Photo: by Teja

At 4.22, it is still night.

The traffic sounds, untrammelled from the clamour of the day, hum long and relentless. There is the other relentless hum of crickets that seems to come from within you, and goes back into your ears, trapping you in a continuous cycle of breath. You imagine that you can even hear the stars.

Yes, there are stars, a few stubborn enough to shine through the smog, to glisten against the vehicle lights. A chain stitch through the night, tankers and trucks, emptied, going out of the city, cars going home, going to work, or escaping for a holiday. Lights beam on cranes on top of buildings under construction, their floors brightly lit, advertising their wares even to those still asleep, their own lights out. And beyond the dark trees, a golden glow, there is the ground.

The ground, in waking hours, many of them, a gathering place of nuisance-mongers whose idea of a good time is tearing through the sound barrier, with mikes and amplifiers and the repetitious beats of cheap music. Tonight, these very same mongers or similar ones play quietly, only the thud of a bat on a ball, a soft cry of instruction now and then, they have been playing all night, or maybe by turn. These mongers who will go to work in the morning, or to study, or get busy with the worries of bus, rickshaw, money, bosses, wives, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, right now they have been awake all night, playing, watching each other play.

How long is it since we woke up early in the morning, to slip out of the house to play, or rehearse, or arrange something for that big, big event filling up our days, or stayed awake at nights, gossiping with friends, (and no, I am not talking of drunken parties), or took a walk in the cold air, in the silence of moonlit streets?

Yes, we are lucky to do the work we love. But that work becomes so weighty at times. There is the work and there is ambition, and fear, and the need to earn money, and the desire to achieve fame, and envy of other people’s success and resentment and anxiety and a hunger to do more work, bullies all, pinching and prodding you at mid-morning recess, pushing you, and then just squashing you down, poor little beloved work grinding its nose in mud, and the bullies screaming loudly.

And then you see the golden glow of the ground, and hear the thud of the bat on the ball, and cries as soft as the sound of the stars, the mongers play with a calmness, without hurry, without a need to win really, not sleepy, but weighted down only with the goodness of sleep, and you can go back to sleep, quiet, the bullies quiet, and wake up for another day of work.