It was a damp, cloudy morning; traces of overnight rain were visible on the street and car windshields. The neighbourhood green had turned glossy, and all this morning freshness made it seem, for a moment, like Kerala. I picked up the newspaper from the letterbox and returned inside.
Few things can match the leisure that seeps in as you settle down on a Saturday morning with the weekend newspapers on your lap. While weekday papers are full of news that ring with a tone of immediacy, pages of the weekend edition – with essays on art, culture and society – convey a quality of slowness and relaxation, as if in writing these pieces journalists were taking a break from their regular news-articles. You would not notice the difference if you hadn’t read the weekday editions; a weekend acquires its quality of leisure from the busy week gone past.
After breakfast – toast with cheese and tomato slices, and grape juice – I drove to MacroMarkt, a nearby super-market. I had to collect a few digital photo prints ordered some weeks back, and since this was my first attempt at using this channel (of uploading photos to their website, and later collecting prints from the store), I approached an attendant. He was an old, bespectacled man with a shock of white hair, and the warmth in his “Was kann ich für sie tun?” made me forget for an instant that he probably repeated this line a few dozen times each day. I asked where I could collect my prints. He appeared surprised, and replied that photos from film-rolls were all kept “hier” – he took me to the section – but added he wasn’t sure if this was what I was looking for. I thanked him, and after a small search found my prints. When I crossed him on my way out of the section, he wanted to look at my envelope. He then read aloud the letters “Online print 10er Format” and smiled, nodding to himself, perhaps happy he had learned something new this day.
The drive to Heidelberg reminded me – yet again – of how rapidly Spring had covered all traces of Winter; it seemed difficult to believe that this green landscape was snow-white only a few weeks back. Does Spring lie hidden in the earth, waiting to burst forth? Or does Winter, tired of making nature shiver, recede on its own accord? I had written of the sudden and beautiful transformation brought about by a snowfall; this changeover into green seems equally quick, and beautiful. How dull life would be without seasons.
The sun had slowly broken through the clouds, and I found Heidelberg wearing its best outfit: streets filled with locals and tourists in summer clothes; a lightness in the air; a spring in every step; gaiety all around. The charm of this city can never wear down.
At the library I returned my books – with a fine – and borrowed a couple more. I usually spend some time reading in the library, but on this day I wanted to be outdoors (one does not get many sunny weekends here). I walked over to the edge of the Neckar, and sat on one of the benches with a nice view of the river. There were some kids playing football on the stretch of green in front. Further ahead a group of canoe enthusiasts were preparing to enter the river. A pair of geese flew across a little above water, wings skimming the surface. A couple took photographs with the river as background. Cyclists, joggers and pedestrians crossed by, sometimes leaving snippets of their conversation behind:
“…auf der anderen seite…Neckar…”
“…I almost brought the roof down….”
“…ich weis nicht warum…”
I sat there for a while, enjoying the sun’s warmth on the back of my neck, reading and looking around. It was a lovely Saturday.