Memories of Moonlight

Written By

Diya Gupta

Lifestyle - Travel - Memories of Moonlight-07 Loading

The moon’s great orb was resplendent in the quiet and dark night sky. Its gossamer sheen draped the square courtyard where the children played noisily and happily during the day. You could see the mountains in the distance, dark in the shadows, unrevealing of crevice, cranny or perilous drop; and glimmeringly silver in the moonlight, rearing their heads far, far above the little playground.

I used to sit on the steps of the courtyard and watch the moon rise, and moonlight fill the mountain village. There was hardly anyone around. The occasional cow would meander by (cows insisted on using the playground as a shortcut made expressly for them). Sometimes I was joined by a dog, tail wagging, hopeful of a biscuit or a roti. I should have felt alone; instead there was such peace. I like looking at the moon, I would think. I like the silence, the shadows, the silvery light.

Moon gazing is one of my favourite pastimes, but it doesn’t travel well. I was a volunteer teacher for six months in the remote Himalayan village in the Spiti Valley, 3,700 metres above sea level. And then I moved to London.

Unreal city indeed. Crowds flowed over roads, spilled out of the tube, bunched themselves together in buses, forming peculiar shapes and patterns over the urban landscape. They moved. And you had to move too, in regulated steps, to keep time with the rhythm of the city or else you brought discord to the dance. And people tutted at you in displeasure.

And the sound. Trains screeching, buses hissing, the insistent beeping of traffic lights, the wailing of police sirens. Mechanical voices telling you to mind the gap. Cashier Number 4, please. Have you swiped your Nectar card?

Human voices filling the world with talk – lattes that need to be made just right, WiFi connections that should work better, men in suits in loud conversations about important meetings. The street busker. The coffee grinder. Tourists playing the piano at St Pancras International. The babble of a myriad confused tourists. A hundred pairs of eyes glued to tiny screens. The high street shops that slyly nudge and wink – “Come on in! “These are surely the phantasmagoria of a fevered dream.

But this is London, they said. London. Capital city. Global hub. Financial centre. What’s not to like about the lights of London?

They’re very bright, I’ll give you that. They make sure I can see my way back home from the train station, every stone on the pavement, every bend of the road. I know where the supermarket is, I know where the alternative Polish food store is. Everything is convenient, easy to hand; washed, sorted, labelled, packaged. I only need to decide to consume and my wish, it seems, will be granted.

A flick of the switch brings the arc lights in my lounge on. And gazing up at the night sky from the lounge windows, I find a pale round ball, very distant in the sky, looking back at me. And I think, I’ve known you differently.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Diya Gupta is a PhD researcher at King's College London, UK, working on India and the Second World War. She also writes for universities, charities and newspapers. Diya graduated from Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India and the University of Cambridge, UK, and has worked in academic publishing and higher education. She spent most of 2014 high up in the Himalayas, volunteering as an English teacher at Munsel-Ling School in the Spiti Valley. Read her blog on her experiences at: http://www.diyagupta.co.uk/blogs/spiti.

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