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Blue Moon Stories

My Pumbaba

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It is raining. Mumbai. There are vehicles going by, cars are splashing water on the people standing at the bus stop, drains are overflowing, trees are bathing, umbrellas are giving up and turning upside down…and while a hundred different things are happening all at the same time, a beautiful piece of music binds everything together closely into one- the music of the rainwater! And suddenly, I am not alone anymore; there is familiar warmth of an old memory with me.

I must have been six years old when sitting at his feet, I would hum with him the notes he sang. I tried my best to sound like him. A big water cooler in the living room made a whirring noise that was a background note for everything and everyone in the house. As I sang, he would stop me and tell me to listen, listen closely and blend into the ‘sur’ the cooler made. When I finally started hearing the ‘sur’ of the cooler, I was ecstatic. Not only could I hear the music of the cooler, but I could also now hear music in the running tap water, in the New Year Eve’s campfire, in the drone of the refrigerator, in the wind that blew on a particularly windy day and in a truck’s horn. It was limitless. His music had entered me.

My Pumbaba was one of the most original men I met in my life- the kind of man who has seen the world in all its glory and gloom and could still see everything as it is, without colored glasses. He was my compass. I was grateful to be his grand-daughter. And I left it unsaid.

For a few months after he died, I dreamt of him every single night. In most of my dreams, he would just be sitting in one corner of the room, quietly, with his hands folded across his chest. And I kept looking at him trying to judge if he thought what I was doing was okay. Then one day, he was gone from my dreams. I would not see him every night. I called my mother and wept about it that day. “You will reach him wherever he is if only you sing, Aneesha”, she told me.

Today, every time I sing a song, every time I even hear a wonderfully sung song, I know he understands. It was he, afterall, who taught me this beautiful language that even words cannot corrupt. It is his music that is within me, deep in my genes. I still miss him, but I don’t need to see him in my dreams anymore.

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