Extraordinary in the ordinary

A slice of heaven on a moonlit night in Ladakh

Little did I know that a decade later I’d have the chance to live that emotion with my father.
Published at Hindustan Times.

Like most nights, it was another freezing December night in Leh. Tucked in my bed with an electric blanket below me and a thermal quilt above, I had nearly slept off when I sensed some movement. I saw my father tiptoed in the corridor, dressed in his white kurtapyjama and ever-faithful brown shawl that had served him for decades. He said in a hushed voice,

“Anu! Come out with me, I want to show you something.”

Hearing his spirited words, I left the warmth of my bed, wore a jacket, and followed him. He led me to a wooden staircase that went up to the terrace. As we stood in the open space and felt every cold breath enter and leave the body, I couldn’t miss that despite it being midnight with no street lights in the vicinity, everything was unusually visible.

My father pointed at the sky.

A glowing white ball looked back at us, shining brilliantly. It was the largest and the clearest view of the moon I had ever seen casting shadows on the Ladakh ranges ahead, sometimes appearing glazed white, and sometimes, light icy blue. As I surrendered to the surreal moonlight reflections on white sheets of snow, I felt solitude and togetherness, gratefulness and humility, and a slice of heaven maybe. 

After a while, my father said, “Let’s go back beta before the chill catches us.”

Even as the welcoming heat from the electric blanket crept back into my yielding bones, I couldn’t sleep just yet. The moonscape and the warmth of the moment lingered on. I knew that my father had always loved watching the moon. Wherever he was, he often took a moment to look at the calming celestial body. Even when he shared fond memories of his childhood years, he mentioned how he loved lying on the hand-spun charpoy on our kothi’s terrace in our native village and kept looking at the moon until the sky began to turn cobalt blue.

Just then, I remembered a sequence from one of my favourite English movies ‘Stepmom.’ On a cold December night, the mother played by the impeccable veteran actress Susan Sarandon tiptoes to her children’s room well past their sleeping time. She wakes up her teenage daughter and younger son and nudges them to come with her. She was going to take them someplace special.

Packed in jackets and woollen caps, she mounts on a farm horse with her children sitting in front of her. They ride to the countryside, slow and steady, and halt at the spot she had in mind. A spot that held a riveting sight of snow-laden paths and Christmas trees glistening under the moonlight like dollops of vanilla ice cream. As her children absorb the view in awe, she whispers to them softly,

“I’m never, never going to forget this.”

The daughter says as tenderly, “Never say never.”

Under the moonlit sky, over the snow, they share a subtle moment of love and strength.

I had seen the movie when I was 16. That scene left an indelible mark…the celebration of a mother’s priceless affection for her children and their quiet reciprocation creating between them a memory of a lifetime.

Little did I know that more than a decade later, I’d have the chance to live that emotion with my father. Because on that moonlit night in Ladakh when he showed me that spectacular glowing white ball, he didn’t just share nature’s beauty with me. He shared a part of him with me.

This article was published at Hindustan Times.

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