I love walking in parks. Whenever I walk in them, I feel sad. Don’t ask me the reason, though. Even I don’t know how when I walk on the concretized round and round lane around a public park, or I sit on its green and brown turf, a solemn sadness washes over me. I see the world with an inner eye, a new perspective.
To be honest, though, I don’t know if ‘sadness’ is the right term. May be rather than giving a mere signifier to it, I should use more words to describe my emotions. Whenever I walk in a park alone, a queer emptiness befalls me- a trance I enter. I become sad. Or should I call it ‘melancholy’? There are many words. But I will use a common denominator- ‘sadness’. Because somehow, it is what explains my state most accurately. For me, it encompasses the entire range of emotions.
Parks are human-made replicas of nature. No. They are not even replicas. They are versions of what Nature wants us to do- what a human being desires. There is a conflict, which is perhaps most apparent in the art of topiary. Human beings make everything an art. Like - creating beautiful shapes out of privet or myrtle or holly. An elephant, a conical pattern, a sphere. Parks are the artful renditions of what humans can produce out of Nature. They are a living example of what it makes human, human. Is that why they make me sad? I don’t know.
Children are playing their little games, running behind each other. Elders are sitting and thinking. And adults-like me- are walking or jogging, or taking care of others. A dog is chasing a kid. A kid is chasing a dog. Maybe the entire world is a park. Yes. And don’t you agree? The world, as we know, is nothing but a park. An ugly park. But one.
People are so relaxed when they look alive. Unlike malls or hospitals or railway stations where they have a motive in mind, an agenda. You can really see them when they are in parks, look into their minds. I enjoy looking at people’s faces. Their shapes and forms can tell a lot. I like to guess what is in their mind from the expressions on their faces. How they react when they spot me looking at them. What their profession is. How they live. What they think about life. This, you can say, is my hobby. And I like it. I like it when I get lost in deep recesses of their thoughts and echoes. Moments like these provide me with the time to think. Time dilates when you are sad. Yes, that makes more sense. When I feel sad, I visit parks to give myself some time, so that I can feel sad and think.
One such day I was lying on the ground, on the wires of grass, under a glorious sun of February with hands over my eyes thinking about a myriad of things, which came and went away, like images in a movie. I was alone, as usual. And people were enjoying- playing with balls or talking and joking with each other, absorbing the warmth of the mild February sun, living what is life. A particular group caught my attention- grouped in a circle. One of them was lying with his hand over his eyes, like me. Another reading a book, her back on the back of another. And then my eyes fell on a girl. She was pretty. I started observing her more intently.
She had high cheekbones, and a fair skin with a rosy hue that glowed under the soft cushion of sun rays. She was laughing. Perhaps a boy in the group had cracked a joke. There were others, but she was laughing the most… even clapping her hands. Maybe the joke was a real nice one. Or maybe she was high with February sun.
I changed my line of sight. To a boy who was not laughing as much as others. He was quiet. Perhaps he was like me, with jet black hair and jet-black eyes. There was a sadness in them. And he was looking at the girl. The girl I mentioned before. I shifted my gaze to her. She was still laughing. A little milder now, though. Maybe she was oblivious of being watched. By the boy. And by me.
I opened my bottle and took a sip. I always carry my water with me. I don’t like to drink from outside. It gives me a sense of security. I am not free. But who said I want to be? I want to choose my chains. Maybe this is freedom?
The girl was quiet now. She was looking at something, something I couldn’t catch. The ground? Nothingness? Something was on her mind. I tried to look closer. There were lines of concentration on her forehead. I tried to listen to the group’s conversation. They were talking about someone, laughing. But the girl was relatively quiet. Relative to what I could expect from her previous behavior. I changed my attention to the boy. Now he was laughing like a crazy person. And then it occurred to me that the girl was looking at him.
I think they were in love. But too afraid of people around them to relay this to each other. I think they were too afraid of each other - to understand that they were in love. I was sad. And I was happy. Sad, because it gave me happiness. Happy, because I feel sad when I am happy. When you see an example of quiet love, you do not know what you feel. Quiet love is the purest.
Nachi Keta is a neurodiverse writer from New Delhi. His work focusses on mental health, oppression and the absurd in social and personal.