As the sun slowly descends towards the western horizon, a sense of extreme solitude and serenity engulfs all of us. The bright daylight gradually gives way to a pall of darkness. This is the time when we light up all our homes. Lights in individual houses as well as the street neon lights are slowly turned on. Evenings are times of reverie and intense self-introspection. Another day slowly and surely fades into the horizon. We sit back and reminisce on the events of the day and ruminate on the things we did and those we did not. It is also the time to enjoy the sight and sound of birds flying back to their nests. And we know,
“All birds come home, all rivers, all of life’s tasks finished.
Only darkness remains, as I sit there…”
– ‘Banalata Sen’, Jibanananda Das (translated by Clinton B. Seedy)
Music in Evenings
Until even a few years ago, the sounds of vocal training practice on a harmonium could be heard wafting outside from many a house. Evenings were the time when teachers imparting music lessons to often unwilling pupils, came calling. ‘Sa Re Ga Ma’ along with a few other notations of classical music was taught with diligence. These teachers of music also had their kindred brothers who took warm cups of tea with snacks while explaining the school lessons to students at home. Private tuitions continue to be a part and parcel of every student’s high school years even today.
I am reminded again of a particular Tagorean lyric, “Tumi Sandhyaro Meghomala” (You are the garland of clouds on an evening). As the sky slowly darkens and the evening hours set in, our bodies loosen up and a sense of languor sets in. Winter evenings are far different from summer evenings. In the former case, a hot cup of coffee alleviates the sense of gloom and ennui pervading the hours. During summers, when occasionally the ‘Kalbaisakhi’ or the Nor’Westers blow, we literally let down our hairs and allow our bodies to cool down after the searing heat of the day. The earth also cools and the leaves in the trees and plants get a fresh lease of life.
Among the ‘Ragas’ of Hindustani classical music especially devoted to the evening hours, is the Raga Purabi or Poorvi. The Tagore song – “Aaji E Anando Sandhya” (literally translated as ‘in this joyous evening’) is based on Raga Purabi. Ken Follett, the renowned and popular writer of thrillers and espionage fiction is also the author of The Evening and The Morning. It is indeed strange that certain hours of the day are devoted to specific jobs. If an individual follows this sense of discipline in life, I presume that individual will be able to achieve great heights. The one film that I am hugely reminded of is An Evening In Paris, with the ever-popular title track reverberating in every lip in those days.
The Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro had said, “The evening’s the best part of the day. You’ve done your day’s work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it.” The Greek dramatist and philosopher Sophocles said, “You don’t know what kind of day you will have, until evening.” T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’(1917), “Let us go then, you and I/ When the evening is spread out against the sky.” As the street corner lights brighten up the roads with the assurance of safety in darkness, we gather in small groups or clusters. At home, the family gathers around the sitting room, biting on delectable snacks like shingara or alur chop with steaming cups of tea. Far from being hours of desolation, evenings are best enjoyed in the company of friends and relatives. During the years long before the pandemic, dance dramas were staged in the Visva Bharati University campus at Santiniketan, during festivals like the Basanta Utsav. So songs were sung in choruses to enliven up the evenings.
Hours of Contemplation
Evenings are the hours when office-goers arrive home or used to arrive home after a long day of work. But of course the Covid-induced pandemic has changed everything. In the ‘work from home’ routine, evenings have lost their ways in the maze of power-point presentations and excel sheets. Evenings quickly come and go, making way hastily for the nighttime. Evenings had been so much more enjoyable and pleasant in the days before the pandemic. Now we can only hope that those days and evenings return again. Soon.
Image courtesy: Sujoy Bag