August 8, 2016

Romance

When he arrived at his destination it was well into the morning. Rain had given way to sunshine and it created a rather unpleasant mood in one, combined with narrow, muddy streets if a small town in India and the irritating damp heat. The driver had done his job and he had done his job well. He settled his bill for the journey, thanked him and topped it off with a handsome tip, the driver went away for a meal, smiling.

The hospital building was dingy, in fact anyone in his right mind would have never considered the structure to be a hospital but yet it was the best in town. As he entered the premises he was met by his father, mother, brother and the remainder of his father’s closer friends, uncle S—was not the first one to be at the stairway to heaven. Amongst the clamour he was also met by the grim and gloom of the ICU ward. The smell of stale acetone mixed with pathetically fragrant phenyl had rigged the atmosphere of the building. His close informants, his father and mother, filled in him the sore patches, an answer to his inquires. It was all a haze.

“…terminal stage cancer…” “not much time” “cannot shift” “ second opinion” “any day now” “just wait and watch” “asking for You”
“Thank god you came”

Although he was well rested, he was disoriented, he could never have estimated the full scope of the reality bearing down on him. He was free falling, spiralling downwards towards absolute despair. The listless heat caught him off guard and in an outburst he caught himself. Breathing, calming down he took off his tuxedo and sat down. He wanted a drink a real hard drink but he asked for some sweet tea instead.

Drinking his tea he could have been contemplating how to handle his meeting with his first mentor, his godfather, the man who propelled him to be what he today is, or one could say he was not thinking at all, either way  it was a silent moment with all his comrades nearby.
Finally, around midday, he conjured himself and led by his father, approached the curtained bed where uncle S—lay. The sight was appalling, tubes and wires came in and out of his shrivelled body, there was no flesh and there was no hair, what lay in front of him seemed to be a ghoulish afterimage of uncle S—and yet it was him in all his material form. His father touched his dearest friend and he slowly opened his eyes, the eyes were there, alive and ready to reach out and in an instant they did and a skeleton hand was raised, crudely pointing at the subject.

‘You came.’

At this cue, he moved closer to his godfather and held his hand, struggling all the while not to but without any notice he broke down and cried like a child that he had now become. No dam was ever built to hold back the true tears.

‘Play for me.’

Upon hearing this he looked at his mentor’s face – it was smiling delicately. At once he wiped off his tears and went away towards his guitar case. Then he turned and went to see the doctor and the administration. He was in his senses now, life has its course and it is our lot to traverse it without doubt and with sincerity.

He was tuning his guitar after the doctor had given him his reluctant consent to a guitar recital in his ICU ward. He was also deliberating on the piece that was to be played. Uncle S—liked or rather loved all the canonical pieces written or arranged for the guitar, so the question was what should play? The critical circumstances had decreed that the selection had to be most deliberate and prefect. So, as he tuned, he went over his choices, uncle’s favourites.

Recuerdos de la Alahambra by Tarrega?  – No, the season and the setting are not proper.
Asturias by Albeniz? Not quite.
La Cathedral? Barrios? No. something is missing.
Yes! Anonymous Romance by Anonymous! This is it!

As he finished tuning he recalled how at any time of the day and year, uncle S—would stare out from his balcony, smoking, sitting in his favourite wooden, cushioned chair with this song filling the air.
A-minor...Strum…Perfect…Tuning done.
Now to start the performance, Anonymous Romance in the key of E. First minor, then major and again minor. He took his stance. He knew all about the piece, all the nuances and dynamics, but he never really got hold of it entirely. Falling in love helped, falling out of love – even more, but he never felt it the way uncle S—did.

The Concerto began, a beautiful sad melody placed upon and arpeggio-tremolo, simple and earthy. The pace is relaxed, deliberate and yet in a way surrendering to the flow of the notes that came before.

Romance, a song for the romantics, lovers. Then finally it dawned – pining at first, the feelings rush slowly towards a distant future. Then gaining momentum a beautiful romance ensues, a study in E, a study in life and life has its course, we lose our romance to the past and then we long for it in the future. The final longing is eternal, for it too is a romance – caressing an idea that was something, something that now is only an idea. A beautiful sad romance and with the distance past ends the piece.

He had closed his eyes without realizing and now opens them to a blurry image – tears, the recital is over. Uncle S—is in tears, he opens his mouth to say something but instead of words only hhhhh – breathes out. He places his ear near his uncle’s mouth but he hears nothing but instead he feels his hand on his head and finally, a frail
‘Thank you.’

Beeep---

In a most disgusting and rude manner the machine announces the mentor’s departure, he kisses the lifeless forehead –
‘He waited for me.’


All the other comrades rush to the bed and he silently makes his exit as he follows the corridors outside, mechanically, he has no thoughts. But once he steps out into the sunshine it seeps in. The godfather had delivered a final lesson, not Europe but this was his life’s true debut. Calmly he pulls out a cigarette and lights it. He smokes with a satisfied sadness, acceptance of an unfulfilling longing, its beauty and as he smokes he can hear the Romance – with him romancing an anonymous feeling.

August 3, 2016

Prologue.


- 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.
- But…
                - 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.
- Er…O..K
                - 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?
- 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?
-OK.

   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.)

Ideas.


This is a collection of ideas that have stemmed from a central one and these ideas will enable you to form your own version of the central Idea.


1.
In darkness,
See no shadows.

2.
They read scriptures,
As I weep beside her
- Mercy.

3.
Creating lies
To say the Truth.

4.
The Demon,
Most primitive God.

5.
Remembering
- To forget.

6.
I sleep securely,
At daybreak.

7.
Stand on the ground,
As if to fall.

8.
Revolts are necessary,
To preserve Order.

9.
Trying to be that,
Which does not exist.

10.
A blink of the eyes
And all thought is lost.

11.
The King,
-  Wanderer in the Kingdom.

12.
Walking,
I stop.
- I have to be somewhere.

13.
Victory is the need of Cowards,
Retreat – a gesture of the Brave.

14.
The entangled chimes in wind.
The melodies of Life.

15.
The naked priest,
Scorns, the dogs in heat,
In winter.

16.
The summers are always far.
Says the Monk,
In the mountain cave.