Last evening there was a storm and as I gazed from the window of my room at the rapidly changing sky and at the drama that unfolded nine floors below at ground level I remembered reading a marvelous book by Matteo Pericoli titled ‘The City Out My Window‘. ( Click the link to view. ) The book has 63 views on New York with a little description below them. It was an interesting read which took me back in time and I thought of writing about some of my favorite windows in the houses I have lived in and my memories of the world outside them.
Here is the first post of the series I call ‘From My Window‘
This is the only window photograph I have and a precious one too. Me sitting pretty near the window listening to my brother. Ma says it was my favorite place in the house. I must have been seven- eight month old. The photograph is taken at our home in Nainital where I was born. The photograph is taken with a box camera and beyond the mesh you can see part of the the rolling hills. Our house was on a height and this room was on first floor.
Since childhood I had no power to decide where to live and we moved from place to place depending on where mom got transferred. Mostly we lived in government colonies and the windows mostly opened to many other windows or the balconies of the irregular buildings opposite or adjacent to ours. Not much of a view you would say but stories are born even from the most mundane.
(This is not the tree outside my window but it reminded me of that.)
We had just moved to Delhi and lived on the first floor of a two-story private house. I was in primary school then. This particular window looked out to a flamboyant Gulmohar tree with delicate green leaves which caressed its glass panes on breezy days. The tree was right beside the side entrance from on the road to the stairs which led to our home. The year we rented the house the tree was so small it barely reached our first floor window but within a few months it shot past it.
Earlier the window offered a wider view and one could see a piece of sky crossed by power lines and other houses, section of the park where children played at almost any time of the day and the main road that separated our colony with the commercial complex but as the tree grew bigger and spread its branches the entire view got blocked. We could get a glimpse of it through the sparse foliage during autumn and winter but in summers the view from the window changed dramatically as the tree burst into a glorious silken vermilion red.
Lovely flowers filled the entire window and one could almost touch them if one extended the arm out a little pressing the face against the cool grill. It soothed the eyes to watch the fresh shades of greens. There was a lot hidden behind the green and red. Various birds rested in the shade as the summer sun-scorched everything that it touched. Many a time one would spot mynas, barbets, parrots and other birds hidden in foliage of its wide-spread branches. Once a pair of green pigeons made a nest in the tree. The pair would drive off bullying mynas all day to protect the two beautiful white eggs.
I would lie on a straw mat during the afternoons , belly exposed and watch the sounds and the colors outside the window. Mostly my elder brother, who was in charge of me in the absence of my working mother, would lie on a mat next to mine threatening me with dire consequences if I did not sleep. I would close my eyes in obedience and wait. When I was sure that he has dozed off I would open one eye to inspect the scenario and finding the field clear float into my favorite world, eyes wide open. On occasions when I quietly tried to sneak to the window , a quiet stern voice would freeze me in my tracks and I would return to the mat and feign sleep.
It was not that he did not enjoy the view outside the window but to watch a fidgety younger sister in the peak of summer afternoon was a daunting task. He devised a few strategies to keep me at one place. One of them was to slowly move the palm on the bare tummy in circular motion. His theory was that doing so made one sleepy. It worked at times but mostly it was him who dozed off while demonstrating. I found the activity immensely pleasing. I still sleep like that :p
When the strong, dry hot summer afternoon wind (loo) menacingly whooshed past the buildings the window would stay shut, mostly with curtains drawn, and I would lie there under the fan swirling at full speed gazing at the swaying curtains to catch a glimpse of the flaming tree outside. Sometimes a squirrel would land on the window sill and chat with the other habitants of the tree. I bet it spied on us through the slits during those chat sessions. Maybe they even talked about us and missed seeing me at the window.
Very often there would be a power cut and on those days I would lazily sway my woven straw hand fan (pankhi) trying to decipher the cacophony of the tree dwellers and then there would be days when not a thing would stir. Indian summer can suck the soul out of anything. A solitary crow would sometimes come and inspect the scene from the top branch and begin its soliloquy much to the disgust of the squirrels who would scurry up and down the tree trunk cursing it in a chorus.
The road under my window mostly remained empty during summer afternoons but once in a while a tired vendor would come selling phalsa or jamuns and he would call in a sing-song voice urging people to buy the cooling fruits. My mouth would water at the thought of the juicy purple fruits sprinkled with salt and special masala and I would look at big brother with beseeching eyes who in turn would keep reading or turn and snore. Life can be tough for little girls and on such days I wished mom was home.
I don’t have much remembrance of what I saw outside my window during other seasons. Maybe because the Gulmohar flowered only in summer and in winters I would be curled up in the other room or soak up the sun on the attached terrace.
Some of the best summer afternoons were spent by that window reading, drawing, sipping cool lemonade or just watching the world go by.
In the coming days I will bring to you some more memorable window stories.
Those who wish to share their stories can leave a link to their posts in the comment section of this post.