Cutting Chai: Before Sunrise

A lot can happen before sunrise. For those who wake up early, there is a range of special experiences that seem specially created. The earth is in the process of taking its turn towards the day, a karvat, as it would be called in Hindi. The word is packed with meaning and is used widely to express change, shifts, makeover or simple movement depending on context. For early risers, the experience of the earth’s apparent karvat towards the sun is special. You get to watch the world in its quiet glory. This also the time when households wake up to receive the day. For the really early riser, the sound of the morning azaan is usually the first sound we hear. Wherever you live in India, the morning has a lot to offer. From the offering water to the early morning sun to yoga practices and laughter therapy, Indians are usually quite uninhibited about their daily routines. Then we have the morning decorations. Some households use flowers, others hang strings of lemon and green chillies as protection from unfavourable elements. The rangoli (also known by the name of kolam or althapookalam, depending on where you are) is the morning practice of drawing out and decorating the entrance of a home with floor patterns of chalk, powder or paste. Festive decorations are much more elaborate than the everyday ones. As a daily practice, this is perhaps more common in the southern States of India where the decoration is almost like an announcement that all is well with the family.

Flying objects on the ground

            In today’s Cutting Chai, we bring you children’s ‘rangolis’, the spontaneous sketches of children on the street that we came across recently. These were not early morning announcements of well-being, but the playful expressions of happy children at play. However, they could be seen only in the morning, since, as the day went by, the sketches were usually trampled on and erased. The daily footfall of adults on the street wipes out most of these drawings by mid-day. Sketched mostly in the evening-time, there is a fascinating range of observations one can make about these sketches. In general, perhaps, the broadest message here is that the children are happy!

Today’s post is thus a reminder of incidental encounters that can be found in spaces where we rarely look, in the dark, in the shadows, and of course, before sunrise! Here are the pictures. The quality is not very good, but we hope you are able to see. As Greg MaKewon says in this podcast: “There are three kinds of people, those who can see, those who can be made to see, and…….” Well, you can catch the rest on this brilliant podcast on Essentialism[1].  


And here is a favourite story from A. K. Ramanujan to bookend this post. We hope you like it as much as we do.

“In a South Indian folktale, also told elsewhere, one dark night, an old woman was searching intently for something in the street. A passer-by asked her “Have you lost something?”

She answered, “Yes, I have lost my keys. I’ve been looking for them all evening.”

“Where did you lose them?” the passer-by asked.

“I don’t know, maybe inside the house?”

“Then why are you looking for them here?”

“Because it’s dark in there, I don’t have any oil in my lamps. I can see much better here under the streetlights.”

Until recently, many studies of Indian civilisation have been conducted on that principle. Look for it under the light… well-lit public spaces….that we already know. There we have, of course, found previous things,……we need to move indoors into the expressive culture of the household to look for our keys. As often happens, we may not even find what we are looking for, but we will find all sorts of other things that we may not even know we had lost or even had.” (Ramanujan, 1991, Introduction[2]).

Self-driven car?
N, the elephanton the road!



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