Monday, 21 April 2014

Under the Starry Skies

 “You said we would camp on the rooftop and watch the starts…you have been saying this for at least a year now,” Saif reminds me of our long overdue ‘expedition rooftop.’

Zainab and Omar join Saif’s refrain. I decide not to let the posterity remember me as someone-who-never-kept-her-promises.

“Tonight is the night. Pack your things. We will dwell among the stars,” I announce amid a thunder of applause. My reputation is secure.

“Saif and Zainab pack their bags. “I have also made a first aid box,” Saif tells me.
Aren’t they well versed in the art of camping!

Omar’s bag contains eatables, biscuits and chips. He also has a dictionary in his bag.
“What’s that for?” I ask.

“If we spot a constellation we can’t name, we can check it in the dictionary,” Omar educates me.

I take along (borrowed) binoculars, and my camera.

We light a few candles, set up a camp on the rooftop, and start charting the constellations. A naughty monkey comes from somewhere and climbs on our tent.

We spot Ursa Major. Zainab thinks she can see the summer triangle. We spot a few constellations we can’t name, and Omar can't find them in his dictionary either.

It’s getting quite dark. We blow out the candles and settle in the camp.

 “Let’s listen to the sounds of the night. If you talk loudly, you don’t know what creatures of the night might get disturbed,” I whisper and then add dramatically, “What if they barge inside our tent...”

The warning works. There’s a sudden hush. And we look on at the starry skies and try to listen.  

An inadequate yolk yellow moon hangs in the sky. A crow flies over. Maybe it has forgotten the way back to home, or perhaps it is just a loner and likes to take long lonely flights at night. There’s faint honking of a rickshaw somewhere far away on the road. A koel sings in the Lawrence Gardens. Or maybe it is just a ring tone of somebody’s cell! After all we are trying to listen to the sounds at night in the 21st century.

It’s quiet…so very quiet.

Suddenly the monkey on our tent starts jumping, it squeals, it has spotted our chips and biscuits and wants some. And then… there’s an elephant, a big grey elephant.  It eyes us. It extends its trunk and rummage inside the tent, takes away some of Omar’s biscuits. What if it decides to come inside?

We are scared. But I have an idea.

 I tell them that if the elephants barges inside, we will jump and mount it. We will take a tour of the wilderness on the elephants back. Now we are eager to greet the elepahant.

While we are planning who will jump from which side to mount the elephant, a kangaroo comes; it is looking for its mate. The mate actually sleep walks and sometimes lands near the lion’s den. 

We say hello to the kangaroo, but it doesn’t reply, it is so worried, almost in tears. 

“Come, jump and sit on my back. We will find your mate. And don’t cry, the lion normally sleeps at this hour. He ate a heavy dinner and won’t wake up soon” the elephant reassures the kangaroo and they both go away to find the sleep-walking mate.

We are disappointed, but happy for the kangaroo.

“Look there!” Zainab points to a cute little teddy bear. We invite the bear inside the tent, it snuggles with us, and we try to sleep.

And…Omar sneezes, he has a sudden headache. It is 2’0 clock and so chilly. Our blanket is damp.

“Let’s pack our things, and go downstairs. It is getting cold.

They are not willing to go, not yet. But I start picking up things.

“You said we will watch the morning start,” Saif and Zainab grumble.

Omar tries to convince me that it was just one sneeze, there won’t be more, and then sneezes again.

“We have to go. Next time we will arrange a bigger tent and stay here till the morning star comes,” I try to pacify them.

But the bad mood has set in. They are grumpy.

But now we know. There’s a whole new world under the starry skies. We only have to go to our roof top to experience it.