MUSIC- Dhruba Hazarika
Spring calls for an awareness of the soprano of Nature’s creations.
At first it is the silence.
At close to four in the morning, it is as dark as can be, with only the verandah light filtering through the curtains and into the room. There is that pin-drop silence which you remember from your kindergarten classes when your teacher frowned if you so much as batted an eyelid. Eyelids do not make sounds. At least you think so.
But as you now open your eyes and involuntarily shut them again for a micro-second, you hear the music. It is not just the slow cadence in the woodwork as the atmosphere struggles outside with the coming of dawn. Nor is it the imagined rustling of tree branches on the roof, or of ants scurrying in the garden outside, or that of your heartbeat.
You listen, travelling to that point of time when Creation first stepped forth, your mind and your soul as comfortable as a foetus inside a womb. And then you hear the silence. The silence of music born of the first-ever plant struggling its way through soil to kiss the sunlight. It is the silence of a warble caught in a bird’s throat from millions of years ago as it waits that extra second for a first-response from its mate. It is the silence of the seas as molecules cuddle to form the first-ever wave, a silence echoed by the heavenly bodies as they begin orbiting in space, forever companions in a neverending attempt at touching one another, a whisper in their movements framing an understanding that they are destined never to meet, but happy enough to share songs through space and time.
Comes that moment when your ears pick out the other sounds as the light turns stronger. It is a strange movement, this awakening from sleep to the music of the day. It is a day when you sing without really knowing how to sing. Yet, it is a day when lyrics you have been familiar with for years begin taking new forms, when every inhalation of yours is a chord strung by a musician who breathes fresh life into you.
You listen to the notes of a bird in the ahot trees in the compound next door, notes trilled out helplessly as they enter your being, notes that are meant for those otherwise dulled by doing all that which is not quite music in everyday life. Yes, you think, this is it, this, the truest sound of music. For once again, as it has been from the first-ever infant plant struggling through soil, it is the song of Bihu.
The day brightens and as you get up, your ears pick out the steady lowering of a tin bucket into a well and then the splash as the bucket hits the water and then the dip and the wait and then once again the clasp-after-clasp, a Sa-Re-Ga-Ma in motion, of gnarled hands kneading music. A sudden gasp as cold water shudders a bare body, a sudden intake of the Lord’s name and then once again a splash of water pattering to the earthen floor. It has a rhythm, this open-air bathing.
From the compound’s far end, from a shed near the plantain grove comes a cow’s lowing. It is long and soft. It is a mother’s lullaby. And then you hear the watery cascade striking the floor, the urine’s drip-drip-drip, music be thy name, until it finally stops. A nudge and then a thrust as a calf sucks, slurps the udders, the sound blending with the swishing of the mother’s tail trying to keep flies, happy in their surroundings, at bay. A rooster crows, the way all roosters do. A full-throated cry, a soprano of sorts, fills the morning air. It is a challenge, yet it is a prayer. It is a proclamation: of life. And homage: to life.
You step out as a breeze fans your face, your neck. You hear, then, the Tejimola of sounds, the almost exact, steady beats, at 30-second intervals, dhak after dhak after dhak, the sound itself, perhaps, giving the wooden dheki its name, the measured footwork by your grandmother matched by the measured scooping out of the pounded rice by your cousin. You hear the sounds from the kitchen, the crackling of firewood, the sizzling of rice cakes fried in mustard oil, the smell drooling out of the doorway and into your mouth. You watch, you listen, fascinated, for though you have seen this plenty of times before, yet it is once again virginal music for you.
Did you say ‘sounds’ back then? No, no, these are not mere sounds, but songs written by songsters who cannot write the way you and I do. These are songs sung by creatures without human speech, and entities without bodies, yet far closer than the rest of us to what is known as music divine.
You take your breakfast, then, listening to the others in the house practising husori, the pepa and the dhols and the cymbals resonating in almost reckless abandon. Someone pulls you to your feet. You are no longer young, physically, but the music gets the better of you as you join the rest in rendering Deutar podulit gundhaisey modhuri/Keteki moley molai o’, Govindai-Ram.