Finally, I started
One –two –eight—and ten songs.
I continued to sing one after another and they went on nodding eyes closed. After a little while that fat man, one of the hosts stood up suddenly and then shouted- stop and stop! Fine tunes and attractive lyrics – wow – wow – good – good – trendy, you the guys have made a very good job. But it is enough. Now let’s take lunch.
“Exactly I was thinking so.” Said Uma – “My fingers are no longer prepared to support me. See how they have continuously played on tabla for last few hours.”
I stared at him disgusted. Cheat… wicked… evil! I told to me- have you co-operated me a single time making a perfect rhythm to make my tunes melodious? Let it, he will not change. I packed my harmonium.
The waiter served some delicious meals to all of us. Absolutely a royal menu. Immediately, one thought itched my mind. What would be my daughter doing now. Whether her mother would have fed her something or not for the sake of solar eclipse.
It is not easy being a father. Once my father told me that you can understand a father when you will be a father. I sighed.
We finished our lunch, and then sipped tea. I prayed God for their consent regarding making a music album. Eventually, that fat man, one of the hosts opened his mouth twiddling his moustache in a matured and choked voice-
“Friends, your songs are soothing to listen and are of different pattern; hope, they will supersede the prevailing trend.”
I lowered my head submissively and felt delighted as if the dreams were in front of me.
“But we can’t take decision. He continued- that is all in our Big brother’s mercy. Our duty is to bring liaison between you and him. He’ll come on twenty-third of the month. Then deal will be finalized, if he gets satisfied. But don’t worry; we assure that the tunes made by you will definitely impress him. We will give our feedbacks in favor of you.”
“Today is 3rd of the month; I counted, twenty more days to go for twenty-three. If everything will be of him, then why you people did come today to make this farce?” I told myself silently and looked depressed at Uma. But He was no more there around.
Actually, I was thinking in a different perspective. I expected the deals will be approved. My debut album will see life. I will get some money, too. I will pay back the money I have taken for fuelling off my daughter’s money. Some money I will hand over to my wife. But nothing happened like that.
I remembered- I negotiated with them that they will have to pay 500 rupees for playing rhythm so that that will make my tunes melodious. Well, let them pay that amount. I consoled myself. Let’s wait till twenty third of the month.
“Ok, let’s leave!” Said the fat man.
“But what about the payment regarding that of Rhythm what was a contact between us?”- I asked politely.
“Oh! Those five hundred rupees! I really forget.” The fat man laughed aloud.
And he opened his purse, instantly. My eyes were getting brightened. At least something will be recovered. We’ll distribute it mutually. I said to myself. But Uma – God knows where he was – reached instantly and snatched the notes away by a sudden pounce from of the person’s hand before I poured a glanced on it.
“Oh! It is not at all easy to play the tabla!” He muttered and kissed the notes exultantly. But I looked at him just dumbfounded.
While descending from the steps of the hotel, I asked- why did you take the entire five hundred rupees?
“What’s wrong? You have dealt it. The payment you contact with them for rhythm what they paid. So I took. What’s your problem yaar?” He replied adamantly.
“That’s Ok, but let’s divides and shares equally. I have also a part of this. You know I fuelled the bike spending my daughter’s money.” My voice echoed pathetically.
“I am undone! I can’t help you.” He pleaded. “You can’t imagine how I am steering my family here. My brother has been hospitalized breaking one of his legs, yesterday. And so many problems I am facing day by day, what I could not describe before you. Then, you tell how it is possible of sharing this little amount of money? If it is possible be kind enough to lend me another one thousand rupees. I swear I will pay them off back to you with some extra interests —just by a month.
I got astonished. What is hard to believe is the stiffness of his words he is using for me. He’ll pay me back money with all the interests simultaneously just after a month! What a surprise? Over confidant; isn’t he?
He was driving and I was on the sitting seat with my harmonium. He seemed courageous – hilarious. I smiled faintly with a silent sigh and remembered-
I have been familiar with this guy for past five years. He has got a very adept hand. He plays tabla so nice that a song becomes charming of its own way. From that day I used to take him with me to play tabla. He is very polite as well as hardworking. He is the only bread earner in his family and recently got married. It is only me who can better realize the guy than anybody else. But this was all vague. I no more knew him. It seems as if I meet him just now – a few seconds ago. How easily he could say me chivalrously that he will repay his all debts with interest!
“How is it possible?” I asked.
“You don’t have believed; haven’t you?”
“No—no, matter is nothing like that.” I promptly replied. “But how?”
“Business!!” He smiled.
“Business? When did you start that?” I exclaimed.
Today itself, a person came across me outside the hotel. He is of Bhubaneswar. I talked to him at length. Ok leave that. Will you please lend me four thousand rupees? He asked carelessly.
I threw a meek smile into the air and said-
“Me? Four thousand? Are you crazy?”
I really laughed open-hearted. But he became serious and told strongly- Are you joking at; aren’t you? Ok, my time will come when I will be laughing and you go on looking at me.
“Don’t take it otherwise. Why would I play joke at you? Rather I will pray God for your success.”
He forcible braked the bike. I got a heavy jolt and leaned towards him. But, saved narrowly from falling down.
Looking at me grudgingly he told; don’t utter that word ‘God’ before me again. There is nothing in that name. Only a pretention. People rely only on that false non-existent thing. I realize how you are struggling for survive, running here and there for filling this six inch belly? If I can, why can’t he? You have spent your money meant for your daughter. You have taken so much of pain singing all through the day there in the hotel. What did you get in return? Did not he – your so called God – see anything?
He got off the bike. I kept on staring at him. What happened to him all of sudden? I thought.
He started- don’t think me a cruel fellow as I plan to take these entire five hundred rupees away without giving a penny to you. Take three hundred and the rest two is mine.
His voice got shrilled. He continued. I know, I don’t play the tabla spiritedly. Why’ll I do? Who will give us a break? We don’t have any god father here. You know, in particular, without god father no one can even stand in music industry. It is enough.
Sometimes tears pretend. I looked at him. My eyes were drenched. I didn’t allow the tears to roll onto surface. My lips drank all of them. My heart got choked with his heartbreaking emotional frustrations.
I stretched my hands to console him. He stepped back some inch and said don’t tell me ‘keep patience’. I am fed up with these words. These words seem attractive on the lips of the great men. This does not have any relevance for common people like you and me.
I realized Uma has lost all his patience. I asked him to sit at back and I drove myself. Before kicking the bike I patted him and told-You want to do business; don’t you? Ok, I will help at best.
“Is it?” His eyes glittered as if he has got the news of a new morning.
By the evening I reached home. But I forgot to ask him when did he need the money? After all it was my accountability as his mentor to know what sort of business he wants to do. It is obvious that he is a sentimental guy. So let him do everything on his own accord. What important is to help him.
This is how, a week was over. I suffered from severe fever. Neither could I attend the school nor the office. It was really a very frustrating week for me. I got irritated keeping me confined in a room. One day I thought it would be better if I could go to the temple nearby and sing some devotional songs before the deity. At least the heart will be relieved to some extent.
I told my wife about my idea. She also did her consent and advised to take Uma with me as I am not completely cured. Right, it is not a bad idea to take Uma with me. I also agreed with her. I dialed his mobile at once. That was off. I tried again and again, but the mobile replied the same. Then I dropped the idea of going alone to the temple. My health situation made me scared of. But somewhere I have to go. Ok, it will be better to go and have a stroll by the river bank.
I was refreshingly walking by the river bank. People were coming and going to and fro. Thought of Uma was striking my mind every time. His tearful eyes and emotional speeches were still alive and playing soccer within me. I promised to arrange some money for him. But I couldn’t. Because I was laying down for last seven days and was fighting with my fitness. Who knows in which way he will take all these?
I wandered inattentively with these tearful thinking in my mind. Perhaps it had been elasticized a long distance if I would not get a jerk that Uma is coming towards me riding a cycle, hurriedly. Surprise, this is Uma! But why in cycle?
He alighted and stood the cycle on the middle of the road.
“Have you arranged the money for me?” He quizzed not allowing me asking any question about him. What I would have asked him, really? Perhaps about his whereabouts and wellbeing. But I could not muster courage to ask him; rather I felt guilty and told depressingly-
“I was suffering from fever and have not been out of home. Anyway, I will keep my promise intact.”
His face paled at my negative reply. But I assured him- “don’t feel dejected. Everything will be all right. By the way, where are you going now?” I asked. “I was thinking of going to a temple premises. Would you like to accompany me? I also called you for that. But your Cell was switched off. What happened?”
“Temple! Why?” He frowned.
“Just freshening mind and if possible we’ll perform some devotional songs before God. At least mind will be relieved.” I said.
He laughed aloud. No way! I am not a fool to waste time going there.
And paddled his bicycle and galloped. I laughed at his innocence.
In fact, I had a lot of things to tell him. But my words got stuck around my lips. I kept on looking at him. What happened him, really? He seems to be a changed man altogether.
From the very next day I started searching for the people who can help me for the rupees that I have promised to Uma. In fact he was looking very frustrated. He must be badly in need of the money.
Some days passed in between. It was night of 22nd of the month. I was prepared to go to the bed. My mobile buzzed – cring… cring… cring…
I lifted the mobile.
It was their call whom I met at Cuttack and performed my songs before them. I got exalted seeing the call. Anyone of them perhaps that fat man told- they are now at Cuttack staying in the same venue. Their Big brother is anxious to listen my tunes once again. Than deal may be finalized. Can I come tomorrow?
“Sure! Why not?” I said. He disconnected the line. My joy knew no bounds. I punched in the air. I felt as if I was flying. I kissed my daughter, again and again. Perhaps my wave of joy overwhelmed my wife. She got frightened and could not ascertain that why I am behaving like a kid. “What happened?” She asked a few minutes later.
“The album people called me. They invited me tomorrow morning at 7 AM. Things will be finalized tomorrow. Then my debut album will hit into market. I owned lottery, ha – ha – ha!”
“Oh God, the man get mad!” She said as if I really got mad. “Don’t be so hilarious baby – she continued- “reality is still away. It will be healthy for all of us that you sleep and let us sleep.”
“Why will I sleep? Why? Could not you see that the call was on behalf of them? If they had not liked my tunes they would not have called me on their behalf. It suggests that time is in favor of me. Hey, you can’t understand as it is beyond your imagination.”
I dialed Uma. Oops! His mobile is off. Rascal! I became disgusted. Every time his cell is out of range. Where is he now, then? Is he really here or not? What would it happen if I don’t get Uma tomorrow? Without rhythm the music leads no meaning. I hardly have time to arrange for somebody else for the job. Even if I arrange somebody else, I will not be that comfortable with him as I am accustomed to Uma for past five years.
Reluctantly, I hauled myself up to the bed, but hardly could asleep. Rather I was murmuring the tunes of the songs I intend to play tomorrow. Meanwhile my eye lid kissed each other in my ignorance. At that moment, my wife swung me violently and told-
“Hello! Get up it is already 5.30 AM. You have to reach Cuttack by 7 AM; haven’t you?
I jumped from bed. Got ready within fifteen minutes and started for Uma. It was early dawn. Roads were not clearly visible in thick fog. I was roaming in the dream land. I was literarily found myself performing before that so called Big brother. He got satisfied. The bond papers were signed. And I got the advanced cheque also. My luck got unlocked.
By that time I had reached at Uma. His doors were half closed. I did not have the patience of knocking at the door. I sprang forward and entered into his room. I saw him sitting on the bed wrapping a blanket all over his body. I couldn’t see his face clearly as he buried himself under the blanket. But he got startled to discover me in the wee hour of the morning and shouted unexpectedly as if he noticed a ghost.
“Idiot, why have you kept your mobile off? I want to give you a heavy slap. Rascal! – I burst my anger without any pause.
He looked dazed at me.
“Don’t look me dumb. Hurry up; get ready. Things will be finalized today. Let me prepare your tabla. Where is it? I searched around.
All of a sudden, Uma busted into tears and said-
“Nothing is left to me, my dear! I have sold everything – mobile, watch, bike, tabla – to arrange money for business. But my partner has already been missing for past couple of days. There is no trace of him.”
Rajendra Prasad Roul is a senior journalist.
Indian Review | Translator Profile|
Translated by Mr. Udaya Kumar Mohapatra, Economist, Punjab National Bank, New Delhi.