It was one of our earliest cases.
No 12, I think…
Margazhi in Madras even then a big deal. It hadn’t quite become the generic month plagued by those elitist concerts that apparently catered to a well-educated niche audience.
I couldn’t care less for it even if i tried harder.
But yeah, I hated that lot.
However, surprisingly, Mahadev was a fan.
He knew his ‘Kunthalavarali’ and ‘Charukesi’.
He knew the ‘Navaragamalika’ and ‘Pancharatnakriti’.
Probably that might be the reason why Mahadev, on that particular day in November, cleaned his dingy one room flat after quite a few months.
The familiar and comfortable stench of cigarette wafting in the room was now replaced by the waltzing fumes from an agarbathi.
I didn’t like the change.
Mahadev didn’t care.
Although he did ask, “Swami, are you sure you’d want to stay?“
A wave of indignation initially swept through giving way to comprehension of his respect for my choices and finally settling down with a “You’d need some neutral perspective anyway” in a condescending tone.
I wanted him to know that I was no pushover and was firm in my philosophy and beliefs.
Mahadev didn’t care.
He then walked to the window and I could see the faintest of smiles on his lips.
“Swami… He is here. Behave“
A large bald man walked into the room.
His appearance ticked all the necessary boxes.
A silk dhoti, a silk shirt, a silk angavastram, a few rings and gold chains. If it was anyone else, this would have been a sign of pompousness.
Mahadev bowed in reverence to this large man whose belly resembled one of the his musical accompaniments.
I later hated myself for the reflexive act of my palms joining together to greet him as he strutted into that small room which all of a sudden felt cramped.
“Coffee, tea or milk?” asked Mahadev in his softest tone.
I’d been his friend for the last eleven months and I’ve only been offered unwarranted, untimely advice on how to lead m life productively.
“Covfefe,” he said.
Looking at our incredulous faces, he spit out the betel leaves he was chewing into a portable spitbowl and mumbled, “Coffee“.
After settling down with our cups, the “Kalaratna” “Isai Vithagar” “Raaga Chakravarthi” Udipi Vishwanatha Shastri proceeded to tell his story.
One of the most peculiar stories I’ve ever heard in that one bedroom Kodambakkam flat.
The story of the “The Musician and his Missing Voice“