The bright fortnight of Falgun in the season of Boshonto is notorious for fogs. After the marauding, querulous packs of pariah dogs have finally disbanded and settled down for the night, and just as the skittish jackal slinks warily along Sudder Street, carefully crossing a deserted Chowringhee and retreating back to it’s lair in the Maidan, the mist sweeps in from the Bay of Bengal rolling across the vast delta floodplain. In advance of this gentle opacity, a phalanx of wispy tendrils silently branch out and twist under, around and through the decaying galleries and arcades slowly filling the city spaces with their softly swirling filigrees and arabesques.The diaphanous, vaporous tongues lick, suck and gently chew at the decrepit buildings, gradually dissolving their shapes until their solidity melts into a pearlescent glow. In the muffled whiteness, the serpentine vapours caress and enfold the silent sleepers with their warm, damp coils as the sleepers sleep their deep dark sleep. The sommeil noir of the death hour - during which the hold on the thread of life is at its most frail and tenuous.

A solitary child, no more than 2 years old, determinedly picks her way through the muck and foulness outside Hoggs Market. Oblivious to the coiled cobra hidden in the nearby pile of terracotta cups jumbled about the chai-wallah’s stall, she stops to wipe her bottom perfunctorily with a torn, filthy page from yesterday’s Statesman. Meanwhile her entwined parents enshrouded in a fine mist of droplets underneath their haphazard shelter, shift and turn restlessly in the dark pre-dawn greedily snatching the final few shards of slumber.

And as the fog begins to lift and dissipate ever so slightly, in the direction of the east, against the indigo vault of the sky, a thin skein of crimson and the soft aquamarine glow announces the arrival of dawn. The fierce hot springtime sun is only an hour or two away.

And the cobra slowly shifts its thick, heavy coils; sitting, watching, waiting...


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