I remember one glorious summer afternoon when I went for a walk in the locality with my brother since home was being sprayed with mosquito medicine as a prevention measure for the epidemic that gripped the city. What I had expected and what I encountered are two images too surprising in my fading memory to be reconciled. The sun, it seemed, had blanched the ground on which I stood (and everything else), in a park, as if the colour was intrinsic to its character rather than being caused by an external influence. Patches of sunlight falling onto the low shrubbery along the walls cast the surrounding ground in a mysterious gloom. It was a dazzling sight, with the white blazing over the green and purple of the plant limbs. Swarms of dragonflies hovered over regions where the grass had grown too long and wild due to prolonged neglect: fauna teetered precariously over the edge of the urban demarcation, threatening to spill over. Appartments loomed on the horizon. A forlorn volleyball net occupied a large portion of the park, flanked by lamp posts on both sides. It was a sun-kissed landscape embracing the ramparts of decay.
The only thing running through my mind then, as I endeavoured to articulate this fairytale experience that I have since lost, was this passage from Rebecca Solnit’s book that I have come to love completely:
“What is a ruin, after all? It is a human construction abandoned to nature, and one of the allures of ruins in the city is that of the wilderness: a place full of the promise of the unknown with all its epiphanies and dangers. Cities are built by men (and to a lesser extent, women), but they decay by nature, from earthquakes and hurricanes to the icremental processes of rot, erosion, rust, the microbial breakdown of concrete, stone, wood, and brick, the return of plants and animals making their own complex order that further dismantles the simple order of men.”
Needless to say I was in a daze as I basked in the sounds of that quaint June afternoon last year. It stands as testimony that I still am.
Previously, a reflection on the sickly appearance of the capital’s trees: On the Trees of this City