Pitch Black

A lot of people find absolute darkness terrifying – but it has been proven to be beneficial for deep sleep and better health. Waking up in the middle of a night in a remote location in Kerala, I found that I could not see my fingers in front of my eyes even though they were wide open. Looking all around did not help either – there was no light source close by. The only option was a torch and sweeping my hand gingerly on the floor, I found the torch and switched it on. The bright rays pierced the darkness with an intensity that was disconcerting, throwing sharp shadows and wall textures into sharp focus. We’ve grown so used to ambient light in cities that it’s hard to imagine what life is like in complete darkness. And we take a lot of trouble to ensure that light is always at hand, the moment we are awake. We don’t turn off the lights, we merely reduce the intensity. Driving through a jungle road late at night, and focusing on the road behind – not lit by the headlights was an army of fireflies. Flickering brightly like hundreds of points of brilliance created an effect that cannot be captured by cameras but needs to be experienced in person.

And the sky looks like it really has a million stars. They form an endless carpet you can gaze at for hours out in the open. In our cities, we see just a few of them with the profusion of lights that transform night into artificial day. It’s only in the absence of light and sound that sharpens the appreciation of the elements. Campfires are great generators of an atmosphere. The light is never constant – it brightens and fades in irregular patterns casting faces into expressions and colours that soften features and give people a glow that stays in memories for years on end.

Discussing a fairness cream brief long ago, the conversation turned to why people are so fixated on fair skin. And there were no easy explanations – unless one went back into light and darkness as positive and negative forces. We are taught from early childhood that light dispels darkness – as if it is something to be feared and mistrusted. Even though the natural rhythm is equally split between day and night, especially in the tropics. Light by itself it not good and darkness is not evil But somehow, the myths have evolved that way.  So we never think of darkness as a calming influence – as a way of connecting with our inner self. The best time to meditate, the best time to think is often the early hours just before sunrise, when it is the darkest. Pitch black is not necessarily a bad thing.