Chidiya Tapu brought this back –
One of the earliest memories that I have of being a child are those where my mother animatedly fed me. She’d bring a plate with my food, sit next to me and patiently ball the food, craftily hiding any elements that may at sight inconvenience this every day ritual of ours. I’d watch on, waiting to retaliate, insist I wasn’t hungry or even try to play with the little balls of food. But like several Indian parents, she’d carry me in one hand, the plate in the other and walk out to the balcony. Without any talk about the food, she’d point to the moon. She’d say,
Nila paaru, Nila paaru (look at the moon, look at the moon)
Evalovu vattamaa irukku paaru… (look at how round it is)
Then she’d take a ball of food, raise it to the moon, making it hide the moon. Sometimes the rice ball hid the moon only partly. Sometimes I’d have to conk my head to the right or make it fall to her shoulder to see it from her perspective. The ball of food would look as if it emanated a glow from behind, fairy-like, angel-like, magical.
Nilaava saapiduvoma? (Can we eat the moon?), she’d ask.
One day, it finally came out from my mouth – ‘Where does the sun go amma?’
Sometimes she’d tell me that the sun went on a trip, sometimes she’d tell me that the sun was sleeping and we were inside it’s shut eyes (hence the darkness). But mostly she’d say that the sun was temporarily dead.
Yaaru kolapannunaa? (Who killed it?), I’d ask.
Clouds ellam senthu kolapanniduchu (The clouds came together and killed it), she’d say.
25 or so kms away from Port Blair is Chidiya Tapu. If you ask the locals about it, they’d tell you that it’s the best sunset point on the island. Delina, Alphina and I were exhausted, tanned and parched after a visit to Red Skin Island. But our friend insisted. We were there at 4 in the evening. There was nowhere to sit, so we leaned against the railing of a watch tower, away from the rolling waves of the beach below. Rutland islands, it’s mountains rose from the sea in front of us. Light clouds loomed above it. The sky, the mountains, the sea, all looked painted in a similar colour, a light blue, a paler blue, then a grey.
For long, we waited for the sun. The regular sunset time was falling on us, but the sun was not to be found. Then it appeared slowly, out of nowhere. Those faint clouds couldn’t have hidden the sun without us noticing it for so long. Lines of orange broke the monotony of the clouds, the sky. We weren’t quick enough for it. Before we could begin to take it in, it was gone again. But the inevitability of time, end of a day did not wait for the missing sun, the sun which had to set. The clouds were cast in a darker light, the trees on Rutland a mass of black. The clouds began to gather together. Into a circle they had drawn for themselves. They gathered together, leaving the sky to look desolate, naked.
By then, we had lost all patience to wait for the sun. But then it happened. Slowly, as if in quiet labour the clouds moved away from this circle, they moved to reveal a glowing orb of fire. This sun did not burn our eyes when we looked at it. It’s glow felt like a pat on the skin, kind, so silent. The colours this sun created kept us watching. Waiting for the death of it. Such colours couldn’t stay for long, could it? Playfully, next to me, Alphina said, ‘May be someone’s playing with it.’
What happened after that has always been difficult to explain. For those few minutes, the remnant of the sun gilded the sea, moved around the clouds like smoke and seemed to want to be buried in the mountains.This wasn’t any traditional sunset on a beach. When you watch the sun set on a beach, you see it swim in the waters for a while, as it is. I’d have attributed to it my mother’s reason – ‘the sun is sleeping’. The sea seems to be a right place for the sun to sleep. But when the sun sinks into a mountain, wrapped by grey clouds, it looks more like a death, an abduction, a missing. As the Egyptian myth goes, Ra sails in his solar barge every night into the underworld. The sea, the mountains, the clouds, together, at Chidiya Tapu, kill the sun. Like every other day.
Why did Christ have to die? Why did He rise again? It was a sacrifice, a death after a blessing, for a blessing and by a blessing.
The majesty of the sun that day shook us, kindled childhood and left us in sobriety and peace. Just like Good Friday every silence was in us but that of mourning.
Location: Chidiya Tapu, South Andaman.