This was for the 7th time Bonita tried Abhimanyu’s cell phone but like all other 6 times there was no response. She could have left a message with Anita, Abhi’s secretary but she preferred telling him personally. It was not something she could have communicated over the phone.
Half an hour later, there was still no response from Abhi. Bonita was getting restless, impatient, she had to tell him, it was such a terrible news, he had to know immediately. She picked up her bag and car keys and rushed out of her gorgeous flat in Mumbai just then her phone rang. It was Abhi, ‘Sorry babes, was in a meeting, is everything ok ?? saw your missed calls.’ Bonita knew everything was not ok and she had to tell him in a way that it hurts him least, ‘Mummy called, ummmm papa is not well, we need to rush to Kolkatta immediately’. Abhi was aware of his papa’s delicate health so rushing immediately could mean a lot worse, ‘Please tell me Boni, what happened, please tell me the truth i can handle it, is he….. is he alive?’ Boni hesitatingly, ‘Abhi, he suffered a massive heart attack couple of hrs back and …..’. The line went silent from both the ends. ‘Abhi are you there, are you listening, Abhi…..Abhi’. Abhi was in a state of disbelieve, he knew it was going to happen but so soon, he just visited him last week and doctor gave him 6 months, ‘Yeah, yeah, i am ok, i am on my way’.
They took the next flight to Kolkatta. Life is strange, just when you don’t want to remember anything it starts flashing on repeat mode. All the memories of good old days with his papa, his home, his mother, brother and sister kept appearing like a movie in front of his eyes. Waking up every morning to his mother’s beautiful voice, though she was not trained in music but she sang with perfection of a professional. The voice, the melody, the depth was just perfect. Every morning they would wake up to her Rabindra Sangeet, her voice soft, warm and delicious. Cycling to school with his elder brother and younger sister, playing in the lanes of sultry muggy Kolkatta, getting drenched in the monsoon rain which came before the season and lasted forever, visiting art galleries and various libraries with his father, annual picnics and boat ride to Raichak, walks on the bank of river Hooghly. Every incident that had ever made a mark on him was flashing in front of his eyes as if he was touring his life as an outsiders, as a visitor.
After all the rituals and ceremonies got over it was time for them to leave and Abhi insisted on his mom, Radha to come along, he was not wanting to leave her alone with papa’s memories. Abhi’s mother was reluctant to leave the house she came at a young tender age of 17, she was not yet 18 when she got married to Mr Mukherjee but when love strikes reasons goes beyond reasoning. She has lived in this house for over 40 years, it is at this place where Abhi, Sunjoy and Tara were born. The veranda spoke of the happy times, the little garden with mango and papaya tree was a witness of their childhood, the old piano in the guest room told the story of spectacular Kolkatta history as it was a gift from the British royalty.The old teak rocking chair narrated the stories Mr Mukherjee read out to his three kids every night. The kitchen smelled of gourmet meals which were prepared for special functions and parties. Everything was a proof that once a happy content family lived here. Though they are still happy but time and destiny have moved them away from home, away from Kokatta. And now, destiny was deciding once again and it was time for Radha Mukherjee to move to a new home, away from home.
In Mumbai, slowly life came back to normal. Abhi got busy with his office, Bonita with her work. When you are young, new places, new people excites you but when you are old you are afraid of newness, you are afraid of change, adapting and adjusting to new life is far from easy. Radha was finding it difficult to adjust, everything has changed, big bungalow was replaced by a small flat, though by Mumbai standards it was quite big but she was used to open spaces, balconies, gardens, verandas, terraces, here all she had was three and half bedrooms. She was suffering emotionally and physically, the vacuum Mr Mukherjee had created was not to be filled ever, no matter what she did, where ever she went she was always lonely. Though Sunny, her grand son kept her entertained and engaged in the evening but she was slowly and steadily loosing interest in life. She was sinking, it was as if she had no desires left. No matter how hard people around her tried they were not able to bring her out of the abyss she had begun to fall.
One day, when Abhi had to leave early, just when he was rushing out with his coffee, a melodious voice got his attention, he moved towards Radha’s room and found her deep in prayers, singing to lord Krishna. She was so lost in the prayer that she didn’t realise his presence, he waited and heard her for couple of minutes and then quietly retreated, not wanting to disturb her. On the way to office his mother’s voice kept playing on his mind, he realised that while singing she was totally involved and was sounding at peace with herself. He immediately speed dialled Bonita and asked her to find a Music school for elders. Boni was a little surprised with his request but when he described the morning, she understood that may be the answer lies in music, may be music will heal a lonely heart.
It didn’t take her much effort and time to find a good music school, it was for all age groups and was not far from home. Difficult part was to convince Radha to join. Radha was not interested, she outrightly rejected the idea saying, ‘what music will i learn at 58 and why should i learn now?’ It took Abhi and Boni weeks of reasoning and convincing before she finally agreed. To motivate her and to give her company Boni and Sunny joined the school with her. Initial plan was to join the school for few months just to make Radha feel comfortable but three of them started enjoying their weekly visits to school, they started bonding over music and throughly enjoyed each other’s company so they all continued.
Radha was always in love with music and in time she got totally engrossed but learning at 58 is not easy, voice is not steady, getting rhythm is difficult, since the hands are shivering, there is little control on harmonium but when you totally love something, you will overcome obstacles. She continued learning and practicing despite all her shortcomings and when time for examinations came she failed. It didn’t bother her much, she continued going to school, making music her mission, her drive.
When Abhi thought of the music school, he was just wanting to deviate his mother away from sorrows of life, what began as an activity to keep her occupied, became a reason for her being. Unknowingly, he gave her hope, a mission, a drive, a new way of life.