A first post of its kind on Rahmania – A short story by Venkatesan. K (@Kanakkupullai). A new beginning on WordPress.
Home wasn’t too far away from office. Just a couple of blocks away from there, past the coffee shop. He was walking back now. He halted by the coffee shop for his regular coffee (decaff.). He had neared home. Checking for letters, he found one addressed to him from his home at Chennai. It was a box, custom packed by DHL. Inserting the key into the lock, he opened the door, holding the coffee on his left hand. Picking up the parcel, he entered his house – Neil’s home. This is where, he felt at home, where he escaped from the world he hated. He settled down by the window, finished his coffee, set the empty cup aside and proceeded to open the mail box. There was a Disc, a hand written letter, just the way Father would have loved to do. It was from the movie “Desam”. What in the world was his father thinking anyway, he wondered. Desam was his favorite music album. He remembered the fights that they had had over Rahman and Ilayaraaja. Those innumerable fights, which always lead to ego issues as to who was right, and finally to what his future had to be like. Something he always disliked.
He sulked, thinking of those days. Looking away from the disc, his eyes fell upon the sole painting on the wall. There was a horse, a white beast at that, running free along open fields of green. The look of joy in its eyes was reason enough for him to feel contented with the life he was now leading. He looked out the window, clean streets, silent neighborhood, there was peace wherever he looked at. That was in stark comparison to India, the noise, the dust, the screeching brakes of old buses, MRTS rattling away on the tracks, screaming vendors, someone always was around, no privacy whatsoever. Life was miserable back there, and to make it worse, were the parents. A pretentious mother, a conservative father, enough said. He shuddered. Looking at the neatly folded hand-written letter, he opened it, and proceeded to read the first few lines.
“Neil, I am sending you this disc, please first open and listen Song Number 5 .”
“Right”, he thought to himself, inserted the disc into the player, and selected track No. 5 to play out, wondering all along, why his father had taken such pains to send a song when he could just have asked his son to listen to it from his exhaustive collection of Rahman songs.
The mellowing beats at first, the shehnai coming through, and the bittersweet voice making it’s presence felt :
“Indha desathin kural..
Tholai dhoorathil adho..
Sondha veedunnai ‘vaa’ endru azhaikiradhada Thamizhaa..”
*Pause* He paused the track, sat down on the chair, paper in both hands. Silence followed for a minute in what seemed like eternity. He bent down and continued reading the letter, “I have always thought I knew what was best for you. Hell, we have argued more than even lovers might have. We have not had even a single lengthy talk, never had dinner together. I was always criticising you for what I thought was right. You went out against me, to leave our house, our life and our world. Turns out, I was wrong. I know I cannot force you to return, but there is not a moment since you have gone abroad that I have missed your presence, the moments when I saw you return home late into the night, however late, the innumerable arguments we have had. I do not know what else to say here. Hope you enjoyed the song as much as I did. Yes, Ilayaraaja shall always be the best to me, but I love Rahman better, for this song. It is beautiful..the melody, the voice, the lyrics.. I just don’t know why I have tears in my eyes now.” *Click* and the song played on..
“Andha naatkalai ninai..
Avai neengumo unnai..?
Nizhal poal Varaadha..?
Ayal naadu undhan veedalla, vidudhiyada Thamizhaa..”
This was totally what he wasn’t expecting. His father giving away Ilayaraaja for the first time in his whole life! He looked down, more interested than ever to complete the letter, “It’s been well over five years since you left us. We have been interacting, yes, but there is not a day that I never thought of you here. A genius as you are, there is more need for you here in our country, for our people, however bad they may be, for your mother.. for me. On this note, I will stop complaining. Waiting for you, son. Sd. Dad.”
He sat still, letter still in hands. He could feel his lower lip quiver and tears flow down his cheek, but he wouldn’t wipe them away and be the brave boy who left India. He let the tears fall freely, while a lump formed around his throat, refusing to swallow anything. Feelings he had kept hidden for all this long, came rushing out, along with those tears he had shed.
He had forcibly left India for fear of having to submit to his father’s autocracy. He was now living an artificial life, away from everything except work. He had forced himself to take on a challenging profession, just so he wouldn’t have the time to miss home. A life of emptiness was what followed. The coffee cup he was staring at would perfectly reflect his life. Decorated and good looking outside, empty inside. He cried silently. Now that the apology was tendered, he was dying to go home, to eat home-made food, to play cricket outside the house, to wait for the random song to be played on the speakers, to take the bike out on long rides with friends, to steal money from dad’s pocket to go eat Poli from Venkateshwara Poli stall. Ah! That life, he sorely missed.
He looked at the painting. It was a free horse alright, but only within the realms of the frame, it was free. The wild horse was just an illusion. Freedom was a very subjective issue; it all depended on the seer. There was noise, but it was with a purpose; there were fights, yes, but only with people around did fights come; there was corruption, but it could be ignored, just the way he ignored outside life here. He wanted to live it all. He packed his bags for home!