Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Best Things in Life are Free...

There is the loud but muffled sound of fireworks from somewhere outside of my room. I ignore it for as long as I can, and continue to work on my laptop, but later walk over, mildly irritated but curious, to the French windows, and draw the curtains.

Through the clear glass of the windows , and the mosaic of the dark trees that partially cloud my vision, I see the sudden vision of man-made stars - red, green and yellow- explode in dizzying, orchestrated , rainbow slow motion across the dark sky. I am entranced, and I open the windows fully to drink it all in. They fall slowly, dim and fading into the yawning shadows below. The whistling sound of the Skyrockets and Catherine Wheels pop away in a distracted, distant manner, while the marvelous fireworks opera across the sky continues to unfold. As I lean on the balcony railing, pinching myself for being invited at short notice to this unceasing, gracious magic show across my horizon, I am joined by my maid. Equally entranced, we wait breathless, wondering when, if ever, this pageant will stop. And it slowly whittles away, this star parade , it goes lower and lower to the ground, and what felt like a display for the Gods , is now clearly in ant territory.

The best things in life are free, I tell her, translating clumsily into Tamil, straightening up from the balcony. Her eyes linger at the now dark, unsmiling sky outside. She nods quickly, I think she understands. She has dinner to make, so she scurries down towards the aloo-methi on the stove with, perhaps like me, memories of magic and residual sparklers of light fresh in her mind.

Its true isn’t it ? The Beatles might disagree when they sang:
"The best things in life are free
But you can keep 'em for the birds and bees
Now give me money, (that's what I want) that's what I want."

I think that the joy of health, love, friendship, happiness cannot be purchased by money.
Capturing the ‘moment’ that future memory is made up of, is rarely chargeable.
The snuggle , and warm toes that belong to the extra 2 minutes under the quilt just after the alarm has rung, is difficult to explain , or put value to.
The scent of cool, yet rain warmed earth on an October early morning ranks among my best things, and I don’t remember if I have paid up a ticket for that.
Then there is finding strange animal shapes billowing in the clouds on a still sunny day , and smiling at the rabbit with a crown, or the disintegrating snowman on a train that you see.
And have I counted the recognition of the soaring music of an old and beloved ballad?
Or the sudden illumination of a dark room with an electric light or candle?
Or the joyous heartbreak of a fragrant flower?
The snuffling sigh of your pup as she turns to cuddle deeper into the crook of your arm.
Going to bed with the comforting weight of an unread book tented on your chest, chasing away the worrying thoughts that are a frequent prelude to slumber? ?
The sudden redolence of a steaming cup of tea in the early morning?
Strolling through a roadside art festival, with creativity and colors spilling in exhilarating bursts around you?
What about the ripples on a transparent puddle of needle sharp rain?
The sudden sniff of the aroma of comfort food when you walk into your home – rich and fragrant, redolent with the promise of fulfillment?
And the changing patterns of sun-dappled green in the trees crowding outside your window? The desultory yet wise conversation about life and living with your dad?
The inexplicable but deep connection with yourself that comes as your bare toes connect with green grass?
Re-reading an old classic, and smiling with a satisfied sigh at the predictable happy end?
What about the explosion of vanilla aroma as the oven door opens with a baking brownie inside?
The moon looks down at me in silvery splendor – she belongs to no one.

A giggle with a friend, or the smile of understanding on a shared memory is priceless, and stored away in a happy pocket of the mind. The arm around the shoulder or the warmth of your loved one’s hug brings a sense of completeness – one of the best things that you again don’t have to pay for . Unless your coin is love and affection.

While we might mambo to Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ , I admit I prefer waltzing to Frank Sinatras version:
The moon belongs to everyone,
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone,
They gleam there for you and me.
The flowers in spring, the robins that sing,
The moonbeams that shine, they're yours, they're mine.
And love can come to everyone,
The best things in life are free
(First published in Bangalore Mirror)

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