A wistful sky! A grey November dawn! A lusterless crescent moon in a vessel of wandering clouds! A sprinkle of drowsy, vigourless stars! An aimless breeze caresses the cheeks with watery palms. I tighten the shawl around my shoulders and step out.
The houses are still in deep slumber. The desolate lanes zip by. I quicken my steps for an early morning stroll. My foot steps echo a plaintive rhyme. A carpet of dry leaves crunch beneath the weight of my footfalls. The trees lining the boulevard bear striking resemblance to a bunch of silent, proxy mourners at the funeral of a stranger. A quaint foreboding prevails in the atmosphere as though the ominous is perched right behind the thorny bushes in readiness to pounce on an unprepared passer-by. The green has lost its brilliance. The blue hugs a resigned acceptance. As though by a previous pledge to an imminent advance, nature surrenders its vibrancy without the slightest stir of the meekest resistance
This is the time when filigreed images of desertion flash past the mind’s eye with or without the slightest provocation – a dilapidated hearth, a solitary damsel by the riverside, a mournful pose of endless wait, glimpsed from a speeding train or some other vehicle; a desultory afternoon walk through a slender pathway crisscrossed by weak, sheen-less golden strips of sunlight signaling the approaching dusk, a soft shivering of the leaves insinuating the palpable presence of a careless wind humming the fragrance of jasmine or lavender , the clump that had clambered whimsically up the four walls where my childhood lost way in the winding alleys of growing up.
My lashes pick up a dew drop
My heart shudders a beat!
My thoughts fly on pensive wings
Somewhere a shadow deepens….
I hear the treads of evening.
An odd apprehension that the threads of past warmth may be too fragile to withhold! The night’s whispers may never return to haunt the memoirs unwritten! A final goodbye is not far away! A resonating lament on blunders undone! A foolish desire to wind back the clock! A flippant urge to flip back the pages to rest on follies long forgotten and forgiven by time! Oh so much amiss, so much spent, so much lost, so much to repent.
As steps retrace back home, my eyes rest on her sweeping the leaves aside into a mound. She does that every day with a frail hand and twisted frame. But we never speak or exchange a glance. She stoops over the heap about to light a match to put it to flames.
On an impulse I near her. She looks up towards me. A smile creases the corners of her parched lips like a pall of mist hanging in the early morning air.
“Do you ever count the number of leaves you sweep a day?” I ask
The mist deepens. A pair of unseeing eyes fathoms me through and through. A voice floats in the air, “No,” She says.
“Why?” The question escapes unaware.
“They have lost their meaning.” She shrugs.
“Oh” I gasp, “Have they?”
“They are just remembrances.” She replies, “Nothing more.”
“I see. Moments, no more mine. Withered by torment, wilted by time! ”I sigh
“No, they have tales to tell.” She continues
“Do they?” I cannot hide my surprise, “But you still bestow flames to their flight.”
“The joy of accomplishing a day’s work”, She says
“Just that?” I sound hollow.
“Perhaps, a little more than that.” She utters,” I clear my path. I have nothing to look back. As I give away, I gain some more. It is never empty. Void is just a mythical lore.”
“The ashes!” I exclaim
“Oh! I give them wings to mate with the horizon yonder.” She raises a thin arm and points a frail finger to the soft, purple canvas smudged with gold, “They return in thousand folds resplendent with hues hitherto unknown.”
“Autumn is nothing but a bouquet of wasted songs………….ribboned in gold willowy in fonts,” I recite
“No! No! The joy of giving up………” She widens her arms to the sky
I turn away. But the air serenades her croon:
“Hail beyond! Where heaven kisses the hearth
Ye shall seek me there with empty womb and spare
No tears, no sigh, nor a sad note sailing on thy shores
Yet nothing begets aplenty as nothing comes forth”
I take the crooked garden path. The green grass has pale ends. The shrubberies lie in ochre beds. Once a rainbow of colours, now just frizzled remnants of vanquished splendour. I trample dust and debris strewn by the breeze. “Nothing lasts, nothing holds, the tenderest thoughts or the boldest of bold.”
“Brittle imageries asunder
My muses have feet of clay
I dig my toes harder
For a hold on shifting dunes”
I reach the wicker gate at the far end. Somebody has painted it white jokingly. I sniff the smell of fresh paint and something more. A fragrance pleasant and sensuous, satiny and intoxicating! I seek the source of pleasure. My eyes alight on a slim stalk holding a fresh bloom of crimson delight lightly caressing one end of the gate with a wantonness which seems innocent as well as rebellious at the same time -as though she has neither care nor fear of the changing stance of the wind or weather.
Who planted her? Not I. Perhaps she has blossomed on her own to remind broken minds that to dust we wither and from dust we are born.
“Na hanyate hanyamaane shareere…………..”
There is neither end nor beginning. O fickle memory! Behold eternity unfurls. Now is no more than was the past as moments perish into infinity to begin afresh the glory of creation. Autumn is just in your mind. Yes, autumn is just a philandering thought.