The First Light: A Lifetime of Chasing Sunrises


Credit: Jason Hunter

Photo of The First Light: A Lifetime of Chasing Sunrises by Adete Dahiya

It’s a Saturday, a little after 4:30 in the morning, and this weekend has had a very different start from the ones I am used to. In a little town called Lekhapani, Assam, the morning light is already too much to bear. It is glowing through the window of my guest room, illuminating everything it touches, making it very hard to sleep in. Within minutes, the grey morning sky turns from pink to orange to gold and then a gorgeous bright white. And the transition is a sight to behold. Next morning, I wake up at four just so I don’t miss it. It is 2014 and I am forever going to remember it as the year I etched myself into the morning sky.

Credits: Diganta Talukdar

Photo of Lekhapani, Assam, India by Adete Dahiya

My love affair with sunrises, despite my inability to wake up early, is a long standing one. It’s also mostly long distance, but when we do meet the feeling is indescribable—it is the kind of stuff novels are based on and poets write about. Words cannot do justice to an experience so magnificent.

Anne Frank had said, “I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.” Like her, the rising sun reminds me to slow down every so often and savour some of life’s simplest joys.

Credits: Gaurav Jain

Photo of Pangong Tso by Adete Dahiya

The first time I really, truly saw a sunrise was when I was seven. We were on a family trip to Ladakh and were camping for a night on the banks of Pangong Tso. With the warmth of the bonfire cutting through the chilly night air, the moon creating diamonds on water and the sound of the lake lapping up against the shore, it was a night that got imprinted onto my mind. And of course, the starry sky was something straight out of a National Geographic show, but it was the light at dawn the next day that really took my breath away—a gradient of pink, purple and blue with just a touch of golden-yellow in the mountain crevice. Even though we couldn’t really see the sun itself till late in the morning, the freshness of the morning air heightened by the rapidly changing light was enough to make it an experience of a lifetime.

For a seven-year-old, magic doesn’t exist outside the ambit of fairytales and monster stories. But that moment right there was pure magic; after all I still remember it almost two decades later.

By now, I have seen the sun rise and set several times, and each experience is more beautiful than the last. I have seen it from tinted railway windows and also from the shores of beaches with golden sand; from the corner of my eye while sleeping in the car on a road trip, and also from the rooftop of a multi-storey in the city.

Photo of Delhi, India by Adete Dahiya

My favourite, however, has to be the one I saw from the sand dunes of Bikaner. On a short trip there, I had the privilege of waking up before dawn, which is a rarity thanks to my nocturnal standards. And deciding to step out of my tent to take a walk was perhaps the most spectacular choice I had made in a while. Standing on the top of a dune with the wind blowing sand into my hair, I was marvelling at the magnanimity of the desert when suddenly light broke from beneath the clouds with one golden ray of sunshine after another, piercing through the fluffy whites and creating iridescent outlines. Slowly, the mighty sun revealed itself, rising up from the horizon, illuminating every grain of sand.

Photo of The First Light: A Lifetime of Chasing Sunrises by Adete Dahiya

I could go on and on about every sunrise I have witnessed, but it is an adventure that words don't do justice to. There’s something about the rising sun that spells hope. It is like warmth that spreads from the core to the limbs, enlightening every cell, every particle. It marks the beginning, washing away all that is the past.

The sheer magnitude of the rays rising up from the horizon contains the power to calm the mind and the vastness of the luminosity that unfurls every morning immerses this planet in an ocean of life. You will never feel more alive than when the first ray of the sun kisses your face, and it is a phenomenon that can only be experienced.