Contrary to popular belief, and especially true for those who live in brightly lit metros, it is possible to see quite clearly in the dark. One can see a dark sky against the silhouette of tall mango trees. The birdsong is yet to begin as I set out in the dew-moistened pre-dawn. A langur cackles overhead, alarmed by my footsteps. As I walk towards the whitewashed church in my remote village of Colvale in Goa, I can see lone kitchen bulbs light the Goan houses. From some of their roofs, plumes of smoke curl towards the stars. Water is being heated for morning tea and in large copper pots on wood fires for a bath. Everyone in villages seems to wake early.
Dawn: a daily fiesta
A rooster crows to herald a new day. Gradually, the sky lightens and a chorus of birds, squirrels and cattle sounds waft in the wind. A startled peacock flaps noisily into the tall teak trees. Beyond the church, the river that was a silvery grey now turns to molten gold. In the pale sky, delicate egrets and majestic yellow beaked hornbills fly southwards. Every living creature is celebrating a new day dawning.
My most memorable sunrise was on the Matunga hill among the splendid ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire in Hampi. Climbing up the steep rock face was daunting and exhilarating. A few tourists had camped at the temple on the hillock since sunset the day before. Everyone was silent. Then, quite suddenly, one saw the Book of Genesis come alive. The sky seemed to separate from the water. Trees gradually became visible. Clouds lazed over the horizon. Birds flew high in the sky. And then dramatically, cinematically, the sun rose… like a majestic God arriving on a slow chariot. When it was finally light, a sunbeam pierced the clouds and illuminated the golden top of the sacred Virupaksha temple. This remarkable Divine choreography happens every single day.
Many Indians celebrate the dawn with a Surya Namaskara, a dip in a holy river, hands folded in prayer; sacred chants are whispered and yogic asanas contort the human form. This ritual awakening is celebrated each day in India. Sadly, in many countries, it is routine to tumble out of bed at the sound of an alarm and race through a jog or hurtle to work. It is as if the sun is a cursed intruder, a slave driver, a sad reminder that another day of hard work is at hand. A pity! There is much to celebrate every single day at dawn. If nature does it so instinctively, we should all become a part of the almost miraculous process we call a sunrise.
Watching the sun rise and infuse life into the earth and its wondrous beings is vital to the optimism that energises a person. It illuminates the soul after the dark of night and gives one hope and positivity that there are joyous events to behold for the next 12 hours.
And the revelries continue…
Every morning, after the celebration of the sunrise, a breakfast tray arrives near my favourite balcão. At my feet is my menagerie of pets. A blue eyed Harlequin Great Dane called Zeus, a fiesty boxer Sophia and an adorable daschund christened Tyra. Three out of five cats are also within stroking distance. They live in harmony with their canine friends.
On the tray sparkling in the weak sunshine is freshly squeezed juice, an array of glowing fruits and water drawn from the well attached to our kitchen. And between all this, a bit of style that always makes me smile—a flower from the garden.
The flower does not belong on a breakfast tray, but it sits there glorious and resplendent. Some days it is a white hibiscus. On others an assortment of jasmines, arums, or the flowers from fruit trees… like this morning. The delicate pink petals and multi-stamened flower of the jaam [love apple] tree that will bear fruit a month from now. The flower on every serving tray is not just style. It helps celebrate whatever is on offer. Whether green tea or a glass of champagne.
Triumph in creating something new
In my studio every evening there is a celebration of a different sort. After a day of draping, cutting and creating… each a wonderfully blissful process, we have a cluster of garments that makes us all smile.
I cannot explain the miracle of my work. One day, there is an idea in my head that becomes a sketch. The next day the sketch becomes a garment that we celebrate because it gives everyone a high that we made this object of beauty. A month later, it is applauded on ramp. And a few months later, I see it in a room, worn by someone I do not know. It has come to life in a very real space. It is no more some object on a hanger or on a mannequin. It is a moving, living entity as part of someone’s life. At that moment my heart is singing in celebration.
When one reads my memoir The Green Room, it is obvious that I am the eternal optimist, opportunist, travel addict, foodie and art aficionado. I cannot fathom people who wonder what to do with the time on their hands. I always tell them to go for a walk or a drive. Outside your home is a world of wonders. There is so much to appreciate. A child’s smile. A wild flower growing in between a rock. The aroma wafting off the basket of a fruit seller.
Even in a bustling city, we can encounter sights and emotions that can instill happiness. Many are for free. An art exhibition, a film festival, a book reading by a celebrated author. Celebrations all! There is a choice… always… of how you want to plan your day. I could simply run from a cab to the train at the end of the day. Or I can turn it into a celebration. I love to do the unusual. Instead of hurtling to platform two at CST station, I sneak into the main building, go to the topmost floor and watch the fascinating spectacle of traffic and people below me. It is exhilarating. And all it took was five minutes.
Last month I went to an exhibition in Delhi. Indian calligraphy on stone, wood, cloth and paper. Straight from the airport, I took a half hour break en route and I am so glad I did. It changed forever my vision of our country. Through objects of great beauty, I could see why we are one of the best countries on earth. Before me were the various scripts of India. Each different, each potent and every one of them fantastic. Which nation has so many scripts? Europe and the Americas have Roman and Greek. Japan has Japanese. China has Mandarin. But India…shall we start counting or shall we simply begin to celebrate?
I was watching Sridevi in the movie English Vinglish the other day. Every single sari was a celebration of our clothing legacy that we wear. Since over 4,000 years, we must be one of the few countries that wear our clothing heritage. It is a pity that even enlightened countries like China are now in the limited repertoire of Western casual wear.
Trailing through many countries and a fabulous assortment of cuisines, we have been fortunate to celebrate via travel. For my 50th birthday, we took a cruise that began in Grenada, went round the Cape Horn and up to Acapulco. On the way, we saw the carnival in Rio, tango in Buenos Aires, penguins in the Falklands, Nazca lines in Chile and the most beautiful sunset in Torres del Paine in Patagonia.
Star studded finale to the day
When the day is done, my partner and I go on our little boat in the backwaters of the Mandovi. A cool breeze whispers against our skin. In that open expanse the sky looks bluer, the clouds more plentiful. We have learnt to identify each bird that flies past. And we know where large crocodiles inhabit the island of Corjuem or the Cambarjua canal. When I took Lisa Ray, Malaika Arora and my godchild Arhan into the small rivers, I could see the wonder in their eyes at this daily spectacle we enjoy.
Talking about Lisa, we have just dispatched her wedding dress to Canada. What a brave heart she is. Battling and winning a dreaded disease and embracing each day like it is a celebration gifted by God. Like her, we should celebrate each day. Not just on festivals and weddings. Those are special in any case and we Indians know how to do those in grand style.
When light falls on the river and the sun seeps into the horizon, we steer our boat to our favourite spot in the river. The sky is pink above and like an ombre dyed fabric, orange at the horizon. The waters reflect this wondrous colour palette. This spot is almost sacred to us because of what transpires next.
From beyond the hills of Chorao Island arrives a fleet in the sky. We are in the daily migratory path of birds returning to roost from the South. Friends like Amitav Ghosh, Rahul Bose, Rahul Khanna and Orhan Pamuk, among many others, have gasped in wonder as tens, then hundreds, then thousands of birds float home in the pink sky. It is the perfect way to celebrate another beautiful day gone by.
It turns dark now. The planet Venus shines brightly. The stars come out and are reflected in the inky waters. Suddenly I see fireflies flitting about and it seems as if the stars are above, below and now flying between us. The fireflies are an indication that the monsoon is nigh—our beautiful Goan monsoon. Soon the hills will turn green and the fluorescent green paddy fields will flourish, turning the landscape from summer brown to verdant green. There is always something to celebrate on this earth!
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