Under the Starlit Sky by Sumana Bhattacharya

Remember Girish Karnad’s Cheluvi, a film where the protagonist Cheluvi (Sonali Kulkarni) had the magical ability to turn into a flowering tree – from a beautiful girl (translation of Cheluvi) to a beautiful flowering tree. Cheluvi and her sister would sell those flowers for a living. The film ends with the agonizing image of the Cheluvi trapped in the tree trunk, neither a woman nor a tree, after the village kids mercilessly break the branches of the flowering tree.

The film was aired on TV when I was in college. Cheluvi, beautiful retelling on a Kannada folk tale by Karnad, made quite an impression on me. To me, the film symbolized the magic on nature, the oneness of man with nature. Probably all of us have a flowering tree in us or mystery of the dark forest, the vastness of the sky or depth of the ocean. We need to nurture that little piece in us, be one with it. Only then can we feel connected to the universe.

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Those were the days when I felt closer to nature. Agartala was greener then, the bees and the butterflies in my little garden, the big pond before our house, lying down on the terrace every night to watch the night sky. Yes, I was completely enamored by the inky blue night sky, the stars, the moons, the shooting starts. Alone in the terrace, dreaming, sometimes conversing with the starts, was my favorite time that I would look forward to, that I would steal from my days no matter what. I felt calm then, I felt one with the huge universe.

I have enjoyed quiet walks in the starlit nights or soaked in the silence of the night in Central University campus in Hyderabad as well. A huge rocky campus, with some wilderness around, it had a lot to offer to nature lovers.

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After moving to Delhi, caught up with the daily struggles of busy city life, I unwittingly left nature behind. It would be days before I would even look up at the sky. Cooped up in the office till late, rushing back in the traffic at night, enjoying the solace of the night was a luxury that I couldn’t afford. Whenever I looked up at the sky the stars were either hidden by the smog or by the bright city light. My rendezvous with the starlit sky was soon a distant memory that I would indulge in when I would go home for annual vacations.

Lockdown, despite all its woes, brought me closer to nature again. When I step out in the balcony in the evening, Venus smiles at me in all her glory. The night air is cooler, the sky is clearer and bluer. Though I get only a slice of the night sky because of all the tall buildings around, though I miss the days’ when the sky would envelop me as I would sit quietly, still, it gives me a sense of oneness with the vast universe. Plants in my small balcony garden are greener, nine o’clock flowers bloom happily every morning, I can sometimes see a few sparrows around. In the evening, when the day meets the night, as I sit by my bedroom window enjoying a cup of coffee, I feel calm, I feel at peace despite all the turmoil around, even with all the uncertainties. As the soft darkness envelopes, I feel comfortable with my being. Nature is healing, somewhere deep within I feel healed. I feel confident we will come out of this crisis as better human beings, more one with nature, as we are meant to be.

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Sumana Bhattacharya is a PR practitioner by profession and a writer by passion. Her style is simple, she likes to write about things she feels deeply about. In her writings, she sometimes draws from her experiences of having grown up in a small town, Agartala. She has recently started a blog The Retro Feeling, that stems from nostalgia – longing or twinge of guilt for days gone by or left behind. She is an ardent reader of poetry, fiction, and mythology.

Sumana is a post graduate in English from Hyderabad Central University. She works for a PR agency and lives in Gurgaon.

Read this story in Storizen Magazine June 2020 Issue