Tuesday, January 27, 2009

They didn't have keyboards back then!

The gentle, distant Sun had become unforgiving in an hour's time. The last smoke was had with whimsical whiffs of cool breeze playfully manoeuvring the smoke as it made its way out after living its character inside the lungs. Now, the surrounding air stood lifeless like a godforsaken rock; and the smoke erupted in dense grooves persistently amassing a trembling blanket, suffocating in its own monopoly.


The flyover, otherwise a cacophony, was a trustworthy protector in these times. Even if it weren't, he would still be surveying its bending angles, its chatter under the cruelty of hordes of vehicles, or the fatigue in the pillars that support its weight at its various nooks. He lived here; once the most brilliant student of civil engineering his reputed college had witnessed in decades, this flyover had been his home for the last three days.

His classmates, who had always found him in the company of an old keyboard that he had chanced upon when he moved into his room in the hostel and never in that of his books, envied his acumen as much as his professors were awestruck by his proficiency. In his heart of hearts, he exulted at this giftedness, but also wished he got the gift that he wanted. Music was his passion, his God, but perhaps not his gift. But there was only so bad someone like him could have done at what he loved, he was still way better than the overflowing ordinariness all around him. Day in and day out he practised the symphonies of Mozart, dared to improvise upon them, fiddle with them, flirt with them. This usually continued for hours at a stretch; and it may be true that it also somehow nourished him, for there is no count of how many times he missed the inflexibly timed hostel meals in his trance. By the time he was in his final year, the passion had outgrown itself to resemble an obsession; biographies of Mozart lay all over his room; he made music in the classroom, in the labs, even in his dreams. Salil, his closest friend, who also singularly somewhat closed in on his academic and musical talents, besides sharing endless cigarettes with him over music, stood first this semester. Not that it mattered to Mohan, the rank race; plus it had gone to his best mate, so it was all the more calming. But it was conspicuously unexpected - Mohan who exceeded number twos by huge margins, being exceeded. Salil, baffled himself, sought Mohan to ask what was going on, when Mohan just joked it off by calling him Salieri and calling himself Mozart citing the similarity in names, which of course, was feeble if any. 'Mozart and Salieri', he imagined and swelled.

The days at college were about to end when, in a bolt from the blue, Mohan decided to run away to pursue music. Salil, who had been Mohan's roommate for years, couldn't help feel a pricking concern for Mohan's father - provincial, semiliterate, ingenuous, hearty and by now Salil's Kishan uncle. It was evident from the frequency of his college visits from their native place two thousand kilometres away in the hinterland that uncle's life depended, in more ways than one, on his son. How proud he was of Mohan's education, how he couldn't wait to see the first 'graduate' generation spark up his lineage. Indeed, so ingenuous he was he didn't know Mohan, let alone Mozart.

Salil pestered Mohan persistently to rethink, to not ruin his career, to give himself some time, to take a short holiday, and even to not live a 'delusion', but all to no avail. Mohan vehemently denied being naïvely romantic, and sometimes tried his bit to convince Salil that it was a necessary evil - the construction company employment would render him infertile, bereave him of his purpose, and then 'what use will be the career?', he asked furiously. For some days he defended his as the righteous choice of passion over glory, and then one fine evening, he vanished from the college without any noise. The college mourned a few days later.

It's been two years since, and the college is doing well.


Now as the sun had become scorching hot along the left edge under the flyover, and a puddle of dirty water soiled the right, a frail looking Mohan was hard put to find twenty square feet of convenient shade. When he couldn't find any, as luck would have it, he resorted to oblivion as a substitute to solution. So he took out his keyboard, from an unbelievable preservation. It was a carefully crafted case made of construction leftovers that lay everywhere under the flyover. He hadn't sold the keyboard, though it seemed he rarely played it now.

Meanwhile, the suffocating blanket of smoke had by now expanded into a big cloud near the sixth floor balcony of a swanky multi-storey across the road, towards the other end of the flyover. A young man dressed in the finest fabric, sipping the rarest coffee, and smoking the choicest cigarette had his eyes fall upon the keyboard, his once-hobby made him momentarily wonder 'If I could be there'. Two minutes, practical-thinking and a few unsatisfying puffs later, Salil throws his half cigarette out of the balcony, and resumes work on the MS-Excel file waiting impatiently for him back in his cabin.

A few hours passed, the sun relented, the swanky building deserted, and Mohan picked up the half-cigarette thorn-bound upon a cactus plant. Back in his haven, he takes a deep satiating drag, one that also satiated the cigarette itself, perhaps giving it 'delusions' of not being just any saleable commodity.

~ ~ ~

Rumour has it, that two months ago, in the dark of the night, Mozart was heard on this road. Yes, more prominently near that seeping incline under the flyover.

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