Swati Khanwalkar

Drama Romance


Swati Khanwalkar

Drama Romance

The Muse

The Muse

15 mins 12.5K 15 mins 12.5K

She sat by the window sill gazing at the cars zooming across the street below and then vanishing at the bent on the fag end. The bill board of the Departmental store on the curve of the road was illuminated by a car’s high beams and then there was darkness again. She could feel the darkness within too. It was 11 pm and she stared expressionless at the empty space outside her four-storeyed flat. She felt emptiness in her heart but her mind was as turbulent as if a cyclone has hit the sea…..

“Congratulations Prabhakar!”

“You are amazing!”

“How can you compose such divine music? Who is your Muse?”

The words kept ringing in her ears and tormenting her. She had made a hasty exit from the party “Swaranjali” had organised to felicitate Prabhakar on getting Taansen Sanman. She had to be there on her and Prabhakar’s Guru Brij Mohan’s insistence.

She sat still and awake. The memories of Prabhakar kept swelling and splashing like high tide waves in her heart and swept away her peace, her sanity. She tried hard to shoo the memories away, to erase his image but they kept coming back with a vengeance. O' what has become of her? How has a carefree girl of college days become so vulnerable, she thought!

“Prabhakar…..My name is Prabhakar! I am General Secretary of ‘Sargam’ music association of our College.” She still remembered the clear, deep voice with the resonance and the first sentence spoken. Of course, he was a singer doing PG in vocal music and so his voice had to make an impact. His diction had typically crisp sounding consonants. But his voice was malleable. I assumed that he could sing in any language and genre. But why was I wasting time on him? Well, I had just joined undergraduate course at music faculty at North Campus, Delhi, and he had heard from a common friend that I also had some training in kathak dance. He wanted me to perform Saraswati Vandana for some inter college competition.

She was to meet him on Monday at 11 am near the amphitheatre. Why did she took extra effort to dress up, she wondered? But yes, she was looking forward to meet the owner of the deep voice that had unsettled her….as if she knew him before. She was already in love with the voice. “He is there talking to a group of boys on steps wearing blue jeans and a black T shirt.”

She found herself moving as directed and stood tantalisingly close. He turned and she felt his eyes piercing hard at her as though into her very soul. They were brown and brooding. He had an aquiline nose, full mouth…..O was he handsome? She wondered. “Hi! I am Prerna!”she muttered.

Their eyes locked in a caress so brief yet so enchanting, so transparent and filled with gladness. She felt something soft and ethereal has brushed her soul. Was it a premonition of what was to come later?

They were two strangers meeting for the first time. His welcoming smile and openness made her comfortable instantly. His cheerfulness and optimism was infectious. There was tumultuous vitality and magnetism in him. They were soon seen smiling, chatting and laughing together. She was always physically aware of his presence around her, his voice, his scent. She soon realized he was quite popular amongst girls too.

“In music, dance or in life there are tools to express oneself – the navras. Nine Moods in Indian Classical Music are the emotions in the expression of Raagas on which the entire musical system is based. A lot of time and effort is spent by the musicians in finding and shaping the Bhava. It has been treated in great detail in the Natyashastra of the 4th century CE.” The professor went on but she was hardly listening, wool-gathering about Prabhakar and the song she will sing for competition. Sringar Ras…isn’t it the primary emotion? Or the most primitive! Attraction, beauty, pleasure, lust, longing, love….Sringar spreads joy and gives a message of hope. That is why it is called Ras Raj.

It was February and it was the day of the annual music competition that is held every year at Shankar Lal hall on Saraswati Puja day. There were flowers everywhere… hibiscus, marigold, crysthanthemum …..Countless hues and the scent of love wafted in the air.

The competition began in the packed hall. Prabhakar sang Raag Bihaag...Taal Tritaal...Balaam re more mann ke chite howan de re……Everyone were listening with rapt attention, mesmerized. He was the best.

It was Prerna’s turn to sing. She had chosen Raag kaafi. She moved her fingers nervously over the tanpura, closed her eyes and sang Aaj Khero Shyam Raang Hori….Pichkari Bhari Kesar ki…She lightly put down the taanpura amidst thunderous applause. When she opened her eyes she saw Prabhakar standing at a distance. He arched his eyebrows and stared appreciatively at her. It was his eyes…. those twin spheres of molten gold that held strange attraction. She could see longingness in them. These days she had observed that even when he was standing at a distance he would make feverish love to her with his eyes. Well, she too was parched and pinning.

“Hasya Ras- This Rasa connects you to your humor, laughter, happiness and contentment. It is the extension of what you feel within love,” her Guru was explaining. She then cleared her throat to sing Raag Bhairav…Jago Brijraaj Kunwar, Nand ke Dulare……

She giggled at the thought of prank she had played on Prabhakar. In the morning Prabhakar had left his wallet on the table after they shared coffee and hastily left as someone called him. She had slipped the wallet in her purse. Prabhakar must be desperately searching his wallet, she mused.

“You will have to bribe me with dinner if you want this wallet back,” she teased.

“Keep it,” he shrugged nonchalantly.

“Just give my student’s I card,” he grinned.

She melted whenever he smiled as if thousand suns were spreading light everywhere. “Adbhuta Ras- Wonder, Curiosity, Mystery, Awe. When you become fascinated with the idea of life. It is your playfulness and innocence. You enter into complete appreciation and become an explorer or adventurer. It is magic!” she recalled her professor say.

“Ok, why were you talking to Neha and her friends for so long?” she asked with a growl.

“Hmm…. they wouldn’t let me go. Probably they like me so!” he said simply.

“You are a narcissist, arrogant and moody and I had decided not to fall in love with an insensitive

boor!” she retorted.

“Are you sorry?” his eyes twinkled.

“Hmmm….but now the matter is out of my hand,” she feigned a sigh but her eyes were teasing.

“You are irresistible,” he pulled her towards him and smiled into her eyes that stirred something deep into her soul.

She remembered that she was humming …Baali Umar Lad Gayiyo…….the whole day. A beautiful Thumri in Raag Khamaj.

Days flew by fast, but Prabhakar and Prerna were inseperable souls both complimenting each other. Much happened meanwhile. Prabhakar finished his studies and went back to his hometown Agra only to come back to enrol for M.Phil. He was moving around in music circles with their Guru Pt Brij Mohan of Gwalior Gharana. He was a special student of Guru. Prabhakar soon became a known face and he started getting concerts. He was out most of the times for days. She would drop a tear or two while practicing Raag Puriya Dhanashri… Aajho na aaye sakhi ri Shyam…. This song of Virah Ras always moved her specially when she was experiencing it herself. Prerna too completed her studied and got a job as Assistant Lecturer in a college.

Meanwhile her father expired and she had to move out of R.K.Puram government quarters to a rented apartment with her mother and younger brother. The responsibility to teach her brother fell on her shoulder. Her brother got admission in a private Engineering college and she had to shell out handsome amount every month for his fees. Prabhakar did propose to her but she declined and asked him to wait till her brother completed his Engineering.

“We can both earn and help him,” he said.

“No, you yourself are struggling and living hand to mouth. I will manage. Let us wait,” she has urged.

He shrugged and she went into his arms again. He was her biggest support but she can’t shift her responsibility on him. Whenever he would compose something new he would make her sit and listen to him to get her approval. Prabhakar, she realized would share all little things of his life and she felt honored.

“You are my Prerna….my muse!” he would say.

With Prabhakar there were many such beautiful moments when she felt she was experiencing heaven. Prabhakar always made her feel special.

Life is unpredictable, isn’t it? And all good things come to an end. Prabhakar went to his parent’s place in Agra only to return after a month with a new bride!

“Karuna Ras – Who have not experienced sorrow sometime or the other. Karuna or sadness is characterized by feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, grief, helplessness, disappointment and sorrow,” her Guru had explained.

“My parents forced me. You know our financial condition. I have two sisters of marriageable age. I was their only hope. I had to sacrifice my love for my sisters’ happiness…”

She could barely listen. She stood frozen, her face blanched of colour and her lips dry and bloodless. Time stood still as she let Prabhakar’s words percolate into her mind, her stunned consciousness. She felt as if the spirit has left her body.

And then suddenly she exploded!

“What happened to your principles, your ideals! You taking dowry that too in this age? And what about our love? You consulted me in every matter of your life? How did you take this big decision alone? ”

She hissed.

“Didn’t you love me? Were you fooling me?” she was hysterical.

“Of course, I love you! Please don’t doubt me. Be mature. I love you and only you. She may be my wife for the world but you are my only love and I will be yours all my life. If you leave me I will leave my music.”

Prerna had always kept her talent, her happiness behind Prabhakar’s. She always knew that Prabhakar was destined for greatness. She was aware of his tremendous talent and always prodded him to experiment with new genre and achieve rare feats in music. She was content being his muse.

They say music has great healing power. Prerna gathered her tattered fragments of her heart and sat down with tanpura that night to erase all the pain. She sang Raag Todi….Ja Ja re Pathikwa. She was crazed with grief. Hot tears of pain rolled hard. She became aware of agony, the stabbing pain in her heart.

“Many emotions are related to Karuna Ras or sadness. If you blame someone for your loss you feel anger. The Raudra Ras covers the realm of anger, rage, and other violent wrathful emotions. Raudra is also the burning sensation when your heart beats faster. The fury of passion is also raudra. When passion is not satiated it leads to Vibhatsaya. Vibhatsaya Ras caters to disgust, loathing and self pity emotions.

Bhayanak Rasa caters to the emotions of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.” Prerna could not identify which emotion she was feeling. Or maybe she was feeling all emotions together. The following month Prerna got an invitation to perform in the Gharana Festival at Mumbai.

She knew Prabhakar was also invited. She was in no mood to go. But Guru Brij Mohan was also to perform there and it was his strict instructions that she has to give sangat with him. She sang Raag Sohoni….Kahe ab tum aaye ho mere dwar..Sautan sang jage…

Prabhakar continued to pacify her whenever they were alone. She said spiteful things. She rarely had a mean tongue, more likely to be brutally honest but never spiteful. What has become of her? He gave her a look of exaggerated patience.

“You are always in this surly mood. How long will you keep abusing me? Have a heart. I am not made of stone. I cannot undo what has been done,” Prabhakar pleaded.

“This is my quandary. I did not have the courage to fight for you, to marry you but I cannot live without you. I am a torn man,” he said despairingly.

“You have spoilt my life! I will tell her everything. You are a dishonorable man with dishonorable intentions,” Prerna said brutally.

People are wicked in madness of hate and revenge. Is she also becoming a victim of these emotions? No!

She always was a woman of reason.

“Revenge is not the solution. Besides, I have told her everything about us.” he said calmly. Prerna looked at Prabhakar in disbelief. Prerna felt a sense of disquiet. A sliver of doubt pierced her mind and she wondered if her love for Prabhakar is as absolute as she thought it was. Was her love magnanimous enough to accept another

woman’s love for him? She would now have to share him.

Sharing was not her strong point. The love she has received till now was undivided, absolute and exclusive. She will never get the respect of a wife. For society, she will always be the other woman!

“Veer Ras- Veer is valour, courage, heroism. The highest feat of daring is also courage. Courage to endure is also Veer Ras. Courage to go on despite all odds and courage to accept the blows of life and bounce back is also an act of valour.”

Prerna knew she had to accept life in whatever way it was offered. Afterall not all was lost. She had Prabhakar’s love to hold on to. Prerna always believed in permanency of love. Contented in her gained happiness, she continued meeting Prabhakar, helping him, advising him and anchoring him as required.

“Shanta Ras or peace is the ultimate expression in Navras. Peace means stillness within your being. Coming to terms with life. In peace you become so full that you are empty. Peace can be obtained when you are detached, devoid of desire. You then experience freedom. You will not find peace anywhere but within,” she remembered her Guru tell her this.

Peace was what she was working on all these years. She had thought she was very close to it except for some rare instances when she would become upset on seeing photographs of Prabhakar in magazines with other women fawning over him. Prabhakar always would laugh it off.

Respect, recognition and rewards kept rolling in for Prabhakar. He would go out on International tours for weeks. Earlier he would call regularly from there but slowly the frequency of his call decreased. She would desperately wait for his calls….the long talks and discussions, the sweet meaningless gossips.

“Love has many forms….As a student of music you are well versed with Meera’s love and devotion,” Prabhakar has once said.

What did he mean? What was he hinting at? Was the charm fading off from his side? She would wonder at times. But when he would come to her she felt the same warmth again. Was she thinking too much….analyzing his behavior beyond limits?

This time he went for three months. He was in her thoughts all day and night. She would twist and turn and lie awake till late thinking about him. What was happening to her? It’s been one month and he had not called. When she called, he said he was with people and would call back, but he did not. She waited everyday for his call. During his three months tour Prabhakar had called twice. Everyday she woke up with a sense of pain, of loss. She wanted him near her, wanted him lying beside her, she wanted to touch his face with her fingers, to smell him, to taste him….She have never felt so lonely.

He had returned and by now she was desperate to meet him again. The following day she read in newspaper that Prabhakar was conferred with Tansen Samman. Her heart was racing fast. She was so happy for him.

She waited for Prabhakar to come and break the news. He would always tell her everything first. She would hug him tight when he comes. But Prabhakar did not come, nor did he call. She rang him at 12 noon and congratulated him. Of course he was on cloud nine and thanked her formally and hung up.

No word of how she was, how did she stay without him? “Why, he is thanking me as if he thanks his many fans. Am I no more in his thoughts? Or does success and celebrity status makes you detached?” she again started brooding. She had known many celebrities and most of them were self-centered. But her Prabhakar was always level-headed and sensible. Has success gone in his head?

Swaranjali had organised a party to felicitate Prabhakar on getting Tansen Samman. All well known musicians and maestros were invited. Her Guru Pt Brij Mohan, founder of ‘Swaranjali’ had given her the responsibility of decorating the hall. She took up extra efforts to dress up for the party today. She chose an off-white and orange saree. She glanced herself in the mirror and was satisfied with her looks.

The hall was beautifully decorated with marigold, hibiscus, roses, and wreaths of fragrant jasmine…just as she had wanted. She loved the fragrance of fresh flowers. There was laughter and chatter and festive atmosphere. She spotted Prabhakar in silk fuchsia coloured Kurta Pyjama talking to group of people. He looked ravishing, almost God like. Success has given him a glowing radiance. The felicitation function went off smoothly.

After the function Prabhakar was surrounded by well wishers. She did not get opportunity to talk to him alone. She saw him holding a glass of whisky surrounded by friends. She moved towards him.

“Congratulations Prabhakar!”

“You are amazing!”

“How can you compose such divine music? Who is your Muse?”

She stopped to overhear.

“Muse? Prerna? In music muse is not important. Only Sadhana can take you to unachievable heights. I owe this success to my wife Sadhana,” Prabhakar was saying glancing a loving look towards Sadhana.

Sadhana who was standing nearby turned and gave an appreciative smile to Prabhakar. Prerna could take it no more. All she wanted was to get away from there, from the onslaught of his insensitive words. She rushed back home. All she was aware was of the searing pain deep in her heart. She wanted some private moments of solitude and solace.

She stirred in her chair and sighed. With Prabhakar, she had experienced all navras - love, contempt, sorrow, fury, courage, fear, disgust, wonder, peace. In life as in music one needs to experience the essence of all emotions and for that she was thankful to Prabhakar.

…She woke up with a start! She had dozed off on chair and it was 5 am. It was a new day. She freshened

herself and sat down with tanpura. What should she sing?

Her melodious voice wafted out of the window….“Mere tau Giridhar Gopal…..’’

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