Updated: Jul 4
Consonance and dissonance
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
In my teens, pretty engaged with professional singing, I was eager to try anything that would help me improve.
It was indeed a challenge to stretch my vocal cords in a residential area, and so I decided to give it a try at the local beach. That didn't work, as I soon realised that it's absurd to sit somewhere at the beach and sing aloud. I even doubted that fishers and other visitors to the beach would drop coins near me if I dare try. Finally, I managed to find the right place. Yes, in a boat!
I started visiting the local boat club all alone, hire a rowing boat and row it in the backwaters, as far away as possible from the shore. It became a routine that I would reach the boat club by 3 pm and return by 5 pm.
Most often, I would be the only rower at the specified time slot. The audience consisted of cormorants, egrets, cranes, ducks and moorhens, and I believe I was not a trouble for them. Occasionally a train would vroom through the railway overbridge far above the lake.
The songs I used to scream/sing were 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Missionary Man'. As my countertenor is close to Annie Lennox's contralto, I preferred singing those Eurythmics songs. Both of them have a punchy rhythm that perfectly goes along with the rowing tempo. In between, 'Let it Be' or 'Eight Days a Week' by The Beatles, 'Still Loving You' by Scorpions, 'Rosanna' by Toto or 'The House Of The Rising Sun' by The Animals, once a day. Occasionally, I 'tried' a few songs by Freddie Mercury and M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar (mostly Amba Manam Kaninthu).
My rowing wont continued for several months till about the onset of the monsoon rains.
Being a daily visitor, the secretary of YMCA who is in charge of the boat club used to have friendly chats with me and once I revealed my honest intention to him, as he drew curious to know why I'm rowing all alone.
Those days, I have often seen a lady, probably in her late forties, at the boat club premises. Sari-clad and carrying a handbag, she had a charming, graceful face. I saw her eagerly observing my activities and watching me until I moved out of sight from the coast. Seldom when I return, I could see her waiting at the shore as if she's expecting someone.
One cloudy evening as I reached the boat club, as usual, I saw her sitting at the shore gazing at the lake. After signing the register at the office, I walked towards the boats, with the oars handed over to me from the office. On seeing me, she stood up and hesitantly approached me with a smile. Though she had her head covered with the palla of her purple sari, a sudden heavy breeze blew a wisp of her hair onto her forehead. Clearing her forehead and adjusting the drape, she asked," Son, where are you from?". When I introduced myself, she apologised for dawdling my time and politely asked me whether I can spare some time to lend an ear to her. I said it's all right, and she said, "Please come," and walked towards a large tree in the compound. We sat on the concrete around the tree seat, and straight away, she asked, "Son, you come here to sing, right?". While I smiled, she continued rather hastily, "Do you know the song 'Manjil Virinja Poove'? " I said, "Yes, I sing it", and I could see her face brighten. She said, " I don't want to waste your time." Pointing to a spot bit far from the shore, almost below the railway overbridge, she said," Many years back, a person dear to me drowned there. He loved this place, and he used to sing. Today is his birthday. Can you please do me a favour?". Perplexed, before I could answer, pointing to the spot that she showed earlier, she continued," When you reach that spot, can you please sing that song for him?. It was his favourite song." As I sat stupefied for a while, I even forgot what I am there for when she abruptly shook my shoulder and repeated the question. I said, "Don't worry, I'll do that", and I could see her soul through her tear-filled eyes. I got up and walked towards the boat as I saw her whimpering uncontrollably.
I know the song very well, and I often sing it, but I have never sung any song in such an exigent situation. Oblivious of what I am doing, I unfastened the boat and set off from the shore with involuntary movements. Even though I was far from the coast, I didn't sing my usual songs.
I could see the dark clouds looming, along with heavy winds.
In a soliloquy, I asked," Does Nature read one's mind?" and I turned to check whether she is watching me from the shore. No, she's not there. Perhaps she's communicating with her beloved, else crying her heart out. I nearly reached the place that she pointed to, and I sang the song in my sonority. Felt that my regular audience is more attentive than usual, felt everything around me, and the whole eternity is listening keenly. As I stopped rowing, the vessel just drifted along the lake. Back to my senses, I took control of the boat and thought of returning.
I was pretty sure that she would be waiting underneath the tree, awaiting my return and was keen to inform her that I fulfilled her desire. Eager to see her smile, quickly I fastened the boat to the shore and hurriedly walked towards the tree. No, she was not there. It started drizzling when I came out of the office after handing over the oars. With the song still reverberating in my mind, I left the place as the drizzle turned to a downpour.
The next day, another sunny day, I reached the boat club as usual and set out with my routine exercise. I sang my songs aloud as always and returned by about 5 pm, as earlier. That day, I inquired about her to the secretary. He said she's a frequent visitor and usually keeps gazing at the lake for hours. Though not clear about the circumstances of the death of her lover, he's sure it's drowning, and it occurred rightly at the spot that she pointed. He said that she remained a spinster following the death of her beloved, and people say she's mad.
I continued my routine for a few more weeks, and I nevermore saw that lady again. Soon the monsoon showers followed, and my rowing and singing practice stopped forever. Later one day I visited the boat club and found a new secretary has taken charge. I walked towards the lake and found that the rowing boats have vanished. It was a sunny day, and the lake appeared to be smiling in glee.
Very soon, the sky turned dark and cloudy. A heavy wind blew away dead leaves and fallen flowers from the ground as I walked back humming 'Manjil Virinja Poove '.
"Sweet Dreams are made of this, Everybody's looking for something."