First of all, I understand that the title can sound a bit misleading to some. I assure you that this is an innocent account of nostalgia.
Those were some of the most memorable nights of my early childhood, when I used to live in my grandmothers’ family homes with my parents, uncles, aunts and cousins. The nights when the power would go off for hours together… The notorious power cuts that still haunt many of the Indian villages. Today, we have inverters and generators to cut short our time in unwanted darkness. Back then, once the power goes off by dusk, you should expect it to return only by midnight, that too if there are no thunderstorms. Those hours were destined to be spent in the dim light of an oil lamp or a single, remaining candle (no one having possibly remembered to restock them) , lit at one corner of the living room where everyone had gathered to just dwell in the looming darkness.
But years later, when I look back at it, I realize that those were some of the most beautiful moments I spent with my cousins and my close relatives.
Not just because we learnt to appreciate the beauty of being in the dark with our loved ones, but above all, we learnt to appreciate the beauty of the slightest sound in the dark. It is often observed that the quality of our auditory reception magnifies a hundred times when we are blind. The ears become sharper, and more capable of detecting the otherwise negligible sounds.
This is what happens at those moments of darkness. We sit together in the same room. We talk in whispers, and listen to the crickets, to the pitter patter and to the occasional thunder. Someone sings. Others giggle. The frogs croak. And we shriek at the pitiful attempts of a few of us to recreate an old melody (with the help of vocal cords, of course!). It is the perfect time to play ‘Anthakshari’, a famous spoken parlor game of the Indian subcontinent. And also the perfect time for ghostly narratives. The official ‘Horror Preachers’ of the family make the best use of it, narrating the same old local legends with added effects. Somehow, we never get tired of them.
I miss those delightful nights..When us kids would be noisy, sitting in the dark and talking crazy. When the adults of the house would have a round table conference about the rising prices, about the latest political developments, and about the extravagant wedding of the only daughter of some random fellow of the neighborhood of a distinct relative, about the horrific wedding expenses, inadvertently leading to conversations like, “What should we do when our kids’ turns come?”..
All this while, when the adults burn their heads with the complexities of life, we, the little ones, would sit and enjoy the simplicity of it,listening to the distant chirping of the crickets…
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