When you know…(an apothegm)
“S D Burman”, I reiterated, has to be some good ol’ S D”, The advent of jazz into the simplistic symphony of India, I personally felt that it was the best music that was coming out of hindi movies. Period. Asha and Rafi. On the screen, a lady inadvertently with a sax or on the piano or the Hawaiian guitar, (inverted sometimes), but it didn’t bother us one bit, because it was the music, honest, livid, and quiescent.
Towing Chris Nolan’s line, I was an ardent believer that the most infectious thing in the world was an idea. Once it consumes you, it did change everything about us. We were on a sabbatical, Vishal and me. Finding the place was a major chore. Yes the hills, they were a common denominator. But still it took some working out to be done. A plethora of websites, a deluge of literature on sabbaticals, some travel journos too came in handy, but then God bequeathed us with something we all callan ‘instinct’. ‘God’ what a reprise!. . Naming the place is inconsequential, for the more pedantic of you, it was nestled in the Nagtibba ranges of the middle Himalayas, which rose in the tertiary times on the geological scale, had metamorphosed rocks and were replete with The ‘ hogback feature’ landscape (‘God’ bless upsc).
Two pairs of jeans, one good jacket a couple of tweed shirts were part of my repertoire, totally in consonance and I’d say abit profligate by my standards, owing to the fact that I was wearing the same kurta since the past 4 months, and people around me had started fantasizing about peculiar smells which after my due bit of cogitation, I did realize were in fact my previous meals coupled with sinewy sweat .
There was a separate bag. This was not a cog in the box. This one was special. Replete with books, all shapes and sizes. I had them all, from Chekov to Nietzsche, Wilson to Hemingway, from Bronte to Keats, Elliott, Kant, I had them all. Like the old man brooding over how the women ‘come and go, talking of Michelangelo’ in Elliott’s all time classic ‘The love song ofAlfred J Prufrock” or the eponymous ‘Don Quixote of La Mancha’. It had been an eternity since I would sit down in the greased plastic chair of my study and think of the mist settling in, a simple cup of chai by the hummingbird’s wildlings seemed to me as the only reason I was to live. ‘SURVIVING’ as I already was, I wanted to get away from the cacophony and the industrial brouhaha. I was waiting for my ‘Rocinante’ to just show up one day and take me to the lands untouched, to the peoples so content, that a little conversation by the vegetable store would be their only social haven. These bad boys were the reason I was in fact taking a sabbatical, I just wanted to Be. Read. Eat. Read. Eat. Read. Eat, Read, Eat, Rea.. I think you get it.
PART II: Being
Its 8:37 by the clock, at least that’s what it’s showing, for the latter, we never really cared to check if it was really 8:37, or was it 12 noon, was Rahul baba still hell bent on castigating his thespian prime minister, or was Chandrababu Naidu still fasting over the Telangana stir,( had he eaten?), what was Miley Cyrus’ latest raucous gig? You see on a long enough time line, all our chances of survival drop down to zero, we’re dying every day, one minute at a time. See by the Tibetan philosophy, Sylvia Plath’s sense of the word, we’re all dying, but on a more platonic scale, I guess the dictum does come down to haunt you once in your life, and when it does, all I can say is, its your time for resurrection mate. Yes it is!
8:37 it was. Let me go back a little. We had rented this small cottage on a hillock, named almost allegorically as“Biggleswade”. Now houses on the hills, you see, have thispeculiar thing with names, this particular one, as we were told by the locals, belonged to an army doctor of the Raj era. Now after the crown took over our land in 1858, and even prior to it, they passed a legislation that was the Pitt’s India act of 1833, now it legalized for the British, the buying and sale of property in India, in a way it set the ball rolling for the institutionalization of the litigation culture in India as prior to it land was just a social asset, or just a piece of, err.. LAND.. as they say. After the 1833 act, came in Englishmen and their Mem’s, by the plenty. Plush with their coterie of servants and mali’s and carry pullers and poodles to name a few. This gentleman who by my estimate, and with a little helping with Larry Page’s titular invention that we swear by in recent times, I mean ‘Google’ that is, must have been from the Bedfordshire town council in England, (looking at the cottage’s name of course). And the unrepentantly schmaltzy people that these British officers were, as schmaltzy as they get, they chose places that suited there climes, brought in jazz and ballet and cabaret and torte’s and all things British and even named their homes, on the impish little borough name’s that they had left, and maybe were feeling nostalgic after some scotch and fish.
Oh, what a beautiful little place it was, the front wall, or if I could call it that, was a sea of green, covered with climbers in full foliage, ‘clematis armandi’ it was , I was told, sure it was beautiful, a thick foliage of leaves interspersed with tiny white flowers was a therapy for me. I could look at the wall for hours, but there was more. Around us was salubriousness in its fullcandor. Silver fir, pine, spruce, deodar, maple, cedar and neem added to the verdant surroundings. John Keats talking to a bird had remarked
“ its not through the envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light winged dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot of beechen green and shadows numberless,
Singest’ of summer, in full throated ease”
Now I know, why.
Out in the distant bloom one could see an old woman making tea in a shade, one could see the milkman with a canister as old as Rumpelstiltskin, going about his job with nonchalance, school children, resplendent in their navy blues and worn out sweaters, forever with a mischief on their sleeves made for a perfect poster for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, I thought. One could see Brigadier Manekshaw-some said he had 4 wives- feeding his dogs. The sun was peeking over the horizon, the foliage turning golden as a child dressing up for the local market. It was a small opening in the sky, but the sun surely made its presence felt. Soon the grey was all encompassing, portentous for a few, ominous for a clique, but for us. We were all in!!. A grey day in the hills, clouds pregnant with pristine nectar, the verdant surroundings expectant, rumour mills were churning alive with the talks of a snow storm. People said they had started gathering supplies some days in advance. The illusion of safety!! The plague of a warm little cozy centre in the middle of nowhere, and how it infests our mind.- Thoughts on a random day.
We read, philosophy, literature, history. Took a stroll around the local market. And read some more. Godiyal ji, the local butcher, was as stoic as a man could get, obstinate to the core, but he sounded rather jived and afresh as a beanstalk today. Talkedabout how the meat this day was juicier than a peach. So chicken soup it was! Clubbed with a nice helping of buttered croissants and a dash of Belgian peppers to go along with it. Broth was done in an hour, only the bones needed a bit of a stir. Night descended and along with it a dank pall across the village. It was piercing cold, ominous clouds loomed large and the winds were playing truant. The fire was lit, the books on the shelf were inviting as ever. The burning wood made crackling sounds with the sly intensity of a lascivious woman. The night brought along with it a seductive trance. Oblivion.. deep anddark and humble.
“S.D Burman, has to be good old S.D” I said. The soup was ready. And so was the scotch. The fire was a virgin vestal. Warm and dry was our little room. WARM…were our littlehearts. Peace set in. If I could have died at this moment, it would be retribution for me, a vindication, absolvance…
That very moment there was a knock at the door, it was Sanju, our caretaker. “ Bhaiyaji , it has started snowing !, it’s the first snow !..do you know?” . We went out of the room in the tranquil wilderness, up in the clouds there was a small gap, and the moon peeped for permission. The night was blue as blue could be and the snowflakes made a carnival of what was a silent night.
Vishal replied to Sanju
“ We know bhai.. we just know….”