Pages from a music score of silent melodies.
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
Consonance and dissonance
Arthur Retton Gopal
Garbed in an untucked aquamarine full sleeve shirt buttoned at the cuff and brown pants with a patchwork on the knee done with a strip of check-designed cloth, he could be lingering aimlessly along the streets of Trivandrum, like a vagabond. He very much resembled the infamous dictator Idi Amin of Uganda. A slow walker, he moved as if he's labouring to carry along his potbelly. In earlier days, Trivandrum Corporation used bullock carts to clear litter on the streets. It's known as a curious spectacle to the people of those days that the bullock stops on their own whenever they see garbage. Like those bullock, Arthur Retton Gopal used to stop right in front of those 'Adults Only' movie posters at the roadside and appear lost staring at them, while passersby giggled and laughed at him. He's never in a hurry, and I am sure he was rambling aimlessly. Not many know that he's a great pianist. The great musician K J Yesudas who identified his talent, brought him to Trivandrum from Chennai to work as a tutor in his Tharanganisari School of Music. I have heard that he lost his balance after his dear wife ditched him and fled with her lover, following which he turned to intoxicants and womanizing. Some say she gave him the elbow, fed up with his bad habits. Anyway, I have never found him drunk, though he 'appears' inebriated. He lost his job in Tharanganisari School, accused of 'misbehaviour' with his female students, and though exceptionally talented, he lived alone in poverty. At that time, one day, I got a call from Trivandrum Doordarshan (TV service broadcaster run by the Government of India) asking me whether I am ready to do a Western music program for them. I agreed, and as I met the producer, I suggested some variety to the show by introducing my Nigerian friend Chima and my dance tutor Mr John. Chima Nokenne is a Football player and musician who can play the guitar and croon, while Mr John, known more as 'Baldie uncle', is familiar with old songs. Chima selected the song ' Ready Steady Go', released as a single by a Nigerian Band named The Semicolons, which incidentally has the lead played by his guitar tutor. Baldie uncle selected the 1940 song 'Besame Mucho', the 1945 song 'The Falling Leaves', and the Jerry Vale version of 'Always In My Heart'. Chima provided me with an SP record of his song to prepare the sheet music for the orchestra. Then came the unsought obstacle. Though I am familiar with the songs and Baldie uncle can sing his songs, we didn't have a copy of all the three songs he selected. When it dawned on me, and as I almost decided to forgo the plan to include those old three songs, I suddenly remembered Arthur. Eureka! I am sure he knows all those old melodies by heart. I set out to find him. My search started from the streets, where I usually see him ogling at movie posters. The person always sighted on the roads suddenly appeared to have vanished. Subsequently, I came to know that he's then working as a piano tutor in the Indo-French cultural centre of the French Embassy. I succeeded in meeting him and informed him of the help that I need from him. I told him that I would be back within a couple of days, and he assured me that he would be at his workpla