Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If music be the food of love

I believe that every book has two stories to tell - one that is written, and the other that precedes its being read, and includes the circumstances of procuring the book. In my case, often this second story is as interesting as the first one.

S and I met each other during our first year at college. She was outwardly reticent, and inwardly, rather strange. For example, if I would miss a class, and would ask her for the class notes, she would promptly take my copy, sit down, and copy down the notes in her spindly handwriting. At other times, she would force me to watch a film, the CD of which she would bring and forcefully thrust into my bag. Now we weren't as good friends then as we are now, but I rather liked this strange girl with her strange antics. I was only starting out as a film buff, and she would force me to watch a particular film, and I had to text her that very night to let her know how I 'liked' it (there could be no other response). It was our first winter in college, and I had borrowed Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago from the library, bought a Dairy Milk chocolate, returned home in the afternoon, buried myself under the blanket, and began reading. The next day she saw my book, and insisted that I watch the film before everything else, the CD of which she'd carry the next day. Carry she did, and she kept texting me that whole evening, forcing me to watch the movie. I still remember that night six years ago, when I finally texted her at two in the morning, having watched through the three CDs, and sat for a long time in a daze letting it sink in. She had replied to my copiously emotional text with only a smiley.

Even after six years, Doctor Zhivago has remained a very important 'text' for both of us, and though our roles have mostly reversed (I insist on her watching a film, and she delays the act infinitely), our devotion to the film has remained unchanged. Suddenly on some ordinary night I would think about the Urals in spring, and my mind would play the tune of Lara's theme; or, S would have her periodic philosophical bouts when she would rediscover her favourite music, unearth Lara's Theme, and remind me about it in a text. By now I have realised, that certain music, like certain books, never really leave you. The notes travel even when one does not have access to music, playing its refrain in the mind.

In the heart of the Schwarzwald we chanced upon an epiphany together. When S and I had been travelling in Europe, we didn't have any music with us. S couldn't bring her ipod as I wasn't carrying my laptop, and it wouldn't have any other source of charge. The little music I had in my cell phone wouldn't quite suffice because of the poor battery, although we did listen to Vivaldi's 'winter' all the way from Padua to Venice, heads bent, ears taut, as only one earpiece could be assigned to one person. That would probably be the only phase of my life when I didn't have a perceptible exposure to music for such a long time (the Waldecho at the Alps is another story). Towards the beginning of our journey S had said that she craved to hear 'Lara's Theme'. I would try to hum it to myself during the long journeys by road.

That evening at Druber, I was tired and cold. I had had a long conversation over the phone with my parents and it had made me sad. I was walking outside this cuckoo shop, looking at the beautiful but abandoned surroundings, when I heard S calling me frantically at the top of her voice. I rushed inside and found that she was holding a wooden jewellery box. She looked at me, opened the lid, and said, "It's playing 'Lara's Theme'. I have been wanting to hear it, remember? Listen."

It would turn six soon, and we would be standing in the cold, outside the shop, watching the figures dance as a hundred odd cuckoo clocks chimed in unison.


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