasses. She furrowed her brow, trying to pick out the worthwhile moments of her life. But they wouldn’t come and she turned and switched on the bedside lamp.

It wasn’t very bright. It gave off a faint red glow that didn’t quite reach all the corners of the room. A half-finished book lay face down on the night stand—another twenty pages to go. If she didn’t read it now, she would never know how it ended. She smiled. She liked that feeling—to die without tying things up neatly.

Her throat felt parched. She poured herself a glass of water. She felt the cool water travel all the way to her stomach. She adjusted herself into a more comfortable position, took off her glasses and placed it on the night stand. She moved her head to the side and closed her eyes.