The Cloud Messenger

Words: Hiren Kumar BOSE

I never realised watching clouds could be so addictive, engrossing and captivating. Virgin white bulbous, cottony clouds hitched on cerulean blue canvas. Commuting on the glass-walled air conditioned bus that takes the Ghodbunder Road, Thane, on its way to Borivali, Mumbai, my eyes got glued to the horizon and I could not take my eyes off the sky. Two weeks prior to monsoon knocking on Mumbai’s doors, the sky presents a spectacle that doesn’t have a sequel. Either you have, or you don’t.

Did Kālidāsa see the pre-monsoon clouds when he wrote, “What is a cloud, after all, but smoke, air and water. What are my messages, to be silenced by the vanity of sending them by cloud? I am a passionate lover, eager to reach my beloved.”

Though I would like to believe that these were the same cloud formations Kālidāsa was referring to, but I’m not sure. How could they be? For these are huge, at places as huge as monsters we see in movies; and, they don’t seem to move. And, if at all they do, they are not in a tearing hurry, as you expect a messenger to be.

I’d like to now reminisce my maiden cloud-watching experience, while lying on the green lawns, close to the Raj Ghat in New Delhi. I was studying art appreciation under one Mohinder Singh Bahl — you’re unlikely to find him on Google — a 60-plus bald guy, sporting egg-shaped glasses, while working as a guide in the Triennial Art Exhibition in the capital. Those were the days when I was enthusiastic about fine arts and helped visitors decipher meanings on canvas, sculpture, graphics etc.

My colleagues at the Exhibition considered me an expert and would push me forward whenever there was a query from a visitor. It was the late 1980s, and most people who visited the Exhibition were just onlookers and tourists — for whom it was just a waste of time, a tamasha. I was like an art zealot ever willing to explain a canvas and, lo and behold, I’d also got a pat from artists like Arpita Singh, Jogen Chowdhary, G Ramachandran, Anupam Sud, among others, who exhibited in the Indian section.

This is where I met Bahl who ushered me into the world of art appreciation. The world created in the canvasses of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Camille Pissario and others. He told me, “Art is a language and until you know its grammar you will not be able to appreciate it,” while we were at his modest bungalow in the crowded Sitaram Bazar, a stone’s throw from Mirza Ghalib’s dilapidated house which served as a coal depot.

“Begin with watching a cloud and take notes,” he said, dismissing me. “Whatever comes in your mind, Nature’s canvas can teach you things which the books can’t.”

The next day, when the Mudrika Bus dropped me at Raj Ghat, the sun had yet to cross my head. It was a pleasant September morning with a fresh nip in the air and the sky populated with scores of clouds. After a darshan at the samadhi I ambled across the grass lawns and having found the right place for my maiden lessons on cloud watching, I stretched myself with my arms pillowing my head.

I remained in that position pondering over the clouds, seeing them change in shape and slowly disappearing in the horizon. Once in a while an eagle, or some bird, would appear in the sky and leave me alone, yet again. I was so absorbed at the spectacle, playing in front of my eyes that I was happily unaware of the passage of time, notwithstanding the people around, or the noise emanating from Ring Road. I was so entranced and focused on the clouds that, for a brief moment, I felt I was Kālidāsa, and it was only matter of time that Meghadūta would float from my writing pen — the prized Waterman.

Watching clouds can do that, a hypnotic spell, as it were, to you. Just give it a go, and you will be more than happy for it.

HIREN KUMAR BOSE, a senior print and digital media communicator, has worked with leading English newspapers in India. He was till recently the Editor-in-Chief of a Mumbai-based media house that specialised in lifestyle-themed periodicals. Bose, who’s travelled widely on international assignments, over the last 35+ years, is presently an independent journalist. He contributes regularly to leading web portals and print journals. Apart from being the contributing editor of the Swiss luxury watch portal, WatchWorld, Bose is also a weekend farmer and active blogger. He manages the blog, Sunday Farmer, which has a devoted following among farming enthusiasts across the globe. This article is ©Hiren Kumar Bose.

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