It was July, the peak of the monsoon, when the rain came down in torrents. Flooded roads, overflowing gutters, fallen trees, power cuts – Mumbai was not a beautiful sight during the monsoons. But tucked away in a part of the city’s concrete madness was an idyllic village that actually existed in Thane district, but for all purposes for the Mumbaikars, it was still Mumbai.
Sahana peered out of the tiny window of the dilapidated building that looked like it would come crashing down during the next torrential downpour. But Parijat, named after the lone parijat tree near the entrance, had stood steadfast for the past 70 years braving the monsoon, and the lives of its inhabitants. It overlooked a small garden with bright red hibiscus flowers, the occasional marigolds and the parijat tree that towered over them all – having exhausted all its flowers at the onset of the monsoon, and now just remained a green reminder of fluttering leaves.
Sahana looked at Megha and Malhar – her twins named after the raag that heralded the bountiful monsoon. Two tiny beings that came out howling in the dark six years ago, when the rain never seemed to stop – and by the tiny flicker of light at the government hospital that ran on an ancient generator and occasional handouts.The twins were frolicking in the puddle filled with muddy water and their excited screams rent the air.
Megha, like the clouds, flitted through her many moods – bright and happy at times, but almost always a chingari – a tiny spark that refused to just flicker. Malhar was mostly a happy child. The twins blended into the raag they were named after – delightfully soothing, with a nature endearing them to all.
Sahana met Desh in a beautiful musical interlude of her life – while studying at the Music Academy that was now her home. She had “escaped” from a small town in Kerala, much against her parents’ wishes, to pursue music. “Isn’t it ironical that you named me Sahana and initiated me into music at the age of three, and now say it’s not a career to pursue,” she tried to reason with the two government servants/music buffs for whom the nearest Gosri Gana Sabha was more than just a weekend pastime.
Desh, on the other hand, came from a musical lineage, one steadfast in its beliefs – of purity and tradition. Desh’s music was however fickle, the young man had a thing or two for fusion, which his family frowned upon, and so the only course was to escape to the Music Academy in Mumbai that encouraged experimentation and revelled in differences.
When Sahana met Desh, she surrendered, much like the raaga she was named after to his non-conformist ideals, though her love for the mornings clashed with his late-night meanderings in music. Together, they formed a musical bond, the girl from Kerala with her Carnatic affiliations and sing-song accent and the boy from Jaipur with his Hindustani roots and feisty ambitions.
They fell in love deeply – without any rhyme or rhythm to guide them. They spent every waking hour together and their nights were filled with the passion of two sentient souls – the raagas blending perfectly unlike their backgrounds that were as different as chalk and cheese. They also made music together – her soothing notes providing the perfect foil to his hearty voice. With a number of performances all over India, fame was on its way.
Soon, the time came for them to graduate, and Desh promised Sahana he would convince his parents to accept her and left for Jaipur. That was the last she heard of him. The next month, she realised she was pregnant. She stayed on at the academy as a teacher, trying to find what happened to Desh but he seemed to have disappeared. Much like sahana, she surrendered to a life ahead of her, with a small support system at the academy.
When the twins were two, she received a one-line letter from Desh, which was a sorry attempt at saying sorry. She discovered him on All India Radio the next day, singing KL Saigal’s lilting Dukh Ke Ab Din Bitat Nahi from Devdas. She saw a few snippets about him in the Times of India, and knew he had arrived, big-time. And had apparently, moved on. She harboured no ill-feelings and knew that despite all those endless ministrations of love – she never stood a chance against tradition, that Desh, ironically, loathed.
It was 6pm, the wind was howling as ferociously as ever, and in the midst of the power cut, the little children from the nearby slums gathered for the evening aarti. Malhar led the session with a soft Mira bhajan in raag bhairavi while Megha countered it with a slightly-fast paced Thyagaraja krithi, Bantu reethi kolu, her voice swirling with the Hamsanadam raaga of emotions – the twins had inherited the best from their parents, even if only one witnessed the confluence of emotions.
It may have been a time when North was North and South was South – and never the twain could meet – but from Sahana and Desh sprang life, and hope that if there was something eternal and everlasting – it was the power of music to bond souls together.