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     Volume 7 Issue 42 | October 24, 2008 |

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One Off

Celestial Fest and Fire in the Snow caps!

Aly Zaker

Our family went for a long earned vacation to Nepal. We were the five of us of various sizes and dimensions--from old age to early twenties. On the second day of our arrival at Kathmandu we decided to take a break in the hills and go to Nagarkot, a hill station not very far from the capital. Nagarkot is about 7000 feet plus above sea level. We had expected it to be cold at this time of the year but then it was just about a shade cooler than Kathmandu. This was bad enough but what was worse was the fact that the sky was overcast with black clouds and the haze all around would not even allow us to see the minor mountains, leave alone the range of the famous peaks of the Himalayas. We resigned to the fact that this time we would just eat and sleep and do nothing. It was also drizzling intermittently. Even minor trekking was out of consideration. We played cards of a very paltry sort; the kids joined us full time, almost a rarity these days and we had had a different kind of fun-almost ethereal, company wise. I agree that for this kind of fun it is not necessary to come so far away. But then, back home in Dhaka we hardly get the time to be together.

We had a good complement of dinner comprising buffalo meat, bread and lots of vegetables and were in bed early because we had to be ready very early the following morning in case the weather cleared and there was a sun rise. We were given wake up calls to go to the watch tower to see the sun rise in the snow capped Himalayan range every morning. But it did not come. There were the customary wake up calls, only to be greeted by a gloomy sky and incessant rain.

On the third night we went to bed with a sense of resignation to the whim of nature. I was in deep sleep when there was a bang on our door. It was our son standing at the door. He told us to wear some thing warm and come out of the hotel to see something. I was not sure if it was a prank. What could be there to be seen at two o'clock in the morning? He told us to see the sky. I reminded him that it could be seen from the balcony of our room which was an open terrace. By then our daughter Sriya joined us and we settled for the terrace from where we'd watch the sky. It was with scepticism that I opened the door to the terrace and was taken over by a kind of darkness that I had never encountered before. Iresh, our son, said 'look up'. I looked up and saw that the entire pitched dark sky was full from coast to coast with stars of all sizes and dimensions. I had never before seen such an array of celestial extravagance in my life. Or may be I had, long before, when as a kid I used to lie flat on the terrace of our home in old Dhaka and the sky used to be nearly as spectacular. But that was so long ago and the memory of that spectacle had long faded. The Milky Way was seen distinctly across the sky from the southeast horizon to the North West. I forgot when it was last that I had seen the Milky Way. I became dumb founded. Some one said, most probably our daughter Sriya, that one felt so insignificant when one saw such splendour. We feel we are 'nothing' in the scheme that nature had laid down for us. We are so 'unimportant'. I do not remember how long I was sitting there. It must have been over an hour. All this time I had my eyes glued to the sky. Then it dawned on me that we had to wake up early so we could see the Himalayan range in the northeast if we were lucky to have a cloudless dawn. I decided to retire.

But lying in bed two words kept ringing in my ears, 'nothing' and 'unimportant'. The idea of being 'nothing' or 'unimportant' in the stratagem of nature disturbed me throughout the night. At the end I came to my own conclusion that when nature, through an act of anarchy described as 'breaking the symmetry' or 'big bang', was disarrayed and subsequently settled down to bring together the broken pieces 'I', as described by Rabindranath as the universal human, was as important a component in it as the distant star. As always, I also found an answer in Rabindranath's poem called 'I', “The colours of my conscience painted the 'emerald' green and the 'Ruby' red, I looked up to the sky and light emerged in the east and west. I looked at the rose and said you are beautiful and it became so”.

I do not know when I fell asleep. The wake up call startled me to action and I saw the whole family on their way to the watchtower right on top of the hotel. As we reached the tower we were absolutely speechless to see the mountain range right before us, dark towards the bottom and pale silver on top. In a few minutes the sun emerged and one after another the snowcaps turned bright gold, reflecting the sun light in their pristine glory. It looked as if the mountain had caught fire. That light of the mountain soon engulfed all of us in seconds in an amazing contrast from the night before. I thought, it was for the human beings and their power to realise, to enjoy, to express, that nature offers us such awe inspiring beauty in profusion. But then it takes a Rabindranath to make them 'naturally' ours.

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