Balconies have a funny way of looking like life. The openness that allows you to look at the sky, but not escape to it. We are not birds, but our feathers are often ruffled. And then sitting in the half-open, like a person just woken up from sleep, the balcony brings in invigorating tea. It is hot and humid, but the warmth that tickles the throat is like fresh breath resuscitating life that feels rancid.
Balconies seem a bit disconnected with life within the rooms as well as life outside. We come out to take a look at the traffic, the trees, feel the bracing air, spot people walk past, drive past. But, nothing, no one notices us. Occasionally, a person from another building might catch our eye. It is often too far, even in apartment blocks that squeeze bricks and have steel in the soul.
Balconies have railings, a sort of protection that if we happen to get too close - and it is made of wrought iron or even uneven wood - it will hurt us. Sometimes, we can look through the grid and then everything appears boxed in or divided. Circles, squares, rectangles, flowers, stars, and people and houses and nature are captured within those blocks. Like still life.
Balconies are also tantalising. The possibility of toppling over is there. The hard ground, the wind...they don't make anything seem final. A ledge could save, a tree could save, a wire hanging down could save.
Balconies invite us back inside. Rooms that have designations await us. The living room, the bedroom, the bathroom, the study, the guest room - all meant for specific activities. How often do we turn the rules and when we do, do we not feel a sense of guilt over eating in bed? Don't we find it unsafe to fall asleep in the bathtub, if we have one? Of course, making love on the kitchen table is often talked about. But this is just secret pleasure; besides, both are different kinds of hunger.
One has heard so much about the balcony scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Apparently, she appeared at the window and there was no such literary reference. It does not matter; some things just become part of culture. Artists have created some outstanding images with the balcony as a backdrop or the focus.
If we look at Indian chawls, all we see are long balconies that house one-room tenements. They are like bogeys of a train, and people do hang their dirty linen out. A couple of Hindi ilms like ‘Katha’ and ‘Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho’ did show us the extremes of conviviality and avarice. What more do we need to understand life - a little sugar and some bitters?
Why am I talking about balconies? I was standing in one the other day. And as the sun dipped into another world, and everything appeared tiny, I realised we do not all live in similar worlds, forget the same ones. It happened to be another year of my life. And as the railings made a filigree pattern on my stomach, and the wind blew in my hair, I knew I had to run in at some point and switch on the lights where nothing is tiny and yet sometimes some things feel small, including myself.
Just like the view from the balcony.