Every morning I look out the window to see if there is a hint of pink/red in the sky; if the sun is coming out bright or is it being obscured by the winter grey. Given the low temperatures, the winter day would still be cold for me but the presence of sunlight holds a special significance to me- it’s a consolation, a sign from the universe that conveys the wellbeing of my family, thousand of miles away from me.
My retired parents live in a small town in the northern part of India where the months of December, January, and February are extremely cold, and their house, like most of the Indian houses, does not have central convection heating in all rooms. They do have a electric portable heater to provide warmth in the bedroom, but since the demand for electricity is more than the supply in winter, there are frequent power cuts and they just have to hide under blankets to keep warm.
The only source of light and heat my parents and others can rely on is the Godsend sun. Every night as fog starts to descend to the roof of their house, my mother has just one earnest prayer-God, please let there be sun tomorrow. Sun is the center around which their day revolves. It is the fuel feeding the engine of their daily routine.
Soon as the sun is out, their life gets a kick start- my mother would pull out chairs for herself and my father and visiting neighbors to sit in the porch. My parents would enjoy a hot cup of tea together, their hearts filled with joy and gratitude. Slowly, as the warmth sets in, my father would take off his woolen hat and thick sweater and socks and stretch his limbs out in the sun, letting them breathe and soak the sun.
The neighborhood instantly comes alive with first rays of the sun and people start getting out of their abodes and walking on the street, meeting and greeting each other. One elderly gentleman would come and sit with my father and they would talk for hours about how many days till they visit the bank for their monthly pension or about politics and places- the same topics being discussed endless times. This social connection, this small talk, for the retired men is possible only if the sun is out.
My mother would arrange her chores, sequencing and multitasking multiple things around the hours of sunlight. First of all she would keep her jars of vegetable pickles that she is preparing out in the sun, otherwise they grow fungus and get spoiled. She would the pull out her sewing machine and start repairing clothes/pillow covers or she would lovingly start sewing an outfit for one of her grandkids.
After sometime, she would start lunch preparations- shelling the green peas or chopping the spinach on her small table, out in the sun. And she would soak the legumes in water and keep it in the sunlight so that they can be cooked in half the time. She would then run the laundry enthusiastically because the clothes would dry the same day by sunset, unlike days without sun when it takes 2-3 days for clothes to dry.
Soon enough, street vendors start flocking the street, one by one, shouting out loud to sell their goods, which could range from onions/potatoes to baked goods and from dishtowels to blankets .My mother and another neighbor would stop a vendor and examine the merchandise critically and bargain vigorously until the man gives up and leaves without agreement, only to return back to sell at the ladies’ price.
These humdrum activities and hustle bustle continues in their lives until late afternoon when the sunrays begin to recede and everyone seeks recluse inside their homes.
Although with the oceans and deserts and mountains and time zones stretching between my parents, and me, still when I see the sun, this visual of their daily life under the sun comes crystal clear to me and I am content and thankful that they are safe and happy.
Days that I don’t see the sun, it casts a pall of gloom -my day goes on but this distant worry gnaws my insides that my parents’ life is at a hard stop that day and they are sitting huddled close to the heater, silently praying for the appearance of the golden sunlight the next day.
I feel that the sun is the universal messenger from God, communicating the wellbeing of my loved ones to me; uniting me with them, and making me believe that life is good.
I believe in the warmth and light of the sun and how it holds life together for all of us.