Morning scene

By J.S. Raghavan

As I enter the semi-dark street before dawn, dressed up in my walking gear, the resident dog that had not yet got up will look up with baleful eyes. It may wag its tail, if in the mood, but will not growl or bark. This is a recognition granted to me as a bona fide resident. This one and its cronies are notorious chasers of two-wheelers and autorickshaws at night and are wont to begin a fracas just to shatter the peace.

Back to the morning scene. Water will soon be heard splashed on the street in a curve of almost geometrical precision as a prelude to drawing a simple kolam. One lady has the habit of emptying the residual water in the bucket with the agility of a wicketkeeper throwing the ball to the stumps, with his back turned. Unless, I am watchful and duck, I may receive the remnants on me without missing a drop.

The flower-picking gentleman will make his entrance. He is quite well-to-do and can buy baskets of flowers for his morning puja. But he will stop at every house that grows flowering plants and furtively pluck jasmines, chrysanthemums and rosebay and drop them without any guilt into his basket.

As I turn the corner, I see the octogenarian retiree from Postal Audit standing behind his gate, his arms resting on top of the double doors. He will eye me with wonderment, as one able to get up early and walk, taking large steps towards health and fitness. I’ll raise my right arm to wish him a cheery good morning. His feeble voice will reciprocate, Maybe, he is rerunning the salad days when he was enjoying such pleasures of walking in the morning, with adrenaline joyously cruising in his system.

Soon I will reach the 11th Avenue, the canopied godsend for morning walkers. One by one, the regulars will pass by without any exchange of verbal greetings as silence during walking is deemed golden and pausing to chit chat a no-no. A few wave their hands. One or two may theatrically raise one inquisitive eyebrow that is meant to ask "what happened to you yesterday?" I will reply with an indulgent smile that mean, "I didn’t, since I couldn’t."

Then the couple, the wife a portly figure whose lips always move fast and her husband tilting his right ear towards her. This way, he gives an impression of lending his ear willingly.

The birds will start their orchestra as if an invisible conductor has waved a baton, the cuckoos, parrots, thrushes, mynahs and their feathered ilk presenting a medley that caresses my soul with a peacock feather and adds extra springs to my feet. Soon the sparrows and crows will appear looking for their breakfast picks.

By virtue of an U-turn, I will walk towards the east, the sun, an amber ball up above the distant coconut trees. Its soothing rays will drench me. Soon, it will be time to return. The Postal Audit retiree will still be there, this time clutching a newspaper.

This scene is not recent but decades old. I am no longer a spring chicken. I had to give the invigorating morning walk a miss. I stand in my balcony with my hands clutching its wooden banister, a Kindle nearby. The next generation walks by with jaunty steps. Indeed, life goes on, the roles of people reversed.

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