The Creaking Chair - Part XI

10th October 1986

The first thing I saw as soon as I got out of my car was the non-descript street light
It had a spooky feel to it, but also romantic 
like something ancient was peering back at me 
how many such long stares would it have endured in the last centuries
But then what makes me think it has been standing tall there for centuries..
It felt like I almost knew.

The murky yellow light from the lamp was rather dull
but it was the only thing which stood out in that countryside on yesterday’s spring night
Mikhail, his elder brother and me had decided to take a road trip 
They had done all the arrangements – the car, the tent, the camping stove to cook 
and of course the path we would take 
It was not a like a fancy camping trek you see in the Hollywood movies
It was a discreet retreat into the desert wilderness 

I have been on this ‘tour d’experience’
that’s what I am going to call it when I grow old and tell these stories aloud
It’s a fancy dream with a humble beginning
the first one was the visit to the ocean
not that I had never been on the sides of an ocean before 
but this was different
this time I had ‘experienced’ the ocean 
the ocean breeze saturated by the smell of sand & salt 
the sun reflecting on the ocean trying to match my thoughts 
Ah. Reverie.. I must not digress though 

This time it was about a night on the roadside scrub of grass
in an otherwise non-vegetative spread of the Rajasthan desert
We were told there is a massive celebration planned in Gujarat from the coming year
but a commercial hotspot. Not for poetic romantics like me…
This was a night of sitting under the moon in an abandoned dhaba in a nearby state highway 

We had ideally wanted to go completely off the road 
but Mikhail’s brother had been skeptical
and wanted to have access to the cellular network in case of an emergency 
when we spotted the abandoned structure on the roadside, we were elated 
this was the perfect spot for a night spent talking and singing 
I was trying my hand on the guitar and could sing 
But Mikhail was the real musician amongst us with his charm over the mouth organ
As we stretched ourselves on the bonnet and roof of our car
staring up the clear sky, many childhood memories ran back to me 
How I used to enjoy sleeping on the cot in Grandama’s place looking at the constellations
but the emotions it stirred were different 
the breeze flowing from the desert was slowly cooling as the night progressed
it was like an indication that I had moved on from those innocent days too 
and the only totem of time that remained was that street lamp and its light 

It reminded me of the days which went by 
and it gave me comfort of the days that were to come 
youth had given me hope slowly taking over the innocence of the younger me 
fear of the future had started to slowly creep into my spirits though 
and lying there gave me a feeling that the past, the present and the future were all coming together
for that one night 
It is ‘this’ experience which I take along with me today

~ Ashk

P.S. – Now that I have read Julian Barnes, I wish I had just written this instead of the entire diary page. How beautiful these words are -

In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when the moment came, our lives -- and time itself -- would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernible.” ~ Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

P.P.S. – Keeping a placeholder for my thoughts here, for I am sure I would revisit this page. If not for anything, but for these lines by Julian Barnes


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