I am obsessed with sunsets. City or village, desert or mountain, beach or river bank one of my greatest joys comes from taking pictures of the sun sinking into the western horizon leaving a skyline bursting into vibrant shades of orange and red. Sunrises do not bring me such awe and happiness, it’s not even that I am not a morning person. I can wake up early and my years working with the government have ensured that I have had to spend several mornings rising up early even before sun rise. Yet the sun emerging from the horizon has never sent me running for my camera with the same sense of anticipation as a sunset has.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that I like finality or maybe just the whole atmosphere around sunsets is so beautiful. My work in Rajasthan has exposed me to some of the most beautiful sunsets there are to see. Watching the sun sink into a limitless expanse of sand dunes in a skyline unfettered by trees or buildings is mind-blowing. As the sun sinks the skies explode into a kaleidoscope of crimson, red ,pink and orange. Sand dunes bask in the glow secure in the knowledge that as the night comes the blazing sands will go cold.
Village activity around twilight has an all familiar hum. As District Collector in Rajasthan I used to drive through village after village in the evening to spend the evenings in village camps( that is when people are back home from their fields and can sit down to talk about administrative issues with government schemes). The drive to the chosen village would often cross dusty tracks and roads,lined with cattle returning home for the day.Invariably, we would have to slow down to let a flock of sheep pass, as they would run across, their heads low, just following the one in front. A decidedly younger and more rebellious one would try and break out of the file only to be chased back into the line by a man in white with a bright,multicoloured turban balancing his long stick in one hand and a wee lamb in the other. The bright colours of the turban would add to the orange hues cast around from the setting sun. Sometimes if you are lucky you can come across a herd of camels being led back after a day of grazing at sunset. Else it is a cloud of dust and the golden glow from the setting sun
Sunsets in Rajasthan like other part of rural India signal the end of the day. Women start setting up the kitchen for dinner. A lot of people in Rajasthan eat two meals a day, at least the ones in government do. I do not know why though, I suppose the excruciating heat in the desert in summers makes it hard to eat at mid-day. So effectively dinner becomes the all-important meal of the day. Most women tend not to step out after sunset because that is when all the preparation for the evening’s meal begins. Men and women can be seen getting back from a work site or even the fields. There is chatter of the days events in the village and discussion on family and familiar matters.
Sunsets near the water are simply incredible. I have stood for hours on the banks of Lake Fateh Sagar in Udaipur, hoping to catch the perfect reflection of the setting sun in the placid water.
Sunsets have a serene ,calming effect. A perfect photograph of the sunset has had me waiting even among a bunch of camels waiting to watch the sun set. A sunset has an invigorating effect on me. As the sun slips down the horizon it leaves behind the promise of a sunrise- tomorrow. A promise that tomorrow is a new day.