- What do you know! Today I met a friend from school!
- Who R-- ?
- No. You wouldn’t believe it, I stumbled upon S-- . By god I had thought I won’t see him again!
- So there you were! I thought you went drinking with one of you colleagues.
- Ha! Those no-good-bastards, but S-- , a gem I tell you…
- Alright, alright, now don’t just sit there, go and get fresh, I’ll warm up the food. You must be jolly drunk and all but I’m starving.
- Yes ma’am, away I go. The kid’s sleeping?
- Slept hours ago. Don’t you go waking him up.
But I was not sleeping, I was awake, eavesdropping on their secret world of memories that I’d like to have.
A few days later, uncle S—and I met formally when there was a big get-together at our home. All of Father’s friends who knew uncle S—had gathered with their families except uncle S—himself. I gathered he didn’t marry. There I heard my father’s music for the first time! He played a second-hand keyboard he had bought for the occasion, which he kept. Uncle P—had come with his Tabla and uncle S—with his guitar.
For the most of us it was a surprise – discovery – it completely changed the way I saw my Father. As I saw them play and mingle music together, I felt somehow they didn’t need us anymore. All three of them had a huge smile on the faces, like I imagine I must have when Father finally buys me the game I wanted for months.
I was with the rest of the families and kids. I never had so many guests over at the same time! All my building friends met my father’s friends’ kids and we played outside till it was dark. When we came home we couldn’t find our fathers so we clamoured around my videogames, we had a great time. After a while the aunties and the kids and mother and I ate dinner and waited for father to come home. I slept easily on my mother’s lap listening to her talking.
I was ten or twelve years old when I asked Father if I could learn to play the guitar from uncle S--.
- Why, don’t you like the way I play the keyboard?
- No, I mean yes, but I like uncle’s guitar more and A—already plays the Peti, so I thought I’d play something different.
- Hmm… I’ll think. I’ll tell you tomorrow.
- Why? Tell me now!
- No. Think of this as your first lesson, wait till tomorrow.
- No. No. Ask one more time and I won’t talk to uncle S—about you.
I somehow forgot all about it for the rest of the day, but the next day I remembered and was pestering father about it. Then he said that I could go and visit uncle every Saturday and Sunday and that I’d go alone and he would come to pick me up. And uncle lived near our hem also! But mum didn’t like it one bit, I found out when she first fought with Father. They fought while eating whispering loudly, not to wake me up, but I was already awake. I listed and I thought how it will be, playing the guitar like that! I thought all kinds of thoughts about playing music, all day and all night.
Saturday arrived, I got up early and woke both of them. I did not want to be late on my first day! By ten o’clock I had left my home and was walking towards my school. I walked really fast. I knew where hi house was, Father had taken me once. I was a small building of five floors (If you count the ground floor too.) and his home had a balcony from where I could see the Government Colony ground behind the school.
He lived on the second floor, which had a long passage for playing cricket but I guess there were no kids on the second floor. My heart was beating so fast when I got there, it was a magic door inside which I could play beautiful music! I rang the bell – it was like the one in my father’s office –buzz buzz. I waited but he didn’t open the door. Buzz buzz buzz – again I waited. I put my ear to the door to listen, it was cool but I could only hear me swallowing my spit. Then I decided to wait but soon enough Father came and told me that uncle was not home, he had called to tell and that is why he had come to get me and that I can come back tomorrow.
On Sunday I went a little late, because mum was angry about yesterday. I liked it when she scolded Father and me at the same time. I was her favourite. When I reached there, I found him waiting for me with the front door open. I must have smiled very hard because he laughed and took me inside.
I was a very old place but it was big and there were very few things and there was no TV! It had a very different smell than any of my friends’ homes. I think it smelled like the library in school where the old books are, so I thought it must be very old to smell like that. I sat in a small old chair, fidgeting. He asked me drink some orange juice he gave me and I asked where the guitar was.
- First we’ll learn to listen.
- Alright, let’s set you up for your first song!
He then dragged the chair with me in it (I almost fell out.), to the balcony from where I could see the whole colony and the back of my school and the ground where kids played cricket. There was a half-shade in the balcony because the coconut tree moved in the wind and also made a very nice sound.
- Now I’m going to start the song, ok?
- Close your eyes and don’t open them till I tell you to, OK?
- OK. (I closed my eyes.)
- And try not to think, ask all questions later. Just listen to the song and what I say. Got it?
It started slowly and softly – lala la la lala – lala la la lala – lalala la la la – and then it became fast and uncle told me to imagine –
It is one o’clock in the afternoon,in the summer – a clear hot day. There is a small town and all the people have slept except you and you are sitting under a tree from where you can see the whole town. Everything is still and sleepy, only the wind is dancing for you on this song.
I tried to imagine it all but I couldn’t imagine the dancing wind, the song became slow again, very slow.
- Now open your eyes slowly and try to mix your imagination with what you saw, don’t move your head till the song ends.
I opened my eyes and for a while everything was blue and then I realized how silent and still it all was! – just like I imagined it, the houses of the colony had become my small town, the children had stopped playing and were sitting in the Gulmohor tree’s shade like they were sleeping. And again the song was again playing the tune of beginning, starting slowly and becoming faster and faster – lala la lala Drang! – and in the Gulmohor tree’s moving I could see the wind dancing to the song! Then a strong breeze came and made the sound of falling rain that mixed with the sound of the song. I heard for the first time a strange sound like a kid’s rattle, all the sounds mixed with the song and the sound of the song mixed with everything else. I felt a weird warm sensation all over my body that felt like a shiver, my hair on my body was standing straight. Then the song got slower and slower and then stopped altogether.
I got up, my hands were shivering slowly, I came to where uncle was sitting. He asked me to wash my face and come. I felt better after I washed my face, I felt like I had just woken up from sleep, everything I saw was new, even the old smell of the house. When I got back, uncle had cut four mangoes.
- I heard you love these.
I nodded and sat down on the floor in front of him and asked him all my questions, he laughed and answered them all and we ate the most delicious mangoes in the world ever!
Tip: The song used in this story is ‘Asturias’ by Issac Albeniz on Classical Guitar, I suggest listening to renditions by Andres Segovia (Esp.) or John Williams (Aus.)