The cosmic sound that the Tanpura (a musical instrument, which serves as reference for Indian classical musicians) produces is one of the most unique sounds an instrument can produce. The resonating notes of Sa, Ga, Ma, Pa, and Ni are played in different combinations, which vary with the ‘Raag’ to be sung. Typically, the notes overlap, as the strings of the Tanpura are serially plucked, giving the sound a reverberant touch. I tried and failed to recollect exactly how I felt in the serenity of the tanpura. Perhaps owing to the fickle, unfocused mind of a teenager, I could not revisit those beautiful notes that the instrument generates. I got around this practical obstacle by playing the records of Classical Hindustani music (in which the Tanpura plays continuously) that I have at home and as I write this article, I can feel the vibrations touch my heart.
I do not know how it feels to be intoxicated, but I doubt it could be any different from what I am experiencing at the moment. I could be writing this subconsciously, for all I know! The Raag Nand is taking me to unexplored parts of my thinking space. Words are hard to come by and a decent vocabulary is of little significance when you are being pulled into a trance. I look around but I really cannot register what my surroundings are. The keyboard at my fingertips, the screen facing me and the sound of music are the only things I am aware of. I am trying to type slowly, so the keys I press make the least possible ‘noise’ in the hope that I am not disturbed by them.
As I feel the world around me shutting down or coming to a stop, I feel alone. It is not loneliness – it is the disconnect from the world, by choice, for seeking peace and tranquility. I realize that I have created my own world – a parallel universe, where I can do what I want. I cannot leave the place I am sitting in, so what do I do? I begin to introspect, I talk to myself. I think about all those things I have seen and felt during the day. Today was a particularly philosophical day for me. I remember my time in the bus – Bus No. C-45 – as I was travelling to school from home. The bus was empty and the bus conductor was an irritable old man. Torn Hawaii chappals and an unclean Conductor’s uniform indicated a not-so-fortunate wallet. We are friends, the conductor and I. I travel by the same bus everyday and we exchange smiles as we trade change and a ticket. The bus stopped at the Mulund Checknaka bus stop and one man got into the bus. He was in his mid-40s and wore anachronistic clothes – a bush coat and trousers. I hadn’t seen many people dressed like this man was. He had an identity card clipped to his upper shirt pocket. A ‘helper’ at a certain company. The man was clearly low on self confidence – he couldn’t look higher than the conductor’s purse and spoke only in whispers (which made the conductor shout ‘What?!’ twice). He whipped out his wallet and took out his Smart Card and handed it to a frustrated conductor. The frustration transformed into anger as he told off the ‘helper’ and asked him to get off the bus that very moment. The poor chap had a Bus Pass only for ordinary buses and not for the express buses which halted at fewer stops. The ‘helper’ felt more ashamed than disappointed. He looked as though he was being charged for murder and ran off to the exit, while the conductor asked the driver to stop the bus.
I thought to myself – What would have happened had the conductor allowed the ‘helper’ to travel in the empty ‘express’ bus? Maybe there is a consequence which I am not aware of, but I decided that if ever I became a conductor, I would let poor old ‘helpers’ who have boarded my empty ‘express’ bus with a valid bus pass for ordinary buses to travel to their workplaces. Who knows how much wages are cut for reporting late to work. I told myself to be more empathetic the next time I lived in the other, ‘real’ world. The simple conclusions of this world that serenity built for me may not be appreciated outside of it. I mourn and turn off the music.