“I need a window to look at the world without; for only then can I look at the world within,” writes Indian author of British descent, Ruskin Bond, in his memoir, Words From My Window: A Journal.
It’s a sentiment that strikes a deep chord personally as I have always found windows, no matter how briefly they have been a part of my life, fascinating.
My earliest memory of one is from a former residence in Ahmedabad, India, where my father worked as a journalist before shifting to Dubai in the early ‘80s. As a four or five-year-old, I was fascinated by a painting of Donald Duck stuck to that window — it stood out like a rock of cheerful reassurance amidst the ups and downs of living in a joint family who sometimes struggled to make ends meet.
Around the same time, I was attending Kindergarten classes at Ahmedabad’s Mount Carmel School Carmel Cote, where I was dazzled by a room with mini-scooters and cars in which kids could play for a while before classes started.
The vivid recollection of a tiny window in that ever-crowded room overlooking the Sabarmati river, is forever attached to a melancholic memory of being too shy to approach anyone riding in the cars for a turn.
Years — and many windows including the first and most exciting airplane journey of our lives — later in Dubai, when I would ride the school bus home, the bus windows were our ticket to a daily tour of the sights and sounds of ‘80s Karama.
We would wave goodbye to friends till they disappeared into their buildings, shout out a last minute reminder to get something the next day; we’d pass time commenting on cars that passed and people we saw, one day we spotted a camel and its owner, an unheard of sight in the city today, a highlight that had the whole bus buzzing with excitement.
How can this musing on windows be complete without a mention of the place where I spent 10 great years of my life — The Indian High School in Dubai?
While the windows of our Grade 10 classroom afforded us a reasonably good view of the corridor and passers-by, sometimes we failed to realise it gave those outside the same opportunity; we would happily be indulging in some mischief never realising the Principal could be peering in and taking note of the goings-on. “They’re very noisy,” he told the class teacher at some point, drawing no doubt a resigned sigh from her.
But of the many windows I have encountered in my life my most cherished at the moment remains the one in my room back home in India. I haven’t had the chance to travel in almost two years due to the pandemic and I miss my family terribly.
I also miss the quiet time of just being in my room, lying back in bed and watching the rain during monsoons, hearing the rattle of the window during a violent storm — on clear days the moon hanging so low at times you feel you could reach out and touch it, through the trees. Do you have a window you are most fond of? What does it mean to you?