Article Published in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

"The Whistling Eye"

A smile in the snow...

Navtej Sarna

IN the winter there had always been so much to look forward to. Ever since he could remember, he had found a promise in the bright cold. It had crackled with the freshness of youth, love and success. Only one winter had betrayed him (or perhaps, he had betrayed its hopes) but he preferred to think of it as spring.

For it was the indecisive and weak spring which led onto the inexorable summer. And in the summer, everything seemed ordinary and a trifle jaded and each day lost its spark early in the morning. But it was winter yet. Just the other day, it had been October and then November and then not even December. The wind had blown for many nights. A restiess fierce wind sweeping across the dark, mighty plain like a monster on the loose. It hovered beyond the windows and screamed and moved on.

The snow fell. Gently at first, tiny flakes of white floating helplessly in the wind. And then it too came in great gusts and drifts-

The river froze
its massive bridges
Each day the city woke up white. The snow lay piled up on the sidewalks. And in the parks where lovers still held hands on cold, damp stone benches-

And water formed ice
For cars to slip.

It piled up on the roofs of grim buildings and thoughtful statues and on the concrete embankments of an arrested river. Its pristine purity covered the yellow and brown and red of a glorious autumn. It lay primly on stark branches which had sprouted enough colour for a million canvases.

Phantom dreams and time less visions hung over frozen lakes and along the ski slopes as-

Of pensive granite
Wore hoods of white
Planes sought lights
In snowbound nights

And the days began to pass, Each one with its share of hope and mindless despair. Through them he clung to the promise of a distant smile which could light up his day like the sudden glint of the sun on the snow. The sun when it did appear, was a ball of hazy yellow, often hanging low over the horizon even at noon.

He looked at it through the white lace curtains of restaurants as coffee machines gurgled and people swallowed red and black caviar with bubbly champagne. And when he went out, he turned up his collar to the tangible cold and thought about the smile which lay in an envelope in his closet and hung on a rainbow over his mind.