Today, I visited the garden in my locality. The sun was out in all its glory. My favourite wooden bench, that is right under a mango tree, was empty. The grass looked greener than ever, springy and lively, drunk as it was on the sweet early morning showers. The fragrance of wet red earth hung in the air. I sat on the bench and took a deep breath. Instant invigoration! Something moved on the tree above. I looked up to see a crow perched on a branch a little away from me, guarding its nest. A breeze blew, the branches shook and showered me with drops of water that the rain had soaked them with.
I tried looking into the sun’s eyes. Its resplendence blinded me, but only for a moment. Slowly, as I adjusted my eyes to its fiery brightness, the scorching rays seemed to recede and mellow and I was able to gaze at its core–a dull golden ball, with tiny concentric half circles around it–unblinkingly, for a few seconds. The dull grey cloud that cocooned it took on an orangish hue. My eyes began to water. This is ‘Sudoor Trataka’, a yogic shuddhi kriya, that works wonderfully for the cleansing of the eyes, while it centres and stills the practitioner. (Sudoor: in which the object the practitioner is gazing at, is at a distance; Trataka: ‘Ata’ means ‘to roam’ and ‘Trayate’ means ‘to protect’. So, ‘Trataka’ is an act, which protects the mind from roaming constantly.) This needs to be practised with caution, as sunlight is very powerful, and befriending the sun does not mean being under its glare at any odd time. It’s best done before 9 am in the morning and after 4 pm in the evening, when the rays are friendly and mellower. Another way to gaze at the sun for a longer time is to look at it through a green leaf.
As I dabbed my eyes, the cloud covered the sun and it began to play hide and seek with me. A strong breeze blew and the dry leaves strewn across the green carpet started doing somersaults. Two mynahs and a baby squirrel hopped about on the grass, looking for food. One of the pair, chased the squirrel away, and took flight. The other ignored the squirrel completely and the two kept a safe distance between themselves as they continued with their individual searches. The crow began to caw menacingly on the branch above. I had done nothing to intimidate it or to be perceived as potential danger to its babies. I sent it a silent message that I meant no harm.
It’s a calm and peaceful morning. Intermittently, the silence is broken by the pounding feet of the joggers. There are walkers too, with different rhythms. There are the strollers, who trudge aimlessly, staring into space, their arms limp, their legs reluctant. The talkers walk to talk. Their pace quickens or slackens according to the intensity of their conversations. They gesticulate wildly, their faces contorting, their heads nodding or shaking. The thinkers have their chins lowered, fixed inside their jugular notches, their eyes glued to the ground beneath their feet. They stay at the edge of the track, lost in their worlds, refusing to look up. The runners are an impatient lot. The sign saying ‘Keep Left’ tells them they have right of way, but the right side of the track is blocked by the strollers, who ignore the sign and couldn’t care less. To thwart these human hurdles, they make exaggerated thudding sounds with their feet and pant and puff loud enough for the strollers to warn them, to make way for them. They can’t do much about the watchers though, who visit the garden only to look around. They stare at the meditators, frown at the strollers, watch open-mouthed as the breath-catchers go through their Pranayama practices, watching their bellies expand and contract; laugh at and with members of the laughter club, whose raucous laughter shatters the silence; and glare at the runners, who push them aside to surge ahead. Then, there are the couples, who refuse to ‘uncouple’ to make way. They are joined at their hips, their hands clasped tight, their fingers intertwined. They move as a unit. A good morning walk entails manoeuvring your body through the spaces between, knowing when to twist and turn or move aside and ahead.
The cloud has covered the sun completely. It gets darker. Monsoon showers, during the month of Shravan, have a peculiarity. There is this wonderful play of darkness and light. Now, you see the sun and the next moment, there is a downpour. By the time you open your umbrella, the sun is out again.
A cool breeze caresses my face. The squirrel and mynah are nowhere to be seen. A stray dog has sauntered in, escaping the watchman’s eye. It licks its brown coat. A yellow butterfly flits about on the grass. A large black ant runs about near my feet and disappears into the wet earth. It’s time to return home. I haven’t had my fill of the outdoors. Tomorrow holds great promise.