The condition of traffic in the city’s thoroughfares gets worse with every passing day. Forced to travel over fifteen kilometres twice every weekday between his suburban residence and his seventeen-storied office in the up and coming localities of the ever-expanding city, Satyam stared helplessly at the serpentine flow through the mess of car honks and abysmal pollution on his way back home after another long day of work, like any other day from the past four years. No use complaining, he thought to himself; we cannot crave for development and cringe at increase in the volume of traffic at the same time. That would be hypocrisy. Let the new metro route commence in a few years, and then life will certainly be a lot easier. This in mind, Satyam reaches into his backpack and draws out his overused and entangled pair of earphones. Jack in place, he drowns himself in the soothing voices of Simon and Garfunkel who talk to him of what is important in life and what is not. The strains of the piano on The Sounds of Silence engulf the cacophony of traffic.
Damn these examinations, thought Tiyasha, they keep coming back. Who on earth invented this horrific form of torture on young children and would-be adults, and to think that it is all for the sake of deciding upon a two-digit number which will supposedly determine my capabilities and potential? Indignant angst poured out of her sixteen-year-old self. As the clock sneaked past the midnight mark, drowsiness crept into the room lightened by a solitary table-lamp, and was aided by the soporific hum that weaves through the night. The upcoming examinations loomed threateningly at the horizon, so in a last bid at dissuading sleep from overtaking, Tiyasha turns and seeks refuge in the set of Bluetooth enabled headphones she had received as a gift on her last birthday. The rest of the house sleeps on, oblivious to the rhythm of the bass guitar as the Poets of the Fall belt out a song which speaks of Illusion and Dream.
Weekends are fun; weekends are for relaxation. Though not quite in the way most people think, mused Rukmini. For those who spend the other days of the week at work, rest is of premium importance on a weekend. But for her, a homemaker now on the wrong side of thirty, it was the only time of the week when she could communicate with her family in a manner that actually counted. The rush of the week, her husband’s long working hours, the increasing demands of her nine-year-old son’s upmarket school, and the thrice-a-week classical dance classes she conducted at her home, left Rukmini with precious little time to dedicate to things that mattered. No matter, she thinks to herself, as she pulls out the decade-old transistor radio from the kitchen shelf where it stayed on the other days of the week. There was a particular radio station which played the choicest of Rabindrasangeet on Sunday mornings, and what more encouragement does one need in order to cook up a really special mixed vegetable dish which even nine-year-olds would scoop up with delight? Rukmini pours all her love and warmth into a big saucepan along with broccoli and beans as Sraboni Sen and the melodies of esraaj take her through Dariye Achho Tumi Aamar Gaaner Opaare.
The smell of dust mixed with the drops of the season’s first rain hit Shankar like a glorious electric shock. As he left the dusty main road for a sparsely taken track into the woods, the bus that brought him there rumbled on towards its destination leaving him alone to his own devices at a little known village in district Nadia. The chaos of the city seemed a long way away as he trod on towards his destination, the vibrant akhara of a group of Bauls. As the rains begin to pick up, Shankar looks skywards and feels as if he is returning home after a very long time. Just out of college, his degree in Mathematics from a renowned institution does not attest his love towards the music of Lalon Fokir, but as the clouds loom darker his steps lengthen and his ears strain for the first notes on the ektara of the ethereal music which asks the almighty, Milon Hobey Kotodiney.
With every passing mile on the road from the airport towards the city, the sights that appeared outside Animesh’s car window pointedly refused to adhere to the visuals his forty-year-old self had had in his mind from seven years back, the last time he had set foot here. The cars he spotted on the roads were mostly smaller than the ones he drove on the smooth Interstates of the United States, and so were the heights of the buildings he was seeing here compared to those he helped design with an architectural firm back in his new home away from home. But familiarity with big cars, tall buildings and bright lights made the task of getting acquainted afresh with his own city no less startling. The closed windows and the air-conditioning system blocked out the noises from the street outside. As the stereophonic speakers of the car shift a station, Animesh suddenly notices a very familiar tone striking his aural nerves. The strumming of the guitar as Cactus breaks into Holud Pakhi pulls forth from the distant reserves of his memory the early college days when “targets” existed in archery fields and “take-home” probably referred to fast-food joint.
Shambhunath had just returned from his routine morning walk. At eighty years, life demanded discipline and adherence to rules, so not once in the last seven years had he missed his morning constitutional. After a light breakfast as he settled himself into his comfortable armchair, he thanked God for leaving his sense of hearing unimpaired, much as his knees pained him and his eyesight left a lot to be desired. His routine now includes thirty minutes of his long time favourite Jagjit Singh on the music player his granddaughter had bought him two years back. Jagjit ji and his harmonium hum Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho as Shambhunath peacefully leans back on his soft cushion.
Music thrives in every drop of our blood and every ounce of our existence. Take it away and you have a civilization full of empty souls. Enrich it and the world suddenly becomes such a better place to live in.
**Published on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the Southern School of Music, Kolkata.