Three urchins cladded in dust guarded the gates of the famous Rama Temple located atop one of the many hills that adorn the town of Ramanagara. Their clothes lacked any signs of lustre, convincing the seer that it had been long since they were last washed, or changed. The three of them bore a welcoming smile on their faces and eateries in their right hand. A young boy, but eldest in the group, sat on a railing supported by a series of balusters and commanded the three to go ahead and negotiate with the incoming crowd, and then looked away into the distant hills as if oblivion to what the three were about to do.
A group of four people – most likely two couples by the way they went about in their doings, alighted from the car. Seeing the portrait of Rama in the front and a Pujari standing alongside it, the girls quickly unhitched their hands from their partners’ and joined their hands together in a gesture of prayer. The boys looked at each other and smiled, the vanity of their right choices evident on their faces.
The girl, youngest of the three urchins, approached this group, extended her left hand forward and asked for the money. Such a tricky situation, in the doors of god, seeing God’s own creation falter. Both the girls scanned their sling bags for the coins and having found none, threw a glance at their respective equals. The boys soon emptied their wallets for all the coins and handed the girl everything they had in coins.
They had scarcely moved any further when the other two urchins sang in unison, their thin hands extended together like a pair of snakes sauntering in a park, and asked for money. The boys knew what they had gotten themselves into, they had seen this a lot on the roads, by the traffic signals. They politely refused the boys saying that their sister already has all the coins they had. The urchins courteously retracted from the couples and went back to the leader, whose face now bore resentment.
The couple went ahead and began to ascend the 450 odd steps that one has to climb before they could see the God and offer their prayers. And by the time they managed to reach half the way, they saw the urchins again, who must have known the ways through the rocks and had managed to reach there before the couples. The urchins were seated on a mound of rock and were listening to a song. The coins were spread before them and the leader was busy counting them. They were listening to the music that came out of a cheap phone lying beside them. Revelling in the music or in the lyrics. If they understood the lyrics. But the little girl’s lips were swaying as if singing now and saying something at the other. And soon the couples were filled with a desire to capture this scene on their mobiles. Soon they reached for their pockets and withdrew from within their mobile phones. Only realising later that even if one of them takes the picture that would suffice, they let the phone with the highest resolution do the job. And having captured the children on the phone they proceeded further and talked about the vitality of music in life. Music’s ubiquitousness. And above all its ability to penetrate even the soul devoid of any literacy.
On their way back, inside the car, they thought about the urchins. The happiness on their faces, the lips of the little girl emanating hope in the form of words. And the fact that happiness can be created atop a naked hill in the company of a song recorded somewhere far under the entirely different situation, inside a room with too many people paying attention to its precision. And then once recorded, these sung words will be heard everywhere, understood by few but revelled by many. Music soothes the soul, lyrics help you discover it. But sometimes the discovery is not important. And that is the best part about the music. Music is never condescending.
And none of them spoke for a long time on their journey back, and let the music in the car fill them with the gaiety.
The image was taken during one such trip.