Good Morning World: Of Dusk, Baked Potatoes and Rest

There is something about dusk that makes me peaceful. It’s the stillness. Even on regular days, with the shrill cacophony of city traffic, the intensity of an urban life, and the never-ending deadlines of the digital age, I like taking a walk every evening on the terrace to block out everything and just focus on the natural phenomenon of the sunset.

It’s a childhood habit, like many things – tranquil and chaotic – are with me. Growing up, I remember the smell of coal on the mud choolah (traditional clay-stove) as my grandmother baked rotis and finished making the Daal and vegetables for dinner. She used to cook in the open courtyard just before dusk set. I used to sit and watch and wait with my younger siblings. Most of them were too young then to have a memory of those evenings. We used to wait because she used to bake little baby potatoes in the ashes underneath the main fire. And once they were done, she would take them out, dust them thoroughly, sprinkle with salt, gesture us to stay quiet (since her children, my father and uncle and aunts) also loved the little potatoes), and then hand over 5 each to us. It was a thrill! I still recall, clearly, the smell of the baked potatoes and the peace of the setting sun, a gentle breeze always at hand to temper even the most sizzling of Indian summer days.

Immediately thereafter, we would wash our hands, feet, and face at the chou-bachcha (a rustic water trough) and then follow her into the living room for the evening prayers, which is always at Sondhe (Sandhya or dusk). The family would sing two or three bhajans and then off to dinner.

After dinner, lights off and bed time stories and eventual sleep, with my grandma always placing her cool palm on my forehead (she always said my head was hotter than most people!), soothing the day’s fatigue off the brow and recounting a story about her childhood and her household and bringing up the children and the earlier, impoverished days.

Stories and experiences I never forget because it is the story of many Indian families. Some have taken a generation to move towards relative middle class stability. Some take two. Some stay in poverty. But we are always moving forward, inch by inch, in adversity and in good times, always under the same sun.

Standing here today, I do what I have always done: watch the sky change as the sun sets.

Good Morning World. The birds do not chirp after dusk because dusk is a reminder to wind down and to rest and restore the natural balance of our systems.

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