Lilting memory

The evening sunlight flits through the branches of the Parijatha tree, and passes through the partially opened window, forming shadows on the mosaic tiles on the ground. The dust motes vibrate to the sound of lilting notes, some human, some birdsong, both heavenly. Unlike the dust, however, the humans singing stick strictly to both rhythm and tune, following their teacher’s strict yet comforting lead through the nuances and intricacies of the song.

The music floats up till the roof, where it swells underneath the sheets laid on the rafters, enveloping everyone who heard it. Sequences repeat as students follow the teacher, but never tire the listener’s ear. The roof, open on every side but up, reveals rolling plains, with the occasional house in the distance, a distance that seems almost within reach from the vantage point.

A main road snakes off in the far distance, appearing and disappearing behind houses and within the rolling land. The occasional vehicle passes, its sounds feeble, swallowed by the all-encompassing music that blankets the entire rooftop. The brilliant setting sun sets the sky ablaze, while itself hiding behind floating, full-bodied clouds, that look like airborne beds inviting one to sleep in them, swaying in the breeze straight from the sea over yonder. The sky, painted in every possible orange, red and pink, changes similar to a undecided woman going through her wardrobe before settling, finally choosing a brilliant black dress with millions upon billions of shimmering sequins.

The houses in the distance begin to light up, each holding their own stories of daily life, the struggles and joys, the trials and tribulations of the families that lived in them. The welcoming of young grandchildren visiting for the summer holidays, the departure of the elderly who lived the rest of their lives in this quiet village.

The music stopped, but the steady strumming of the tanpura continued to fill the empty space left behind. The final scales were sung for one; for another, their lesson had begun.

The sun slowly went down, unable to tear itself away from the music, just like those who heard it. You didn’t have to understand the words or know the raaga being sung. All you had to do was close your eyes, and let the music envelop your soul, lifting it up, and floating away through space, into another land, into another time.

I opened my eyes, and found myself back in my room, far away from the chirping birds or the scent of the Parijatha tree. Another land, another time. But the music continued to flow, coursing through my soul, making its way back to the place I called home.


In gratitude to the woman who is not only the reason I’m alive, but also the reason I love, learn, live and forgive. My greatest mentor, my favourite teacher, the role model of my role model. Even as your memories fade, the memories you gave me stay strong within my heart and spirit.

Thank you for everything, Dodda. You made me the best person I could ever be.

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