After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexplicable is music........
No, I am not going to write in detail about the epic movie released in 1965 with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the lead. It's of course about music , the Marghazhi music of Chennai.
I happened to go to Chennai in connection with the renewal of my US Visa. Since I got accommodation in the bank's holiday home I stayed for a couple of days to meet a few of my old friends there. During December, Chennai is really enjoyable. Much unlike the dusty smoggy Delhi. The day temperatures are comfortable. The nights are pleasant. The early morning walk at Marina was really rejuvenating.
In the evening my friend suggested that I should go for the music concert of Sudha Raghunathan at Narada gana Sabha. I had enjoyed listening to her music earlier during my stint in Chennai in the Audit department. The concert started exactly at 7 pm. Since my doctor friend could arrange a VIP pass, my seat was in one of those front rows. Since there was some emergency in the hospital , my friend could not come with me for the concert. The first song was a short one praising Lord Ganesha. Before it was over, an old gentleman in his mid seventies came and sat couple of seats away from mine. Before the next number on Parameshwari started, a family entered the row from the other side and I moved to the seat next to him. Had I recognized him earlier , I would not have dared to go near and sat adjacent to him. He was KPK with whom I had worked for over fifteen years in the Bank.
For those who know him, KPK was terror.....! He was the Regional head when I worked as a manager. He used to be ruthless in the review meetings. When the business figures were below the targets, the first phone call on the last Friday was his. Even when we worked in the northern most part of India, he talked in grammatically correct decent English. His messages were quite curt and strict. He never gave any chance to give any explanation for the shortfall.
Later when I worked in credit department in head office , I reported to him. When he needed any clarification on the notes I put up, he called me to his cabin. Many a times he was made me stand for minutes together before he finished his phone calls......! Once, he objected to the recommendations I had given in a credit proposal based on the credit worthiness of the promoter and not ably supported by their balance sheet. I stood my ground. And later got his appreciation when the venture succeeded.
He was clean shaven. Wore a thick framed spectacles. No ash tray on his table. Drank only filter coffee. No biscuits. Not even batata vada on New moon days because it contained onions. But he took care not to wear any caste signs on his forehead. He had a very thick deep throated voice which Amithbh Bachan could envy. He never made any loose talk to his subordinates. Even Boban Irani who made friends with every executive with ace PR qualities once went to his cabin to praise the colour of his tie. But came back with a long face. KPK never entertained any unwanted talk even by his beautiful stenographer........!
I could not believe myself when KPK greeted me with a smile on one half his face and gestured at me to sit beside. I could not concentrate on the music. I got lost in thoughts about KPK and my association with him for the past decades. I was feeling rather uneasy sitting with someone who retired as a CMD of a bank, though I did work under him for nearly two decades.
The singer's next was an "aalaapana" of the raaga. As I was looking at the Mridamgom player gently hitting his instument with a hammer and stone, the" raaga vistaarom " was going on in full swing. Suddenly KPK put his right hand on my left one and asked me , Das, is it Mohanom.....? Even when he was in the Bank, his questions were difficult......! I concentrated on the singer for a few seconds more and told him, Sir, I feel it is Hindolam.......And once the song "Padmanabha pahi " started, he gave an appreciative pat on hand again with his right hand. Luckily till the end of the concert, he had no more doubts which could have exposed my ignorance.....!
Once the concert was over , we got up while clapping. As I tried to wriggle out, KPK firmly held my hand and told....." Let's go for filter coffee....."
KPK of my memory never sounded so intimate. As we climbed down the steps of the auditorium, I could not but notice the change in his looks. He wore a dhoti with broad borders and long kurta. His forehead had holy ash markings with a central dot of saffron. For the first time I could see his feet as he was wearing a simple chappal. I had always seen them covered with Bata Ambassador shoes. He also sported a shoulder bag made of jute in which he had kept his water bottle and cell phone. As we went past the singer, he wished her with a namaste.... Requested for a selfie with her which she readily obliged. In turn , told me that he wanted to send the snap to his daughter in US.
As we sat for the coffee, he made inquiries about my family ( for the first time)........and about my last posting before retirement etc etc... Took my phone number. He talked about his admiration for Jesudas knowing about my Mallu origins. Apart from the last three letters at end of our names in common, there was no comparison between us....! " I would like to come to Trivandrum to listen to Aswathi thirunal Rama Varma in the Swati thirunal Sangeetha festival " he said. As I replied affirmative, I could not believe my ears......I never could trust that the great KPK could be talking to me one to one like a colleague.....? He even invited me to his house in Mambalam. But I excused myself.
While sitting in the Uber taxi, I wondered what exactly has brought about the change in KPK. He didn't look very aged. Only very few strands of hair had gone grey much unlike mine. I thought it should me the atmosphere filled with music.....
It's the sound of music which maketh the man to speak his mind......
Note....The first quote is from Aldous Huxley......The last one is my own....