As the evening wore on, we noticed that Amita and Sridhar had taken charge of the sound system and were preparing to begin the performances for the night, mainly by the children. The chairs had been arranged neatly in rows in front of the backdrop, with an aisle in between, and most of the women had already occupied their places. Vaishali, Swati and Sudipa sat on one side of the aisle. Most of the men were still loitering around the bar and talking and laughing when Vivek Logani started to sing.
Logani had been a brilliant student in his college days, and a wonderful singer. And thus, when his melodious voice filled the hall that evening, we stopped talking and slowly drifted over to the place where everyone was sitting. We stood at the back, quiet now, and listened to him sing his song. He was singing an invocation to the Vedic Goddess Saraswati, the source of all learning and music.
Mother Saraswati sits on a swan and holds the ‘veena’, a classical Indian stringed instrument, in her hands. She is one of the ‘original’ Gods of the early Indians, dating back from even before the time of the epics. She was once a mighty river which flowed in the ‘Aryavarta’ or the Land of the Civilized. Over a period of time, the river was deified and was made the master of all that is good – learning and music and arts and prosperity in general. It was to this Goddess that Logani sang that evening, invoking her blessings for all of us. If she could hear his sweet voice, I am sure she would have been compelled to bless the gathering.
We had gooseflesh by the time Logani had finished his song. Everyone cheered him with loud clapping and whistles when he finished; it had been a long time since we had heard Logani sing. If anything, his voice had only matured and become even more melodious.
Presently, Sridhar took over as the master of the ceremony, and started inviting the kids one by one. And there were so many of them, bright eyed little ones, eager to perform their pieces in front of their parents and their friends.
Mon, Sutanu’s son, sang a song. His composition was a devotional song too, and his young voice was beautiful and refreshing! I was impressed with the control the kid had over the pitch and scale of his voice, as well as the choice of his song, and said so to Sutanu. Sutanu was mighty pleased; he knew I was not the one to praise anyone unnecessarily.
One by one the rest of the kids also came forward and presented their performances, Gauri and Vedanta sang a song, Shyam’s son played piano, and my girls danced to a popular Bollywood song. I was happy to see them stand there confidently in front of so many strangers and perform their piece. At their age I could not have imagined doing anything remotely similar to this. Their confidence was heartening. They had practiced well; their movements were fluid and their moves well-coordinated. Vaishali was happy and kept shooting their pictures on her phone.
After the children had finished their performances, there was a brief moment of lull, and I turned back to fill my glass. Apparently, the confusion was soon resolved as I heard Sutanu sing ‘Pal Pal Dil Ke Pass’, a famous Kishore Kumar song. My heart skipped a beat as I started to look frantically for Vaishali; I knew she must have been looking for me too. Presently I saw her make her way from between the crowds and walk towards me.
She held my hand and said, ‘It’s our song, honey’!
‘Yes, I know,’ I said meaningfully.
This was our love song!
I had sung this song for an inter-college competition in BHU long back, and during the practice sessions people came to listen to me sing this song. Amongst the fans, the most ardent followers were Vaishali and her group. This song was how it all started. This song meant a lot. It took us way back – when we were still fresh in college. Raging hormones and circumstances had brought us together, and love had blossomed. Those were the good days. I had met Vaishali during this inter-college competition and we had liked each other and had started going around.
All this and more, flashed through our minds as we held each other close, me and Vaishali, and listened to Sutanu croon ‘Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas’.
Soon it was my turn; Logani had refused to sing another one, as he had already sung what he was prepared to sing that day. Logani was always like this; a perfectionist. He knew what he wanted, and no one could influence his decisions. I had always wondered how one could be so sure of oneself and what the source of such confidence was? Unfortunately, I never found out.
Somu had decided that he would go after me, and thus the ball was in my court surely and firmly.
As I held the mic, a tightness in my chest, which I had not experienced for a very long time, appeared. Standing before me were my past, my present and my future. My batchmates were here, my friends were here, Vaishali was here and the kids. I felt happy, satisfied, fulfilled, thrilled and, a little nervous. I took a sip from my glass, closed my eyes, and started to sing.
‘Raat Kali ek khwab main aayi……’ the words flowed out from my heart and escaped my lips, as I looked directly into the eyes of my girls standing in front of me. This song was for them – this song was for her, my friend, my beloved, my companion for life.
As I finished, and everyone clapped, I felt drained. I had not experienced such an emotional high for so many years now. I needed a drink. I made my way away from the stage as Somu Da moved towards it. He sang ‘Ai kash ki hum hosh main ab aane na paayein….’ a foot tapping number, and soon he had the whole gathering singing and clapping and swaying with him. We all sang, in loud voice, sometimes out of tune and usually out of sync. But it did not matter. Somu had, with his song, effectively converted all of us into a single organism. We were talking, singing, stomping, swaying, dancing as one. The energy was tremendous. No one wanted the tempo to die, and thus when Somu finished his song, the dance floor was thrown open and people stormed it.
Everyone danced as if there was no tomorrow. People pulled each other to the floor, egged others on to lead the dance and showed off their own dance steps to friends. Appu was full of energy as was DK and Sutanu and Teju and Umesh, Prithvi, Shyam, Venkat…everyone danced and danced. The girls danced too; they had their own groups. Sometimes the groups would mingle and then stray away again. Vaishali danced with me for some time and then her friends broke in into our duo. I went dancing to the boys’ group and then came back again and danced with my daughters. The night went on and on as if it did not have an ending.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, as did that night. After we had danced to our heart’s content and gorged on the delicious cuisine, we all lumbered back to our vehicles, ready to hit the bed for the night. ……..
To be continued………………………………….
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