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March 22, 2011

Of poems, memories and music

Are memories aromatic? Mine are. Sometimes, it is a smell that triggers a memory, at others, a memory brings in an aroma. Some of my fond memories smell of food and poetry. Yes, poetry has appealed to every sense of mine. I have seen the poetic stories unfold in the air. I have heard the clink of every word against my mind. I have found words appetizing. I have felt lyrics dance around me. And I have smelled the ecstasy that poems trigger in my heart.

Words appealed to me for as long as I remember, and poetry, rhythmic or otherwise, made more sense to me than anything else. Many mornings were spent reading aloud something Baba wrote. As our family of four gathered around Baba's office table with the chai and biscuits on the tray, we analyzed Baba's poetry, tried to understand the thought that lay its foundation. The discussions often stretched for hours with Baba praising poetic geniuses and recalling his interactions with some poetic stalwarts. In one of such discussions, Baba had mentioned Nirala's lines on the origin of poetry.

वियोगी होगा पहला कवि,
'आह' से निकला होगा गान |
उमड़कर आँखों से चुपचाप,
बही होगी कविता अनजान |

I was twelve when I first heard this. I have carried these words with me since then.

Then there were those songs. Beautiful, lyrical hymns. I emphasize on the word 'lyrical' because I have come to realize (thanks to M) that I love a song more for its words than for its music. Many a times when Baba hummed alongside a song playing on TV or on the radio, I wished I could sing along. I have felt so helpless, so restless realizing my vocal chords don't do justice to music.

But I could dance. I can dance. Even if it is in my room, with all curtains down, my arms and legs rock to the sound of music. I experience the words and I dance. I need no audience, not only because no audience can partake in my celebration but also because I am uninhibited when I am with myself.

A few days ago, A and I went to attend Shubha Mudgal's concert. I didn't realize I knew so many of her songs as she sang uninterrupted for two hours and a half. New songs bonded with me while the ones I knew came back to embrace me. One of my friends out there was Maati, a song I have pranced to in the comfort of my room back in Dhanbad. It's been eleven years since I lived the song. Crossing the barriers of time and space, I found myself being serenaded by Prasoon Joshi's words in the room darkened by closed windows and doors. A ray of the sun sneaked in through a crack in a window as I swayed across the floor. With all senses being caressed, I was euphoric.

As Shubhaji sang and spoke to thousands of people, she brought back to me pleasantly-smelling memories. Of my time with Baba watching cricket matches and listening to ghazals, of evenings that smelled of pakoras and poems, of the time when being happy was all it mattered in spite of the means.