In the small university town where I am headed , it is the most beautiful time of the day . The terrace of my house is a vantage point . I watch out for them each evening , from the distance and then hear the tinny tinkle of cowbells as the cows come closer , raising clouds of red dust with their hooves - theirs is a slow steady rhythmic tinkle , in keeping with their gait , followed by the hurried quick patter of tinkles as the goats follow and sometimes overtake the sturdy bovine crew .
If you go to the Laal Bandh down Shyambati way , in winter, you can see the migratory birds and as the sky grows darker , they lift themselves up in a huge canopy, showering you with a patter of water drops as they shake their wings and fly towards the sanctuary to rest for the night .
The sky at dusk , Tota, is an amazing work of art , like the palette of a mad artist - swirls of purple, violet,mauve shot through with crimson and pink and long streaks of faint gold . The last quavering calls of birds flying to their nests, the harsh cawing of a murder of crows as they hoot and catcall their way to their homes calling out to straysas they pass , to gather together as night falls - truly like a bunch of frantic ,young roistering men .
As I walk home , smoke curls up from the chulaas in the Bihari settlement . Someone blows a conch shell and then suddenly the air is full of the sound of reverberating conch shells .
A bullock cart passes me and a melody rises from within ,from a flute being played by a Santhal boy perched on the rear of the cart . I stop and watch till they go round the bend of the road and the long drawn melody fades away .
It is close to dark now , the sky gathering close and the sliver of moon is faint in the sky. I gather my sari around me and swing my cramped legs off the hard wooden seat .The memory of the long drawn quaver of the flute merges into the long whistle of the train engine as we hurtle over the bridge towards my station .
Come Tota , I say , we are nearly home....