Through a gap in the shutters I can see it’s still dark outside. The praeternatual silence in this, the noisiest of cities, is broken only by the far whistle blast of a passing train. No traffic noise, no blaring horns, no raucous shouting, no barking dog or crying kinder … nothing. I feel cocooned in a black, velvet stillness. But this, it doesn’t last.

The sun has yet to creep up towards the horizon; Suriya’s rays have yet to break night’s grip, but the crows, black as is the sky, caw, cutting – nay rending – night’s dark cloak.

As I toss fitfully, willing sweet nepenthe’s return, I hear the tinkling of a bell, frantically summoning the gods as if calling a butler at afternoon tea. Then comes the call of the conch. In my mind’s eye I envisage some householder muttering incantations and marking mystic symbols in front a small personal shrine. The bell’s tintinnabulation and shell’s bellow are soon echoed by a dozen of my neighbours. Then comes the sound as of a dinner gong. The gods placated, the day can now begin.

The house comes alive. The splash as people tip jugs of water over head and body; the slap of flip-flops on the tiled floor; the guttural throat clearing; the rattled drawing of the iron grill over the front door. Soon there’s a sizzle of vegetables frying; the smell of cooking onions escapes from the simple kitchen and makes its way under my bedroom door. So enticing. But still oblivion calls – just for a few more minutes.

[I2001 6]


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