I heard the wind blowing through the trees as I rounded the bend that led to her house. Her house was not difficult to find, as on that road, for miles, there was only one house, hers – she had told on the phone. Massive, saint-like “Bargads” bowed and danced as if in a trance, shaking off excess leaves that swirled in little eddies. Occasionally a twig drifted down, startling me out of my reverie. I could see her house now across the barley field, covered with the golden rays of the late-afternoon sun; the door seemed open. She was expecting me? I, as usual was running late. But that was according to my plan. I hadn’t informed her that I was coming that day.
It was exactly as I had seen in the picture – that house. The gravel path from the National Highway going to her solitary, but massive “kuchcha” house, surrounded by barley fields and tall poplar trees, the thatched roof, the typical village houses you see on a train journey.
The green hill was visible above the density of the trees behind the house, and above that, kissing its summit was the sky, sparsely studded with whitish dabs. There was supposed to be a village between those trees and the hill.
I again heard the wind as it rustled through the trees. Almost whispering like a wayward ghost of a temptress. It was the first day of Autumn. The air was cool and fresh, with a purity and clarity so unlike any other season. Bright white clouds lazed around on the surface of the blue sky, as if enjoying the caresses of the sun rays. They looked like cotton puffs – massive cotton puffs. The ruptures on the soil caused by the simmering summer were gone, and the cleanliness of the atmosphere created a glow in the air. The winter was surreptitiously approaching, and sadly, summer seemed to be leaving in a hurry.
“It’s going to be slightly cold,” Rama had cautioned while packing a sweater in my carry bag. Then she took out the sweater, and put the carry bag on the floor, and said, “It’s a strange feeling, and I know you’ll say I’m silly, but I’m feeling a bit scared. I mean, why has she called after so many years? I haven’t even seen her in flesh and blood.”
I wasn’t scared, but restless, yes. And it was natural. Her call was like a sudden interruption in our telluric life. Non-happening 9-5 life, where even a second round by the milkman calls for extra, precautionary ruminations.
The trees gleamed fiery red and orange in the late afternoon sun and I took long deep breaths of the teasingly chilly air, treasuring the sensation of sun on my face and wind in my hair. I had slowed down the car along the edge of the lake, enraptured by sunbeams dancing on the water, tiptoeing, rouletting, prancing, and their footsteps causing little diamonds, sparkling as far as the eye could see. Wind, my favorite fall playmate, skimmed just along the surface of the water, like an invisible bird, sweeping invisible wings along the surface and calling ripples to the surface. Smiling, I watched the sun and the wind play on water.
There is no other season that can evoke such emotion in me. It is a time for remembering. The falling of leaves and the change in the weather reminded me of past times gone; things ending, people moving on, relationships changing. Anger turning into complaisance and complaisance turning into listlessness. The promise and hope for the future was always at the back of my mind, but at the same time, constantly overshadowed by nostalgia. Where had I gone wrong? I never knew what events had brought me to the place I was at. Camouflaged. So many things to contend with. Mistakes made, promises broken, tears shed. It all becomes too much at this time of the year. Everything came back in a flood of memories. The hurt and pain purposely interred, self-exhumed again. The brave and fearless façade so carefully constructed was destroyed in one foul swoop. All because of a season.