[Photos and words - Nirmala Patil]

Somedays, I go for solitary morning walks wrapped in my shawl.
The winter garden is faded with fog
and the wind among the branches
of the wayside trees is solemn and still.

I slip out of my kolhapuris 
and walk barefoot on the dew-bathed grass.
Cold slowly starts to seep into me,
making me one with the wintry earth.

High on the trees, some birds begin to sing.  
I take a deep breath and exhale,
the evidence of being alive comes out of my mouth
as a visual breath, like a cloud. 

In the distance, a lady feeds stale rotis to a stray dog.
While I watch, the sun slowly rises on the horizon
blushing my face with its warmth.
And suddenly, everything feels like a celebration.
This… rising of the Winter Sun
to envelope a world swaddled in cold mist
in its silken warmth. 
Like a tender embrace from a loved one.

I sit on an empty bench. 
On another one beside me, an old man is practicising pranayama.
Shafts from the newborn sun fall on my wet feet
making them glisten.

I continue to sit, 
and one by one all the little things
that feel like synonyms to the Winter Sun
begin to queue up in my mind -
All the steaming rasams of my childhood,
the amber warmth of mustard oil in a bowl during winter abyangas,
the soft sweat on my child’s forehead even on wintry mornings while she frolics outdoors wearing knits,   
dinkache ladoos, 
sunned rezāis on stinging winter nights,
and Christmas carols in Sinatra’s mellow voice.

As the morning birds leave their nest for the day,
more people begin to flock the garden wrapped in their layers.
I get up to pluck white lantanas for our home
and gather fallen leaves that look like butterfly wings.

On my way back, I shyly smile at passing strangers
hoping to pass on my joy as a gift.
And their smile in response,
makes this world another beautiful synonym for the Winter Sun. 

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