SOMETIMES YOU STUMBLE UPON SOMETHING YOU WERE ONCE OBLIVIOUS TO
I was walking down FC road immersed in my own thoughts as usual, when suddenly I heard a melodious tune. I was naturally drawn to that direction. There was a man sitting in between parking spaces with a flute to his lips and that was the source of the melody.
I had seen and heard him a couple of times in these past few years but never really noticed him. He was wearing a white smudged shirt with a small chest pocket at the right and black pant which seemed to ironed. He was sitting on a square shaped cloth with his red backpack which looked heavy. In front of him was a steel box with few coins and some money in it.
But underneath the box were some newspaper cuttings neatly laminated and arranged side by side. As I drew closer, I read the articles and they were about him: from Times of India and some Marathi newspaper.
Above all there was one more laminated page which looked like a print, on which was written ’OLD IS GOLD’ in bold letters. His disciplined arrangements intrigued me so I bought a mineral bottle for him, but to my surprise he refused the water with a wide smile and said to me, ‘Thank you but i carry my water and tiffin with me everyday’, as he motioned to his backpack. After insisting a little he finally accepted the bottle and I sat across him on the footpath.
He drank some water and asked if I had any special song in my mind which he could play to which I suggested few of my favorite songs:
Badan pe sitare lapete huye
O mere dil ke chain
Ye chand sa roshan chehra
Mere sapno ki rani
And he played all of them with great enthusiasm. After a while he took a break and I was psyched to ask him all these questions swirling in my head.
He said: I was once selling flutes for a living and to make sales, I started playing one and surprisingly I was good at it too. My interest in playing the flute increased more even after I stopped selling; I still played. All these videos on YouTube and the songs I hear on radio or TV, I try to imitate them and practice at home or here on road.
Whenever I am unable to play any song I memorize the name go home, search the song and practice it. That is how I increased my song vocabulary.
I just looked at him awestruck trying to process all that he just told me. But most importantly I couldn't help but notice the love for music in his words, the determination in his eyes and the pride in his smile. It was like he loved reliving every moment of his incredible story.
Further he continued about his work and family. He also works in a band where he can play harmonium and clarinet (he explained that clarinet means ‘shehnai’, which I didn’t know). While explaining this he gently motioned towards a pile of business cards right beside me. He handed me a card and said: ‘We play at all occasions marriages, birthday parties, welcome parties, etc. I even go to functions outstations for days with my band with all expenses paid by the contractor.’
He coughed a little so I offered him more water, he drank some and continued, ‘We are a band of all retired people, men and women both. We have singers and instruments players too.’
I started after my retirement. I was a security supervisor at Kirloskar Limited. Then I started some small-scale businesses like selling stuff and that’s how i came across the flute. I have a daughter same as your age working as a salesperson in a car showroom and my son and daughter-in-law are working too.
After listening to all this I couldn't resist but ask.
He proudly said, ‘I love practicing here, I get to learn more from people's requests. I feel no embarrassment in sitting here, I don't beg for money. I just enjoy playing flute and entertaining people.’ I was so overwhelmed by his spirits that there was no voice left in my throat and I just kept staring at him. And he continued, ‘There came some people also who took me to the studio to play and converted my music into a CD. A bunch of people took my interview and posted in the newspaper, I laminated them to save them from water and it is easy to clean.’
On that note, we ended our conversation and he played my favourite song of all time, ‘Aapki nazro ne samja’ by Lata Mangeshkar from Anpadh, a 1962 Hindi film.
After I reached home, I replayed the conversation while reading those articles and I realized he didn't mention the struggles behind his happiness (which I discovered from the articles), how his son abandoned him or how he struggled to earn for his family. As if all was forgotten by his love for playing. The confidence in his speech made me believe that impossible is just another word in the dictionary which is not compulsory to use.
This man that inspired me the most is Gangadhar Jadhav who plays the flute on local streets as his passion.