His earliest memories of a Shehnai and its sound were from a mandap — a platform raised temporarily for marriages and around which couples vow togetherness, their families surrounding them in all the directions, rejoicing in these avowals. He was 7 years old then and was seated on his mother’s lap, deaf to what the pandit — the reverent priest well versed in Sanskrit shlokas — recited. Bored like the other kids around him, he kept playing with the rice, making different figures out of it on the ground. Every once and then, he saw the pandit’s lips that moved quickly as if trembling or undulating but more out of habit than any interest in the event. For the pandit, it was a job after all. And after having blessed three marriages that day, it seemed like a long day at work.
And then, as he grew so did his predilection towards the sound that emanated out of this wooden instrument. Like faith. Only that this liking or belief had never been imposed on him.
And so, 20 years later, when he met ‘the girl’ and having dated her for 2 years finally decided on introducing her to his mother, it came as no surprise to him that his reply seemed poetic surprising both the mother and the girl. He had always known that when this day came, it has to be his mother who would have to cajole his father into an agreement to it and so he stood before her, as docile as he had sat on her lap that night, two decades back. And when his mother asked him how did he, the man who had vowed not to fall for anyone till he had made a doctor out of himself, fell for her, his reply was prompt. No one fell in our case, Ma. Rather, she grew on me like a Shehnai. And just like a shehnai’s sound bears sanctity to it, her presence renders everything around me auspicious. The girl threw a sly glance at him, a paroxysm to kiss him right there ran through her but then realising that his mother was standing right in front of them she drew her glance back on her hands that were now clasped together, her fingers changing their positions out of apprehension, like a patient’s, waiting for his fate in a laboratory.
Some years later, he receives a call, the person on the other end informed him that his order has arrived and has been customised to his wishes. He thanked the shopkeeper and hung the phone up. He got ready and rushed to pick it up, asking his wife to be ready by the time he returns and to bring his blazer when she joins him in the parking. She agreed to it and adorned herself in the traditional wear. He snaked his bike through the traffic and managed to get back in time. By the time he handed the helmet to the watchman, his wife was already in the car, playing ‘The Dichotomy of Fame’, which he remembered telling her had grown on him the moment he had listened to it for the first time. She drove and they managed to reach the event on time. On the stage was their only child, 12 now, who greeted them with a flying kiss. He rushed to him and handed him the package. The boy’s eyes told him that he had never witnessed anything so beautiful like the Shehnai that he held before him now. He kissed his Papa on the cheeks.
His eyes were closed and his fingers were clutched to his wife’s all the while the group performed, and he tried with all he had in him to focus only on the Shehnai despite the imperfections in what the child played. It seemed unfair, his prejudice towards his son, disregarding the other children and the other instruments, but since when has someone being in love pondered over the question of fairness, and so he continued focussing only on the Shehnai.
The image has been downloaded from google.com and is as beautiful as the instrument sounds upon being played.