The magic hour

As the sun’s rays start receding, a gentle breeze fills our verandah. My state of mind at this instant is similar to that of the children in my apartment. Boys and girls of all sizes rushing down the stairs, eager to join their friends. Eager to jump, form huddles, run around aimlessly, whisper and hatch plans.

The best time of the day is here.

A sunset in Kerala. Clicked by: Bharat

Ending the day’s cycle, Kerala
Clicked by: Bharat

Most people consider mornings to be the best time of the day to be productive, soak in the quiet atmosphere and to be purposeful. But there’s rarely a relaxing moment. Night crawlers will vouch for the opposite. I’m quite sure only those who indulge in siestas have an affinity towards afternoons. Afternoons make me restless. I wait for early evenings. For me it’s a sign of completion of the day’s cycle – winding up tasks, taking walks with music plugged in, people watching or looking at cars rushing back home. The sky too, turns into an enviable palette of hues.

Wherever I’ve traveled, evenings have been special. Whether it was the sunset from a rooftop sitting area in the middle of a field in Punjab, with the accompanying hot chai and pakodas or watching the city of Florence look like a goddess from the Piazza Michael Angelo square – evenings hold a charm in every travel destination.

Florence, in all its sunset grandeur.

In my hometown Kolkata, evenings mean puchka and jhaal muri. The 4-8 PM slot is brisk business time for snack sellers and many a chaatwaalahs have a line of eager foodies patiently waiting for their turn.

During my days in an advertising agency, early evenings meant gossip sessions over green chilli maggi. While we juniors were cooped in office waiting for artworks to close, dreading another email from clients, we’d take some time off and hang out in the cafeteria. I shudder at the prospect of eating any more maggi.

Food, travel and merriment aside, evenings signify the day’s closure – a time to start unwinding. When one can ideally take a break from multitasking or prioritizing. Yes, there will be pressing deadlines, traffic to chase or delayed meetings. But, as the golden hours glide into evenings, it is the universe’s way of telling you: slow down.

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Oh dear god Calcutta.

Just the other morning I was attacked by a question from an out of townie, a question that has plagued others and me several times – What is there to see in Calcutta? *sticks face in palms*

Answers can vary based on what you appreciate and what you don’t. That’s as diplomatic as I can get. Yes, it’s true we run out of landmarks beyond Victoria Memorial, Vidyasagar Setu, Birla Mandir, Tram rides, Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, Jorasanko Thakurbadi (three of these even I haven’t been to) – ofcourse a lot of places are not romanticized on the web/travel magazines and a lot of those places aren’t maintained or popularized in the way they ought to be. There’s more from the past than from the present. We have the same established eateries doing some wonderful business, with new ones coming up every six months..and that is the sole reason for the existence of basic level of social life in Calcutta. The only passion Marus and Bongs truly share is probably food, so you can’t really go wrong. But what if you’re on a diet, like these cousins of mine were a couple of years back or want to look beyond food, supposing..just supposing – we realized that it rules out 75% of our “list of things to do with outsiders”. Our only option was to take them shopping – which again is of a very particular kind. If you’re young and preppy and enjoy your brands, there’s not too much for you to shop for. But if you’re “ladiss” you’ll feel like you’re in saree, dress material and Sabyasachi heaven. And don’t worry at all, we get very good copies of every possible designer that will fit your budget, whatever the budget be. That done, history is present in every nook and corner, dilapidated but it’s there if anyone’s interested (Great for when foreigners come), but what about repeat visitors, what If they’ve already been to all these historical places? I see people in Bombay, Bangalore and Delhi complaining, crying, bickering about and eulogizing issues related to traffic, transport, areas, floods, state of newspapers, trash, autowallahs on all forms of social media. But the dearly beloved residents of my city have no such issues to hum about. I haven’t witnessed this kind of frustration of any manner in the city. There’s a part of the past that remains the way it is – yes once in a while, when there is a fire – they make some noise about the dying forms, but otherwise life goes on, as it is – neither fast nor slow. But mostly slow if you’ve experienced the fast life. And so people move out for jobs. But Calcutta, lives on – like a bubble floating in a circle of clouds, never managing to break out but somehow managing to pass without bursting…In other random facts -the city’s ruling newspaper has The TOI biting dust and has one of the best editorials and content, the clubs here are like second homes for members and have been established since the days of the Raj – some still don’t permit chappals and shorts, the idea of a holiday starts with Darjeeling and ends with whatever your budget can satisfy, Momota didi makes for good idle talk and progress is generally slow.

All that jazz aside, recently another visitor from a newly stressful city pointed out that sometimes routine life is a good thing..in comparison to the rat race. That had me thinking about the idea of acceptance. Maybe Calcutta’s acceptance levels have stayed simpler while other cities have not settled for the simple and raised their acceptance bars. While the benefits of either is an endless debate, I simply wonder – how long should acceptance levels remain simple – or maybe some are meant to be simple for life – should I accept that? Or should I continue my quest?

Words to live by.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Steve Jobs