The hour of midnight is like no other – full of magic, possibilities, and special memories.
I’m writing this at half-past midnight when there is nary a light to be seen in the houses around mine. People have long since tucked themselves into the warmth of their beds, turning their backs on another exhausting day. A few hours from now, they will wake up to the smells and sounds of another day, before plunging into its churn.
In contrast to them, I am wide awake.
For many years now, I have stayed up at this hour, doing this and that. When I was in college, I have tramped the streets at this hour, walking back after watching the night show of a film or attending a party at a friend’s. Memories of nights spent in the advertising agencies (where I used to work) are still fresh in my mind. Many a time, a bunch of us would be up through the night, writing copy for ads or supervising edits on a television commercial. Other nights, we would binge-watch films or go pub-hopping.
But those rambunctious days are behind me. These days, midnight is a far more peaceful time. For instance, this is when I enjoy music the most. Sitting in my favourite chair, I switch from the sonorous voice of Bhimsen Joshi to the plaintive notes of Anouar Brahem’s Oud to the uplifting tunes of raag Kalavati/Valaji or Purvi Kalyaniand then, on to the dainty strains of a harpsichord. On other occasions – like now - I’m writing one of my pieces. Often, I stand in the balcony, just drinking in the smells and sounds of the night. Reading is another thing I do at this time.
As you can see, midnight is when I am truly awake.
I don't know what it is exactly that makes this hour so magical. To a large extent, of course, it is the near-complete silence. It rubs off on me, making my mind go calm. Like a placid lake. During the day, amid the noise and frenetic activity, the mind naturally tends to get agitated. It is in constant churn. One has to struggle to pull it back from the chaos and find some inner quietude. As a result, creative thought suffers.
But in the dead of the night, the mind is at its calmest. The silence, rather than being deafening, is a gentle, welcoming presence that wraps itself around you like a soft quilt. So too is the darkness, punctuated by the faint glow from a lamp here and there. In the comforting coziness of the night, the mind is free to do what it really wants to do - either descend into deep contemplation or rush forth into a burst of creativity.
In other words, it is only in the darkest interlude of the night that the mind is truly unfettered and the senses, heightened.
In this comforting, enveloping silence, I can look deep down into myself and connect with my soul. I am able to hear it talk. This connection is established effortlessly and leaves me with a better understanding of myself, my world, and my life.
I have found that there is a direct correlation between the deepest silences of the night and the quality of my literary output. I can focus on what I want to do, and my creative juices flow easily. Not surprising that many of my essays were born at around this time. When I was writing my book too, I often found myself hammering away on the keyboard till the wee hours. And it was in the darkest hours one night, with the deadline for giving the book a name looming large, that the title finally came to me.
But midnight is not just about silence. It has its own sounds, its own soft cadence. Listen carefully and you will catch the hoot of an owl, the rustle of the grass, the swish of the wind through the trees. The drip-drip of water somewhere. The murmur of a conversation floating up from a balcony below. The occasional klaxon call of a locomotive and the chug chug chug of a train. It becomes easier to pick up these sounds if you close your eyes. Shutting off sight shuts off visual diversion, thereby automatically sharpening your sense of hearing. I love to stand by a window, close my eyes and play ‘how many sounds can I identify?’ I imagine myself stepping out of my body, stretching out in three dimensions and picking out barely-there sounds from afar. Sometimes, I think I have heard a sound, but can’t be sure. For all I know, I may have just imagined it.
When I am travelling by train, I love to stand or sit at the door for hours. As we rumble through the night, I feel the cool breeze caress my face. In the pitch dark of the countryside, the moon beams down much brighter than in the city. As the whole world sleeps, it seems as if the moon and I are having a private and deeply personal conversation. On overnight train journeys to Kerala, I am at the door by 2 am. And as we pass through Walayar forest, I swear I can detect the first note of the sweet fragrance in the air that marks our entry into the state.
In the entire 24-hour span of a day, midnight is unique in that it is both an end and a beginning. Lying on the cusp of today and tomorrow, it is a time when the exertions of the previous day slink away from one’s body and soul, leaving them refreshed. But this transition from one day to another is not firmly punctuated. If anything, it is a gentle pause marking a gradual shift from one part to the next – much like the comma in a sentence.
Whatever I do at this time seems to take on a new meaning, a new richness. In medieval times, midnight was believed to be the hour when ghosts would be on the prowl and witches went hunting – their deeds matching the darkness of the hour. Happily for me though, it has always been the time when the best things happen.
Any which way I look at it, the hour of midnight is magical. And with each passing day, I find that I love it more and more.
No wonder then, that I think of myself as midnight's child.
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