It was a Sunday, and it was a melancholic voice that woke Samaksh up from his slumber.
‘The kind of voice that he would have otherwise only tolerated if he were drunk’ he told Pradhaan — his colleague — when they later met at the workplace. ‘Who sings such songs in the morning, yaar?’ he had cursed the singer and had sandwiched his head by rolling the pillow across his head, in an attempt to cover both the ears. But the voice had continued to irk him. You might get rid of someone’s sight by hindering the view by something or by distancing yourself from them, but getting rid of the voice actually takes a lot more than that.
No wonder most people are troubled by the voices. Of someone they loved. Of someone who loved them.
Of the people who left them.
Of the people whom they left behind.
This was his first acquaintance with the girl.
With her voice.
And her honeyed voice had soon begun to grow upon him.
He then turned over to his other side and reposed on his bed until his bowels began to move, forcing him to get up. And then, once inside the toilet, he tried to focus on the voice, but it had diminished beyond recognition. And so he picked up a bottle of the shampoo from the cabinet and began reading about its contents and manufacturer. ‘Do not carry your books inside the toilet; don’t try to imitate the Americans. We venerate anything that has been written down as ‘Vidhya’. Besides, whatever you read inside the toilet is soon forgotten. Now you be a good boy and leave that book here and go in alone.’ his paternal aunt used to castigate him, preventing him from carrying any written material along with him inside the toilet, forcing him to read whatever little remained around him. And this is how he knew that most of the skin care products had Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in them and almost every product inside their bathroom was from the same company – Reckitt Benckiser.
The voice had returned the next Sunday.
It belonged to the same girl.
A South Indian girl.
Someone who had taken up the task of waking everyone up on the Sundays by her voice. She’d start the day by singing a song in one of the Dravidian languages and then like a virtuoso switch to Hindi.
An artist’s attempt to widen her audience.
Sometimes she would sing a song in Telugu — or one of the other South Indian languages — and then sing the same song in Hindi.
Mark of an artist. Of a genius.
And when she sang in Hindi it was very difficult to believe that she could ever sing in any other language but Hindi. But when she sang in the other language it felt all the same. And all the while she’d sing it’d become impossible for him to focus on anything else.
On the subsequent Sundays.
A point in time when he was already in love with her voice.
He would lay on his bed listening to her voice, and then the thoughts about someone from the past would surface up and he’d try recalling the details about the moment of togetherness with that person. There were a few songs which were associated with someone special, songs that were sung in unison, sometimes, when he was together with that person holding their hand, and at other times,when the songs were sung over the call, and both kinds of songs brought to him a peculiar sensation, an experience that he had lived through, a few girls he had loved and was now not together with, and then he’d try to focus just on the voice, and a few minutes later he’d be lost in her voice and everything else and everyone else just ceased to matter.
Shuffling between his sides he’d think about what she must look like, what would her age be, was she singing to alleviate her plight or was she offering a service to the broken hearts around her, or was it both? You can only make others laugh when you are happy from within, but you can never conclude anything about a singer from their voice while they sing. Where a voice’s spell began did the words not seem to lose their enchantment. Did the tick-tock of the clocks not stop for the drums to weave magic?
And this continued for a few months.
His lying on the bed and listening to her.
A musician and her fan bound together by a voice.
A few emotions that the voice evoked.
Many reasons for not to jeopardize anything by confronting her, by even attempting to get to know her better.
Their tender ages presenting a thousand probabilities — both separated only by two walls, and both still oblivion to each others’ appearances.
He avoided making any plans that would take him away from his home on Sunday mornings. He even began sleeping on time on the night before to ensure that he was up by that sound. What all does one not do for the artists they fall for.
And for Love.
Was he in Love?
Whom did he Love?
The girl? The voice?
Can a voice be Loved?
And then it stopped one day. At first, he thought that she might be ill or must have been forced by some circumstances to travel out of the city for a while, or one of those many reasons that one tells one’s heart when they intuitively know the truth. But deep inside he had known this from the moment he had first heard her. That the voice would leave him one day and will never be heard again. And that she was someone who couldn’t be contained, just like her voice – a voice that used to infuse hope even in the most melancholic of the songs. And then with each passing Sunday, he’d wait for the voice to return. But unlike events, voices that etch into our memories are not recalled at will, and no wonder how hard he tried to recall her voice it’d always come back to him in the form of a song she used to sing but in his own voice.
And she ended up becoming like a faded song for him.
‘What?… Wait… What! A faded song?’ Pradhaan asked him. ‘You should cut down on the books and try to lighten your mind up’ the concerned friend added.
A faded song, Samaksh tried to explain, is the one that you love from the moment you first listen to it, then you play it on a loop for days, it becomes your companion, and this company is all that you desire for, at least for a few days till you get bored of the song, and then despite the fact that it had, at once, managed to penetrate your heart and still resides in the portion of your heart that isn’t open for many things, knowing you will never be full of it, you just don’t want to hear to it anymore, at least not just then. Only in my case, I don’t get to hear her, and I was not even full of her voice.
I’ll never be full of her voice.
Of her company. Of her voice’s company.
And after listening to him the friend had gotten up and made his way to the billing counter. Pradhaan being a rustic Indian was of the view that every problem is solvable over a plate of Samosas and Chutney, even his friend’s plight. And so he returned with two plates of Samosas and chutney, and then they both ate in silence.