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Vol. XXX No. 7, August 1-15, 2020

Under the Open Sky: Terraces & Balconies in Chennai

Marilyn Gracey

Before the pandemic struck, an ordinary middle-class family would work through their weekdays, taking weekends off. Weekends would be spent with family or friends, catching a movie at the theatre or eating out; sometimes it was spent as a lazy time of relaxation at home. COVID-19 brought about a series of lockdowns and restrictions, forcing everyone to look for new ways to keep themselves entertained, creative and lively.

The lockdown of more than a hundred days – and still counting – has been a stressful experience for many. We have simply never seen anything like this before. Today, we are stranded at home with the shops, malls, and restaurants closed; the roads, parks and beaches are empty, and there are no buses, trains or flights available. Even the universities, colleges, and schools have shut down, and temples, mosques, and churches have closed their gates. The only space under the open sky that can be relished without the need for masks and social distancing is the terraces and balconies of our homes.

Terraces and balconies have become a new bay for bonding, entertainment, and creativity. Social media recently saw a string of viral videos posted by people belonging to various countries performing in their balconies. The balcony truly became a concert room in Italy, where people sang, played musical instruments, and danced. The sports enthusiasts tried to keep the momentum going by playing tennis or football across the terraces of their houses. And it was from the humble balcony that Jeremy Cohen of New York flew a drone with his number on a slip to his neighbour who was dancing on the terrace. The couple enjoyed their first date sitting on the rooftop of their respective houses.

Personally, the terrace has been my favourite place since childhood. It is a place where one can be inspired by the sky and dream high, gazing at the celestial wonders, think, think, think, and overthink. It is a place of joyful solitude and refreshing breezes. As years passed on, life became busy and I became rather lazy to climb up the stairs to reach the terrace. However, the lockdown changed circumstances and I make an effort to climb to the terrace every day – this time, not alone but with family. We hold evening picnics in our own small enclosure under the beaming sky.

Definitely, the number of people on their terraces during the lockdown is higher compared to the pre-lockdown days.

As individuals, families, and couples – people flock to the terraces of their houses. Families bond as they chat with each other and have fun and also spend time with neighbours whom they would not have seen during their otherwise busy schedules. People also enjoy some ‘me’ time as they enjoy nature. Birds like crows, pigeons, and sparrows too bond with humans for their share of snacks.

Many kids fly kites – a sight that I am seeing many years later. Youngsters do their routine workouts and elderly couples take brisk walks. Some families even play bat and ball or badminton with their children, proving that family time is some of the best times one can have. What’s more, some also discover secret love stories that have begun to sprout in the neighbourhood. Terrace spaces are also used to foster hobbies like photography and gardening. Many people are finally giving into the longstanding desire of nurturing small rooftop gardens.

The best way of spending time on the terrace is to just sit still, gaze at the sky, and see the beauty of nature all around us. Every evening brings a new joy – the sky looks radiant with the sunset, the changing phases of the moon grace the night sky, the stars twinkle, colourful hues hide behind the clouds at dusk, the dark clouds float serenely, birds fly high in pretty flocks, and beautiful contrails leave a streak across the sky. The sky has a lovely surprise every day.

While I hope the lockdown lifts soon, I do wish that we hold onto the new customs we have re-discovered. Frequent terrace visits, family bonding, friendly neighbours and the beauty of nature are things to be cherished. Though these may seem like dark times with clouds hiding the sun, its the small joys of like that act as rays of hope as we wait for the situation to revert to normalcy.

Marilyn Gracey
Plot No. 117, GRACE
Yeshwanth Nagar Link Road
Madambakkam
Chennai 600 126

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