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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

30 April, 2005

Music And Man's Nature

This piece is frankly inspired by reading JJ's recent post on The Man That Hath No Music....

Atmaram was my colleague, whose face seemed repulsive and deformed -my favourite image was that probably an elephant's foot had crushed his facial topography into shapeless edgeless blobs superimposed on one another at random.

He was four feet ten inches high, thus everyone seemed to talk down to him, which made him madder. That he was an important colleague to me, in a small organisation where small people with big egos have to be compulsorily amused, made things worse for me. Others treated him as if he had plague or may be AIDS.

He lacked a sense of humour, and he worsened the matters by thinking he was witty. The deathly silence that followed in the wake of his poor jokes, never embarassed him, for a colleague rightly said he has an animal's hide, not a human
being's skin. He always laughed raucously at his own jokes, and laughed till tears flowed from his shifty little eyes.
He would take his soda-water bottle-bottom glasses and then rub them lovingly with a snatch of velvety cloth from his pocket. We would watch him, pityingly, wonderstruck. But he never seemed to notice.

His slipshod way of working always made vital files and papers go missing. His faltering memory made things worse,
for he was nearly fifty and seemed to be wearing out fast despite his thickset body and almost a wrestler's build.

I was therefore surprised when I found him humming my favourite raag Raageshri one day... I casually asked him
since the other disapprovers were away, if he was singing
a film song. He looked crestfallen.
"Kyaa saab..." he lamented, and went onto sing the alaap in this bewitching raag with a wonderful voice, inflexion and mastery over the taans and other 'harquats' that only the accomplished classical vocalists can attempt.

It turned out he was a master sitar player. He produced his visiting card and it clearly stated Master of Music as his degree with I had mistakenly thought as M.Sc., and during those days the science graduates and post-graduates were struggling for survival. He enlightened me by explaining that the music degree was actually a conversation piece. He was in Sales, and this usually acted as something to break the ice with. People warmed up to him when he said he would be performing on the All India Radio soon.

Soon enough, I roped him in, with his crony who played the tabla to come and perform at the Chief Forest Officer's bungalow for two reasons. First, the officer had learnt sitar half a century ago and given up but had retained his connoisseur taste. Second, his son wanted to learn the sitar from an accomplished teacher.

When Atmaram performed, his ugly face slowly decomposed into a blur... as he progressed with his masterly alaap and the jod-jhala -I thought we were all getting transported to some other galaxy. He poured his heart and soul into Raageshri, and the spontaneous applause at every qualified juncture in his performance made him seem like an angel without wings.
He held us in thrall for an hour more.

I am confused till date -frankly. How can a man play an instrument or sing like an angel, when he is so used to play the buffoon, worse still, a calculating cunning little colleague and make others miserable?

The Man Who Hath Music in him can be a scoundrel too!


(c) Max Babi April 2005


Blogger Anil said...

but then Max some of the most talented people can also be the most goes with the territory I guess!

01 May, 2005 15:07  

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