Windows are very interesting. The walls are meant to shut you up inside and the windows are meant to connect you back, reach out to the world whenever you like and shun it when you don’t.
Grade three was an important year of my life. Not only did we shift to secondary school where we were expected to wear a red shalwar kameez but there was a big window in the class.
The enormous French window was located at the back. In the afternoon, the sunlight on our back could make it uncomfortable. If you wanted to peek out, you had to turn around. You could see the narrow lane that led to the backyard of the school and to the house next door. The house had a lovely garden. On a lucky day, you could be sent to stand by the window as a punishment and observe the gardeners at work. Once we even placed small plates of seeds by that window, to see how the seedlings sprout and start a new life.
Literature has famous ‘windows’, too. Throw your grief out of the window, wait for the window of opportunity when hurt and see into your beloved’s eyes as if it is the window to her soul. The most famous windows are the ones in The Wuthering Heights that help Heathcliff meet Catherine.
I remember a story by Robert Louise Stevenson very vividly. As a child, Stevenson couldn’t walk. His sole connection to the world was his window through which he observed people and made little figures of them. One of those figures was the “lightman” who came at night to turn the street lights on. The window made the little boy’s life interesting but also increased his longing for the world. I haven’t come across the story since class five.
In school, I spent a lot of time gazing outside the window. Who wants to deal with Algebra and Geometry when a vendor is selling falsa juice, a lady in a blue Foxy can’t park or the doorman is listening to the radio loud enough to wake the dead up.
In our fourth grade, there was a window, quite high up. It was inaccessible because we were small. However, if you could stand up on something, you would see the rich owner’s house. On a lucky day, her corgis, toy dogs and a huge snow-white fluffy dog that jumped like bull would be playing there.
Our fifth class window also looked out at the same dog’s heaven but from a different angle. This window was huge and the view was clearer. Sometimes the sari-clad owner would take a stroll and our eyes would pop out in excitement.
In class nine we were shifted to a room on the top of the building which felt like the Tower of Babel looking down on the world. I was particularly distracted by the passersby and the cleaning lady’s elaborate rituals. Sometimes the teachers discovered my flight into the unknown and changed my seat.
There is a window in my bedroom which looks out at the rectangular balcony of my room which looks out at the verandah and the gate. Previously, it was lush and green. But then my uncle returned from Canada and chopped all the trees. You can see the fog in winters and whoever is at the gate. I have planted new trees there.
This window was not just an escape from boredom. It was more of an escape into imagination. If I have watched a horror film I fear the vampires and the zombies are at the balcony, awaiting me. But usually, I can only see knights sword-fighting in my verandah, Hobbits jumping off the balcony or Romeo singing below it. Sometimes I see the renowned poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz playing the flute there. But this is rare.