Lying on my bed in the warm glow of the afternoon sunlight, which is now soft but sometimes still unbearable, I started watching, without my glasses, mango leaves move ever so slightly in a blur of deep green and light, and kept watching even when the wind picked up and the whole tree started swaying. From a myopic distance, it almost seemed like the leaves were wings trying and failing to fly.
Drifting in and out of sleep, it felt as if the lullaby afternoon would go on forever. That I would be on this bed till the end of time watching the mango leaves move and that people from distant centuries would come watch me watching the leaves move, and marvel at the diaphanous light of the then strange scene.
I left my job back in April. Sometimes, people ask me what I want to do?
While watching a pigeon going back and forth between sun and shadow, I think about what Edward Hopper had said: “What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.”
I want to touch light.
I often stop at a particular photo when browsing my old images. This time, again: a man wearing a pair of grey trousers – it has magnificent folds and creases, I wonder what the fabric is – with one of his feet up, as if about to take another step; a girl, perhaps a woman, wearing dark coloured jeans — and black loafers that, upon closer inspection, have checks on them – also walking in that frame. I have often thought about their fate, what happens to them after this moment? Do they know each other? If not, will they meet – soon, or ever? Perhaps one will suddenly remember, for no apparent reason, the other’s face in the moments before death? Or will they remain oblivious to each other’s existence, joined for this moment that now only exists in this frame? Does it exist somewhere else too?
I dreamt about a woman talking to me in another language, I tried to understand the words she spoke, but her pink lips moving through her sheer black veil looked so beautiful that I wanted to photograph it but just as I was about to get my camera, she kept her hand on my forehead and said in English: Peace.
I woke up and haven’t been able to take a photograph for days.
On that hot summer evening, I was walking down the stairs to return a book of poems by Tomas Tranströmer to K., who was waiting for me in the living room, when I saw an exquisite butterfly: some unknown chalk like white, dark velvet black with two crimson streaks on the upper side of the forewings. That’s all I could see before I took a turn to take the next set of stairs, with that turn also came an old haiku I had read on Twitter where a blossom returning to its bough is mistaken for a butterfly. I thought I must see it again because who knows when again. I turned and saw the butterfly breaking, broken into fragments.
In my dream, I ended the email to my dead grandmother with Akhmatova’s question:
“Now that you’re there, where everything is known—tell me:
What else lived in that house besides us?”
Yesterday, while reading Mir in the dark and luminous light, I realized how surrounded I was by those white pinwheel flowers that are called Chandni in Hindi. Sometimes, I wait with my palm under them, sure that they would fall into my hand any minute. Other times, on moonlit midnights, because they’re right under my window, I can hear spinning and moving and in the morning, I have always noticed, there are fewer flowers than the night before. They don’t fall, for they are to be found nowhere. They just disappear. I call them missing flowers. Just last Saturday, I was telling about the missing flowers to my five-year old nephew when he said that the flowers are not missing, they have left. Where will the flowers go? I asked.
Last night, I dreamt about the other earth.
(This was first published in Kindle Magazine, where I write a monthly column on cities and memory, etc.)