Friday, June 08, 2007

The Rhythm of Silence





My child hood revolved in admiration of a man “Tanjavoor” Vishwanathan Iyer. He was much respected in his village, a staunch shivaite and a percussionist par excellence.

His typical day started at 5 am in the morning with a cup of steaming hot filter coffee, which was followed by a walk through the village to the banks of the Cauvery River. There, he would walk down the steps singing a very familiar raga. Once in the water, he would immerse himself 3 times chanting “ Gange che yamune chiva.Godhavari Saraswathi.Narmadhe Sindhu kaveri. Jalesmin Sannidhim Kuru” for each time he immersed himself. This routine was followed by him doing his “sandhya vandhanam”. We watched the sun rise as he recited “Adhitya Hridayam” the sacred chants on the Sun god. It felt as if without his wishes the Sun would never rise.

When he returned home, he would find at least 20 people waiting in a dignified silence and bowed heads. They would touch his feet and seek his blessings after which it the sound of music would start reverberating in our house. 20 Mridangam (a percussion instrument) would play raga after raga in unison, with him being in the helm of things, correcting when there is a missed beat. His weekends were the times I got to listen some of the most melodious music. He had sold out performances in temples and Shabas. This was my child hood memories of the place – full of music.

During my engineering holidays, I returned back only to find the sound of music replaced by wheezing sound of an old man and the sound from his walking cane. With all the old favors disregarded, there he was all but lost and forgotten. Most his hair had fallen and he looked frail and weak. But lost not were his skills and the respect he commanded. The Shabas that once sought him out did not care any longer. Time had taken its toll, people were no longer interested in a man who stood by principles and lead a life devoted to music – they preferred the quicker sounding beats of the film music and quick raps.

During the month of December, in our village there were classical performances. Though the audiences were dwindling, the tradition was still carried on. On the last day of the fest, a popular vidwan (scholar) usually gave a performance. This year a Vidwan from the Madras was supposed to give the concluding performance. The day dawned, and the news reached the village that the car in which the Vidwan was traveling had met with an accident and that he would not be able to make it by time to reach the fest. The organizers panicked. They had a sold out crowd, but no performer. Somu the President of the Organizing committee had an idea, “Why not put the local talent to do some performance for an hour?” asked he. So, they went in search of young performers. All of them were reluctant to do a show in such a short notice. The organizers went into deliberations again as to what to do, when an old hand in the committee spoke. “There is a very old person in our village, who in his heydays used to be the crowd puller. Now he lays lost and forgotten. Why don’t we call him and ask him to perform?” Many people in the committee did not like that idea as bringing in an old timer was against “norm”. But due to lack of time and their inability to find a replacement, every one agreed with hesitation.

Dusk dawned, the sold out crowd was there. An old man with his Mridangam arrived in a bullock cart to the venue. He went to the back stage that was once his second home, drank a glass of ginger coffee which was part of his routine before the show. The organizer went up on stage explaining the change of performer. Angry murmurs in the crowd started voicing. Slowly the curtains went up to reveal an old man with his Mridangam. The murmurs increased, and a beautiful sound emancipated from the speakers, slowly the tempo was rising. Couple of minutes went by and only the talks of the Mridangam with the maestro’s fingers were heard. What was supposed to be a short one hour program went late into the night ending with a thunderous applause which was started by a single hand, into a standing ovation.

Twenty years later I return to the same house, to find my grandfather’s portrait hanging in the wall. People still talked about that performance of his which enthralled many. In the stillness of the dawn, I can still hear the rhythm even in silence.


Note: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons dead or alive is purely coincidental . It is just a short story!

21 comments:

Kali Rasu said...

Waw!!
It’s a good one really revealing your serene thoughts about Vidhwan and realistically carnatic music(instrumental/vocal) has great connection to Tanjore soil . Marvellous way of your narrating style and such a nostalgic way of writing.You have navigated back to your childhood days even I could feel the silence of Rhythm ,
Keep writing the blogs dude !!!

RvK said...

Hey it is a story :-) not my childhood

surya said...

When i first read this, i thought this is a real story, but after seeing the sentence(* fully coincidential like samsung add, condition applies) i realized that it is fiction. Anyhow really this superb dude, keep on writing. All the best for future endeavors

Nishikant said...

good work...the next O'Henry in making...keep it up man

sri said...

really well written da...excellent narrative style. keep up the good work.

jakethesnake said...

Such a lovely post Vivek..very touching and so very relevant to our times.

Anitha said...

Beautiful story Vivek... Ur way of writing is too good. Keep up the good work! :-)

First I thought u r talking abt ur grandpa.. Towards the end u ve mentioned that its a work of fiction.. Good.

Aana bikela pogum podhu kadhai ellam yosikkadhinga.. ozhunga road a paathu vandi ottunga..seriyaa :-)))

Anonymous said...

It reminded me of stories from "Q Quiver Full of Arrows" by Jeffrey Archer... One word/statement towards the end of the story reveals/changes everything.

In your case, the disclaimer made the difference...

Awesome piece of work. Loved it.

Jeeves said...

nice writing vivek!!!

Karthik Narayan said...

its come out very well.... you have brought out the passion inside you and laid it on the musical staircase. just keep writing and go on with your arangetram :)

Varun Reddy Sevva said...

Nice work dude... Keep it up.... wish to see more such short-stories from you...

lakshmi said...

Good one Vivek! So you are good at spinning stories also. Keep going :-)

RvK said...

I think spinning stories seems to be my profession these days :-)

Natesh said...

really nice story....gud one...
purely fiction or got inspired from sumwhere??

Anonymous said...

Hey vivek,

This is a great work. First i thot this is an article abt a legend which is retrospected by one of his family men until i read the Note.

Keep uu the great work dude !!

Paddy

The Bard said...

well first thought it was ur grandfatehr...now i presume may be its ur grandson speakin about u..LOL :P

A very nice story which speaks about the passion for music

Karthik Subramani said...

hey, nice one vivek . i feel if u built the character and story some more , it wud be even better . its kind of abrupt when it ends, keep up the good work

Sarah said...

Hi Vivek,
The story is really nice and worth reading. It warmed my heart and I thought it truly was your grandfather till I came to the disclaimer! You really have a wide variety of talents... Keep working on it!

Anand said...

You should have been a storyteller, not a software guy. nice narrative. But after a very strong opening, the storyline sags. Especially where the organizing committee takes a decision to bring back, iyer. You could have written more on iyer's music & its enthralling capabilities, by making a cow stand with its ears upright, just outside the sabha, it would have been divine. Iyers's character is built in a nice way. A really good touching story though. Made me nostalgic.

G U R U said...

Brilliant narration !! I could feel the 'rhythm of life' in every sentence you 'orchestrated'!!
Keep up the good work dude and give us more.

G U R U said...

....and btw, am back to the blogging community after a year's hiatus :-D do check out my latest post !