Making Melody Part 5

Pancham

She had tried calling the number given to her by the boy at the school. It was a land line number that kept ringing every time she called. It was truly frustrating…! She tried watching the school from her balcony to see who was coming and going. But that was a wild idea anyway!

He continued to remain elusive…!! Her eyes filled up with tears. It had been her fault ..! She had had her chance but had lost it.

“A confused coward of a girl who was out to please everyone!” she thought bitterly. It had taken her, fifteen years to realize that pleasing everyone was not something that was humanly possible. It also meant displeasing a very important person – her own self! It was this realization that had given her the courage to do what she had, in the last six months.

People had thought she was crazy to leave a lucrative research career in the US and relocate to India. Vineet, her husband was vehemently opposed to her plan, which in the beginning, had included him.

“What? Are you crazy?” he had thundered in his usual loud voice.

For a man who was least interested in her career, he seemed to know a lot about how India would not offer her any options in post doctoral research. She could not imagine how she had spent nearly ten years married to someone like him.

To him everything was either money and what money could buy. A man who cared neither for art nor science. She had to listen to music in her car while she was driving to the university least he be “disturbed” by the sound. She could not read books while he was at home- unless they were connected with her work.

Every minute of her attention had to be devoted to him.

She realized soon enough, that she was to him, an acquisition. A brilliant scientific mind that also cooked his meals and did his laundry. And that is what she became after a while – a trained robot!

She had kept the reality away from her parents for as long as she could. But soon, her late parents had understood what was happening with their daughter’s life. She did not know if it was guilt, but her father had died willing to her the flat that she was now living in! It wasn’t very much by way of an asset, considering that it was small and located in a very modest part of town. But yes, it was a roof over her head. An asset she could count on, when she decided to tell her husband that she was going anyway.

She had by then, obtained a teaching assignment at the University in the town. They were very honored to have her. She did not know if teaching was what she wanted to do ultimately, but it certainly gave her a platform to land on when she came back home.

Vineet had raved and ranted about her decision to go anyway. And finally he had thrown at her what he considered his final ultimatum- “Stay here or be prepared to be divorced”.

Strangely, she had been so relieved when he had said it! It had saved her the trouble of having to articulate it at some point later.

He had been very nasty about the entire process of separation . But she had stood up to it ,had finally packed her bags and moved out.

“Is this what I want? This lonely existence?” she wondered turning her head to look out of the window.

But the path to self realization wasn’t an easy one. She knew she had wandered away from everything that she had wanted at one point in her life . Today, it might not be possible to get all of that back but she sincerely hoped she could get that one vital part of her past back- Madhav!!

However, the question was whether he wanted her back? Yes it was a coincidence that he worked in a school near her house but that may not mean much..!! And anyway why hadn’t he contacted her? The school would  have shared her name and contact details with him.

It probably meant he may not want to renew his contact with her…!

Why did she ever imagine he would be still waiting for her at the gate to her house as she had left him on that fateful night…? He was not like a constant note in a raga or a stabilizing notation in a formula. He was human and therefore subject to change

She was definitely a fool..! Such things did not happen in real life. One had to face to the consequences of one’s actions.

In life there were no second chances.

Pancham : The  Power of the constant 

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Making Melody Part 4

Madhyama

The three hour ride up the winding roads on a rickety state transport bus was probably one of her best journeys so far! The lush greenery on both sides of the road, the spray from a waterfall as the bus passed close to it and of course Madhav’s presence on the seat next to hers.

She had been in two minds when he had asked her if she would come with him to the tiny village up in the hills. There was a residential school for tribal children up there, where he went every now and then to do some volunteer work. It was not something that many people knew. So she felt very special that he had asked her. It was to be a day trip. They had left early in the morning and were expected to be back later in the evening.

It hadn’t been easy to get permission from her family. However, when she had told them about the school and volunteer work her father had agreed. But of course she had omitted to mention the fact that it was just her and Madhav who were going. She felt a bit guilty about that. Anyway, she was glad that she was here with him. She loved the way her body bumped into Madhv’s as the bus negotiated the curves. She had looked up to find him smiling at her.

She remembered that smile even today.. it had been such a special moment!

They had got down from the bus and trekked up the hills for about twenty minutes before they reached the school.

“Why have you chosen a school in such a remote village to do your volunteer work ?” she had asked.

“I did not choose the school. It chose me. I used to come here with my mother when she was alive” he said.

She had itched to know more. She knew he had lost both his parents and lived with an old grandfather in an equally old and rambling house in the middle of town. It was rumored that his family was one of the oldest in the town. They were also considered to be one of the richest. She  wondered what had brought his mother to this place.

He was obviously a familiar figure in the school because everyone in the school from teachers to students were greeting him. The Head master came out of his room with hands folded in greeting.

“It was so nice of you to come. As always we have prepared our special lunch. We will have it served in some time” he said.

The children in the meanwhile were surrounding him and asking him to play the flute. Some of them looked at her curiously.

“This is Padma Didi. She is my friend. Say Namaste to her” he had said.

She blushed as the children turned their attention to her and chorused out the greeting.

She sat next to him under the shade of the huge peepul tree on campus as he took out the flute and held it to his lips. It was 10.00 AM , mid morning. He started to play Raag Asavari and then Raag Bhairavi. Bemused as always, she had watched him play. Clad in a black T shirt and jeans with his hair flying in the breeze he made a strange sight amid the children in this remote school.

“What are you thinking?” he had asked with a smile as the last note left his lip and fingers.

“I was thinking about the Pied Piper of Hamelin You have the same kind of magic with these children’ she had said with a laugh.

“ Only with the children?” he had asked softly looking into her eyes.

Dared she hope that he was giving her a message or was she reading something that was not there?

“ Well even the teachers and the others seem to be under your spell” she had said blushing.

“Not any spell Padma. They are just grateful for the support they are getting for the school from my family” he had said

“Support? But isn’t this a government school? “ she asked

“ It is . But these schools rarely receive the funds they are entitled to from the government. So the trust set up by my late mother helps with the day today expenses.” He said.

“Sir, lunch will be ready by 12.00 noon. Do you want to sit inside the office until then?” asked a teacher

“No. It is okay. We will walk around.” He said waving him away.

“Come lets go up that hill. I will show you a beautiful spot” he said pointing eastward.

She followed him trying to keep pace with his long strides. She admired the way he lithely negotiated the steep hill side.

“Here let me help you” he said extending his hand as she tried vainly to climb up a particularly steep section.

She hesitated, not wanting any physical contact with him.

“Come on trust me. I will not let you down” he had urged, his hand outstretched. She had felt silly about her reluctance and put her hand into his hoping he wouldn’t feel her racing pulse as he pulled her up.

They were at a clearing. The view beyond was fantastic. She could see the world stretched out in front of her. The breeze was strong. She could feel her dupatta flying away. She watched him grab the flying fabric in mid air.

“Here. Hold on to it now” he said with a laugh as he draped it around her shoulder.

“Come, its not far from here” he said pulling her hand.

She could hear the roar of the water fall even before she saw it. It was beautiful!! They were less than a couple of feet away from it. She watched the sunlight play on the water droplets and saw a rainbow.

“Did you see the rainbow out there Madhav? That is caused by the refraction of sunlight on the water drops which act as prisms” she said excitedly.

“Yes!! But everything cannot be explained by the laws of physics” he had said sitting down on a rock.

She agreed. Who could explain the magic of this moment? It seemed like the entire universe had come to a stand still. She wanted to reach across and run her fingers through his locks. He was looking at her intently. She clenched her fingers at her side, hoping he hadn’t read her thoughts.

“My mother brought me here nearly a dozen years ago” he said. “ I used to accompany her to all the places she went to as part of her charity work. But this is my favorite. And you are the only other person I  have brought here with me ”

“ I am honored” she had said with a smile.

“Today is her death anniversary” he said looking away abruptly.

“How many years has it been ?” she asked softly

“Ten years” he said

She waited in silence for him to speak again. It seemed like an eternity before he resumed the conversation. “She died in an accident on the way down to town. The car skidded off the hill side. It was raining heavily that evening. It was a miracle I survived”

“ I am sorry “ she whispered.

“ It is okay. I think death for her was a release. Her marriage had already broken up thanks to my grandfather’s meddling. My parents divorced when I was hardly seven. It was just this charity work that gave her some purpose in life” he said looking away from her.

“But I am sure you would have also been a source of joy to her” she asked.

“ I was .. I guess. Until my father and her father decided to use me as a pawn in their power game. There was a long drawn custody battle. My father’s family tried to paint her as mentally unsound so that they could get custody. But the old man had better lawyers. He portrayed my father as a drunkard and a womanizer. Anyway, my grandfather won the case and here I am living with him” he said bitterly.

“Madhav..please don’t feel sad.. turn around” she said putting her hand up to his shoulder.

And when he did turn around she had found herself melting in his arms. She felt his lips come down on hers and closed her eyes enjoying the most beautiful and silent melody ever! As his hands moved over her body, an irrational part of her mind wondered if the flute tucked away inside his pocket was envying her now.

( Teevra Madhyam …. Can we now expect the Vadi and Samvadi to start coming together…….)

Making Melody Part 3

Gandhar

It was 3 o’clock ! About four hours since the music had stopped. The clanging of the school bell every three quarters of an hour gave a pretty good idea about when the school was likely to get over for the day.

The sound of the bell was now followed  by that of children getting ready to leave for the day- As squeals and shouts of young voices, filled the air, she closed the door to her flat and made her way downstairs towards the school.

Standing outside the school gates she watched the children coming out. She wondered if she should go inside the campus to look for him.

After about fifteen minutes she decided she would go inside. It was unlikely that she would get any worthwhile information about Madhav from the watchman at the gate.

“Excuse me sir, can you tell me the way to the school administrative office?” she asked the old watchman.

“ Go straight down and turn right. First room at the corner” he said waving her inside.

She walked down feeling rather conscious about herself. It had been ages since she had left school. Unlike other women of her age , she hadn’t rediscovered it as a mother yet.
Why, she hadn’t even discovered motherhood ….! She shook her head, bringing herself back to the present.

The administrative office was dotted with people- the staff, some teachers, parents and students. Padma stood outside wondering how she should go about asking her question. Mustering up some confidence she walked up to a woman seated behind a desk and said.

“Hi, I would like to admit my child in this school. Can I have a prospectus and an application form?”

“ Admissions for the new academic year start from next month. Please pay Rs 200 for the form and prospectus” she said depositing an envelope in front of Padma.

“Thank you” said Padma pulling out her wallet and taking out a Rs 500 note

As the woman was looking through her drawer for the change she asked casually. “ Do you have music classes for children here? My child is interested”

“Yes of course, we do. Madhav sir comes here twice a week to teach the children to play the flute” said the woman fishing out the change.

“Madhav…. Do you mean Madhav Menon ?” asked Padma carefully.

“Yes. Do you know him?” asked the woman looking at her .

“Oh .. a little bit! He was in my college. When did he start teaching music here ?” asked Padma

“I don’t remember. May be two to three years ago. I have been working here only for a year now” said the woman.

“Do you have his contact details?” she asked, her heart beating loudly.

“We do. But then we cannot give it out to anyone like that” said the woman.

Padma turned around to leave, trying to hide the disappointment on her face.

“Madam, please wait . You can leave your name and address here. I can pass it on to him if you wish” called out the woman, extending a small notepad towards her.

With shaking fingers, Padma wrote out her name and address. There was no telephone number yet that she could share.

As she started walking out from the room towards the gate she heard a young voice call out to her. It was a  boy, about twelve years old who had been standing outside the office overhearing her conversation.

“Aunty, I have Madhav Sir’s phone number?” he said.

Taking a notebook out of her bag she scribbled down the number. She smiled at the little fellow and thanked him.

“Aunty, Sir is a very nice person. He pays my school fees here” said the boy looking at her seriously.

She nodded. No one needed to tell her that. His passion to help less privileged people was almost the same as his passion for music.But he rarely spoke about it. Like everything else about him it was camouflaged behind his unorthodox exterior. A facet of himself that he revealed only to those who he considered close.

She had been one of those few who had seen and experienced that side to him. But sadly, it hadn’t given her the courage to follow her heart..

( From Shuddh  to Teevra  next )

Making Melody Part 2

Rishabh

Going to a co ed college had been a big step in Padma’s student life. But considering that it was the best college in the country, it was also a rare honor for her. No one in her family had ever been there.

Coming as she did from a traditional family, Padma stayed in the shadows of the college campus trying her best not to draw attention to herself in her cotton salwar kameeze. She came in and left the classroom and the campus quietly. Nobody noticed her and she was glad that it was that way. She couldn’t imagine what she would have done if a smart boy or girl on campus had tried to speak to her.

It was two weeks into college, one cloudy afternoon, as she was sitting unobtrusively by a window inside the library that her entire life changed!

She heard the most divine melody wafting upwards from the quadrangle below.

Someone was playing Raag Malhar on the flute! There was no mistaking it !

She tried to drag her attention back to the seventh edition of “Advanced level physics by Nelkon and Parker” lying open in front of her. But try as much as she could, her mind refused to focus. It was as though someone or something was trying to take it over.

She bent over from the window trying to see who it was. But the musician remained out of sight.

Her mind was in a turmoil. She felt someone was calling out to her desperately. She wanted to know who was playing something so divine.

She shut the book and put it back into the shelf and started running downstairs.

The quadrangle was empty. Under normal circumstances she would have avoided cutting across it and drawing attention to herself. . But this wasn’t normal. There was something supernatural that was calling out to her.

The dark cloud in the meanwhile, unfolded into shards of lightening. But the rolling thunder did nothing to drown the divine sound. She watched him mesmerized as the first drops of rain began to fall.

His eyes were closed as his lips and fingers worked magic on air columns. His shoulder length hair was flying in the wind!

Even after fifteen years, that was the image that came to her mind every time she thought about him.

She did not know how long she had stood around like that. It was only when he had stopped playing that she realized where she was.

“You are completely drenched ” he had said opening his eyes and looking at her for the first time.

She shivered. Not so much from the cold dampness of her clothes but from the heat of his gaze.

“Come here. It is dry “ he had said indicating a spot next to him.

She had gone there as though drawn by an invisible string.

“Hi I am Madhav. Are you a fresher?” He had asked.

“Yes” she had nodded.

And thus had begun the most unusual relationship !.

Padma Srinivasan- B.Sc First year Physics, nerd of the first order, with the confidence of an ant and Madhav Menon, B.A Final year English , mysterious , loner with the conversation ability of a rock became what could only be called the “Odd couple” on campus.

He waited for her outside the lab or the library while she stood in the corner watching him complete his practice session with the college band.

Sometimes he played for her under the Frangipani tree in the corner of the campus. He often walked her to her bus stop and once they had walked all the way together to the end of her street in complete silence.

People didn’t know what to make of the relationship.

“Be careful. He is a crazy fellow. He probably does weed” said one of the girls in her class.

But Padma did not care. She lived for those moments that they spent together

The Aroh has just begun)

Making Melody Part 1

“Shadaj”

Padma could hear it distinctly!!

The sound of the falling water from the shower or the traffic outside her balcony did little to drown it.

But then how could she forget it? This melody was etched in her memory since the first time she had heard it. How many years was it she wondered as she reached for the towel to dry herself.

Fifteen ? Sixteen?

She quickly emerged from the bathroom and rummaged through her suitcase to find some clean clothes to put on before tracing the source of the song.

It was only yesterday that she had moved into this flat. Her luggage was still to arrive. All that she had with her now were a couple of suitcases and a few cartons of books.

Putting on a pair of sweat pants and a T shirt she stepped outside into the balcony. There was no mistaking it! It was Hamsadhwani – her favorite Raag ! And there was no mistaking the instrument – the flute which had haunted her dreams for the last decade and a half!

And dared she hope it was those same lips and fingers that were affecting her senses like this?

Her ears and eyes sought the source. The song was coming out of the school building next door. She wanted to go there and find out if it was indeed him who was playing it.

But a saner part of her told her that it was  crazy  to just barge into a school building and ask who was the musician playing the flute. She wanted to ignore that sane part of herself. However she knew that was a battle she would lose. That part of her had always ruled her decisions.

That same “sane” self… which had always made her do the “right” things in her life- to focus on her books when she had wanted to sing, to stay indoors when she had wanted to dance in the rain, to keep her thoughts and emotions hidden behind an impassive face when she had wanted to let go and scream them out aloud!

“Has it all been worth it” she wondered as she made her way back inside the room.

To the world it probably seemed like it had but she knew that it hadn’t been that easy.

Doing the right thing was okay as long as you knew what was right for you. The problem with Padma had been that she had allowed everyone but herself to define what was “right” for her.Her parents had wanted her to pursue a career in science and so she had. She was a Ph.D in Physics from a reputed university. They had wanted her to take up teaching as a career as it supposedly enabled a very happy and peaceful married life for a woman. She had agreed.

Everyone was happy when she agreed to marry the successful Wall Street financial whiz selected by her family. It was within their community and in all aspects a “match made in heaven”

But making everyone happy had made Padma tiered. And the match was far from being made in heaven!! She shuddered as she thought about the hell that she had left behind.

The melody has ceased. The silence seemed deafening. She decided  she would go to the school a little later in the afternoon and find out!

She wanted to start doing what was right for her. Looking for Madhav seemed to be the best way to do it.

Madhav…… how was she so sure it was him?

But it had to be!! No other person could create magic out of a bamboo tube like that!

( Wait… listen to the complete “Sargam” )