A Short Story on Indian Classical and Passion

He was at a concert. It was a stadium, and he was at the back of the stage prepared for it.

There was the general plethora of noises that accompany a concert. The loud murmur of the audience gathered in front of the stage, the managing bodies shouting instructions to each other backstage, the flashes of the cameras gathered in and around the stadium, security personnel talking over their walkie-talkies. It was all there.

Noise they called it but, for some reason, it felt like music to him today.

He was at peace.

He remembered how he had got attached to the music of Ravi Shankar from a young age, when he was barely five years old, due to his grandfather’s tremendous collection of the legend’s work.

His grandfather used to wake up at four in the morning and before doing anything else, before brushing is teeth, before answering to Nature’s call, he would go to his antique gramophone. There, he would pull out one of the vinyl records kept in a shelf beside it and put it on play. Though the gramophone, being a heirloom of the family, was older than his grandfather, it would still fill the entire house with beautiful Indian classical.

Sitars, tablas, veenas, tamburas, flutes, violins, these were what he grew up listening to. Well, it would be inappropriate to say he grew up listening to them. He had their companionship only till his grandfather had been alive.

After that? For some reason, his father had not inherited the love for Indian classical that his grandfather had had in himself. It was probably because, at an young age, his father had been sent abroad to pursue studies in medicine. After he had come back, he had been modernized. The gramophone was sold to an antique store at a generous price and since then, the household was anonymous to Indian classical.

Naturally, his father wanted him to follow suit and become a doctor. Lakhs of rupees were set aside to fund his education abroad. Plans were made and extensive research was done on the schools available for his studies (though the father, in the end, decided that he will go to the same school that he went to. Continuing the “family tradition,” he called it).

But, he had different plans for himself. That early brush with Indian classical had mingled its flavors into his personality. When he told his father, though, he received only condemnation and was, very brutally and as an ultimatum, told that he was going to be nothing but a doctor. Thus, he, secretively, embarked on a journey to discover as much as he could about the art of the Indian classical.

Soon after, when he was exploring the attic one day, he stumbled on a treasure: A sitar. It must have belonged to his grandfather. It was done, then.

His journey had, now, a companion.
He found a sitar teacher far away from his home and using his pocket money to pay the fees, started learning the art of playing the instrument.

He was a natural. No student of the teacher had been as skilled on the sitar as he was.

He learnt and learnt. He worked hard every day. He used to hide the sitar in a long abandoned temple, and every day, he would walk to it. There, he would play. For hours, he would play and the entire surrounding would play with him.

By the time he was eighteen, he had mastered all the ragas and all the taalas.

But, of course, his father found out. With time, he had started devoting more hours to his sitar and as a consequence, his grades had dwindled. His father, in a desperate attempt, had set a tail on him one day as he was walking to the abandoned temple and that had led to the disclosure of his secret.

The sitar, his beloved sitar, had been taken. And it was broken. Right in front of his eyes, his father raised it above his head and smashed it against the ground.

That day, he just sat with the broken pieces of his companion in his hands and wept. He wept like a hungry baby whose food had been snatched away from him. He wept like a mother does for a lost child. He wept, wept like someone whose dreams were crushed.

That had changed him. The very next morning his father found a note on the shelf where his grandfather used to keep his records.

He had left. Long ago, it was decided that, when he would turn eighteen, he would be given access to the savings set aside for his studies. Using these savings, he built a life for himself far away from home. He bought a new sitar, and kept honing his skills.

At the age of twenty-one, he released his first album.

It was a success. The music was unlike any other rendition of Indian classical ever heard, and he became a sensation.

Now? Now he was at his first concert. It was weird, he thought. People said that your entire life flashes in front of your eyes when you are close to death. But, his entire life flashed in front of his eyes when he had almost touched euphoria, when he had the truest essence of life in him.

A sound right beside his ears brought him out of these flashes. It was the stage manager telling him that it was time to go on the stage.

He walked. One step, one breath, then another step, like the rhythms of his sitar.

He was there. Thundering applause greeted him. A applause that was deafening and still, for him, not noise.

He took out the sitar from its case. It was the one he had bought after he left home. He sat down and crossed his legs.

The stadium went silent. He gave out a deep exhale, and that was the only sound that persisted in the stadium for a while. He placed the sitar in its position.

Just then, someone came on stage and whispered something into his ears. He was told that the transfer of money he had requested to his father’s bank account was done. He had returned the money he had borrowed.

And right after that, he played.

He played like he had never played before.

It was serenity personified, and the sitar and him were one entity.

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