There are times and locations where an Air Conditioner just does not seem appropriate to the scheme of things. The whirr of an overworked ceiling fan has its special charm simply because of the visual impression it creates of putting effort into its assigned task of keeping you cool. Especially as the depressingly humid summer heat of Calcutta begins to squeeze rivers of sweat out of you post 9:00 AM. That is normally the time when the big windows which seem to be standard fixtures in any house that is more than 40 years old swing shut and the curtains are pulled past them. Outside the sun is scowling down on all those who dare to or need to take on it in the perennially overcrowded roads of Calcutta. Inside the room however, it is already cool and quiet. In fact, the papered windows and the drawn curtains make it necessary for the tube-lights in the room need to be switched on at that time in the morning.
Every other window and door, all of which are potential accomplices of the steam bath in progress outside are promptly shut offering them not even the slightest chance to play any part in any thermal coup. The house is old, its walls are thick and its ceiling is high. Step beyond its gated, green but largely unkempt garden and the reality of the weather will slowly bake you into a steamy meat cake. But the house protects all its inhabitants to the best of its ability while they reside within its watchful gaze, and the house bears the brunt of the sun's anger at not being able to get to those who seek its shelter. This Sunday afternoon will just be another day on the job for it, the protector and the preserver of many, from the wrath of an Indian summer.
For the residents of the house too, it would be just another Sunday afternoon. They'd complain of the 'extreme' heat knowing fully well that the really extreme heat was the ferocious beast that roamed the streets at that hour. They'd have their lunch together and slowly melt away to their respective rooms to lose themselves in a book or to gather around a movie playing on TV and then to give in to the inevitable on days like these when stepping out is always going to remain a unfulfilled mad thought.
The Spanish words for 'the day' are 'el dia' - the 'el' indicating that the 'dia' (day) is masculine in nature. The Spanish words for 'the afternoon' are not surprisingly are 'la tarde' - the 'la' indicating the femininity of the noun 'tarde' which means afternoon. No matter what book you may be reading, no matter what edge-of-the-seat thriller you might be watching, she will surely come: to seduce you, to lure you and to finally put you to sleep, such that you are dead to the world for all practical purposes, until the sun goes down a few notches and it's safe to look on it again. In all the darkened rooms of old houses on every summer afternoon, 'La tarde' lives, stalking and hunting, without fear and without mercy.