The view from my balcony
By: K S S Pillai
I spend most of my daytime on the first-floor balcony of my house, facing the rising sun. Every morning I enjoy reading my newspapers, sipping a steaming cup of tea, while the pleasant sun rays fall all over me. The balcony is spacious, with three sides open. The glass windows in the north are normally kept open unless the wind blowing from that direction is too cold or strong.
When the house was being planned, our astrologer had suggested, apart from the direction of the house, the planting of a golden shower tree in its front. I am happy that we agreed with his suggestions.
Though the tree flowers only once a year, it plays a significant role in driving away my loneliness. During the daytime, it is occupied by different types of ants, squirrels, and chameleons.
When it is in full bloom, butterflies of various sizes and colours hover over the flowers. There are also honeybees sucking nectar from them. Birds like bulbuls, crows, and sparrows come to the tree, spend some time on it, and fly away. Some of them eat the tender leaves of the tree.
Many birds come in pairs and fly over to the cable that runs over the road in front of the house, sitting close to each other. Some perch on the terrace of the vacant building across the road for some time and then fly off.
There is a temple a little away from my home. A colourful flag flutters on it throughout the year. Being a temple of goddess Durga, a new flag is hoisted at Navratri. As the place is near the sea, a strong wind blows most of the time.
The flag often gets entangled in the flag post for a few days and then gets itself free, continuing its usual fluttering. During the nine nights of Navratri, the people of the housing society and nearby areas gather there and play ‘Garba’ till midnight. The faint sound of aarti and the continuous ringing of the gong, and the blow of a conch shell waft to me every evening.
Sometimes there are people on the terrace of nearby houses, some waving to me. There will always be birds of different types flying in the sky. At times, when someone bursts firecrackers, a group of pigeons take off in panic and return to their habitats after some time. In the evenings, birds fly in battle formation to their distant nests.
There are many trees in the area where I stay. Most of them are fruit trees like mango and chickoo. A large number of bats fly to the nearby orchards to spend the night enjoying the fruits. Occasionally, a peacock would sit on the terrace of a nearby house for some time before taking off noisily to the vast campus of the Gujarat Agriculture University behind us.
The rainy season presents a different picture. Before heavy rains, dark clouds of constantly changing shapes and sizes can be seen driven by strong wind. There would be a series of blinding lightning preceding peals of deafening thunder. When a sudden shower thrashes the balcony, I am forced to retreat to my adjacent room.
The railway line is not far away, and many trains pass through it daily. During the winter season, the chug-chug sound of the trains can be heard clearly. The railway station is not far off, and many trains halt there. Sometimes the trains blow their whistle repeatedly, perhaps asking for the signal to proceed.
Often I can see a helicopter approaching from far off, carrying someone of importance, getting ready to land on the helipad of the university. Minutes later, I hear a motorcade passing through the road behind, sirens wailing at a high volume.
As our residence is below the Mumbai-Delhi flight path, I get a glimpse of a tiny-looking plane that seems to move slowly far above, emitting faint, continuous sounds, leaving a trail of thin fumes that is dissipated soon.
(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to ‘The Kashmir Vision”, his articles and short stories are published by various national and international publications)