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An Hour in the Dark - by Debarati Chatterjee


The clock struck 6. I go home skipping and running after an exhilarating game of ‘kho-kho’ to find it shrouded in the familiar darkness. I warily check my step for the ‘Choukaat’ at the entrance. I stopped counting the number of times I stumbled over and fell over that thing in broad daylight, let alone in the dark. Once in, I run to the courtyard to wash my hands and legs. Clean and dry, I go in slowly warily taking tiny steps and the support of the wall to the room where I know I will find Ma. The shimmering light from the ‘Prodeep’ throws long shadows on the wall directly opposite the room. I inhale the enchanting fragrance of sandalwood from the incense. It is Ma’s favorite.

I peek into the room with a big smile on my face as Ma picks up the conch and then run in screaming ‘Ma’ and hug her around her waist with my tiny hands. She smiles and ruffles my bobbing hair and then puts a finger on her lips to silence me. She makes me fold my palms together and close my eyes as she blows into the conch. The familiar sound of conch brings me back to the present. I am at the ISKCON temple in Toronto miles and years away from Ma and the little pig-tailed girl of my childhood.

Memories of childhood come crashing in leaving me with a strong sense of nostalgia. It was a mid-summer evening. Baba is lounging in a wire meshed chair in the courtyard. Dada and I are sitting on the steps leading into the house with our hands cupping our faces listening to Baba as he explains to us the planetary system and about the Pole Star. A strong fragrance of ‘Rajnigandha’ and ‘krishnachura’ hangs in the twilight air around us. Ma loves spending time in the garden but right now she is in the kitchen making tea for Baba. Dada is in class 3 and knows everything. He hangs on to every word Baba is saying and is asking questions. I on the other hand am lost at the part where Baba said, earth revolves around the sun. Baba took me to the Marina beach in Chennai the month before to show me the sun set. Since then I thought the sun lived in the sea and comes out every morning and goes back home every night like Baba. Hmmm! Sun does not live in the sea and the earth moves. So much to learn and I get just 2 hours every day when Baba has nothing else to do but talk to us. Thanks to the load-shedding! I love this time when I get to have everyone around me doing nothing but talking. I know everyone is irritated when the fan stops whirring and the mosquitoes buzz but I secretly am very happy because no one can act busy when there is no light. I am 4 years old.

A quarter of a century later, global warming is a serious problem and everyone wants to save the planet. So for the past month or two there have been constant promotions to celebrate ‘Earth hour’. For one full hour, live in darkness! Honestly, how difficult can it be? I was meeting friends and we planned to take up the challenge. The plan was to revisit childhood and live the hour in candle light and ‘Adda’. At the appointed hour, the lights were out and candles were lit. By the time I reached, the entire house was bathed in the soft glow of candles and I was transported back to the load-shedding days of my childhood. Except, here the TV was playing and everybody was restless in the dark. It was not normal to not have lights on, to not be able to see bright and clear, to have to visit the loo in the dark with your senses as your only guide. 30 minutes into the hour, the light in the corridor came on! It hit me then how far we have come from those simpleton days of our childhood and that we, each one of us, lost our rapport with Mother Nature. We rely so heavily on electricity, internet, mobile phones and the multitude of other gadgets that an hour with just ourselves for company feels difficult almost like a punishment. Makes you think, doesn't it?

- Deb


#2 Nanda 2013-04-17 10:15
Wow!very touching!Meri Maa Meri Maa Pyaari Maa..
Ho.. Maa
Meri Maa Pyaari Maa..

Yu To Main..Sabse Nyaara Hoon
Tera Maa.. Main Dulaara Hoon
Yu To Main..Sabse Nyaara Hoon
Par Tera Maa.. Main Dulaara Hoon! the part about the ma has touched me very much.
#1 Nandita 2013-04-16 22:55

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