Hang

Honey time

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on February 23, 2018 Published on February 23, 2018

Eight days ago Bins and I board a train at New Delhi Railway Station at 6 am. By 3.30 that afternoon we’re in the hills, at the paradise-estate of a dear friend. There’s a moment along the way when the road swings up, over a ridge and — wah! The horizon is rimmed end-to-end with a spectacular display of sparkling white peaks, beautiful jagged teeth in the mouth of the sky. The view includes Trishul and Nanda Devi. Rarely is the air so clear: our taxi driver tells us this is the first time this year that he’s seen the entire range crystal clear and haze-free.

I know I should take a photograph right away, because it’s notoriously shy, that view. But I don’t. I prefer to just stare. Sure enough, the next day a soft curtain of pollution has floated up from the hills and valleys that separate us from the peaks. First white, then blue, then dirty grey. The mountains retreat behind their purdah and remain that way for the rest of our stay.

No complaints. There’s so much else to feel grateful for. Six days of sunshine, for instance, and the cold, crisp air. The bird-song that’s like a signature tune playing all day long. And the flowers, omigosh! It’s early in the year but there are still plenty of pretty faces smiling up from pots, rock-lined beds and hanging planters. Tiny pools of dazzling colour. Every time I come here, there’s some new beauty I’ve not seen before. This year it’s a flock of orchids, cream and carmine in colour. Yes, a ‘flock’, because the speckled blooms remind me of chirping birds in mid-flight, their wings out-stretched, their beaks open!

We eat mostly in the open. Starting with tea at eight, then breakfast, then mid-morning coffee, then lunch. Four o’ clock tea and dinner are indoors, with a crackling fire in one room and a gas-fire in the other. Of course I eat too much. There are times when one must just accept the gifts of the moment with gladness and no fuss. In the evenings we watch the news briefly, just to remind ourselves that there’s a nasty world world out there, before plunging into steamy worlds of DVD: Upstairs Downstairs followed by various murder mysteries.

We dissect and disparage these dismal tales because, really, we humans are so PETTY! Hacking and sawing at one another for mere lust or spite, when instead we could be buzzing around a sun-lit garden, tumbling into the throats of flowers and gathering pollen — like the bees. I am totally smitten with these buzzing maniacs. The air vibrates with their hypnotic hum. They are so obsessed, so extreme, scrambling out of their hive into the bright air, scrambling back in again, with their saddle-bags stuffed full of powdery gold. No doubt they have deadly hive-politics but they also have flowers, fragrance and the promise of honey! What a wonderful life.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on February 23, 2018
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