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Thadhiginathom - Part 12
- Zakir Hussain
English translation: Dushy Gnanapragasam

July 15, 2020

(Reproduced with permission)

The skies sing lullaby

Fine arts are the reflection of an advanced, well established, and cultured society. After gaining self-sufficiency in the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, communities all over the world have expressed their yearning for artistry through music, paintings, sculptures, dance, and literature and recorded it in history as their culture. This is the reason why during periods of instability brought on by war and other emergencies, persons who practice fine arts are greatly affected.

A woman emerged asking, "Who is it? What is it that you want?" She must have been a maid in the house.
"Is this not Chitra madam's house?"
"I have come from Salem. I need to see madam."

She went in saying, "Wait."
A little while later, another person came out. Oh! Is this not our Srikala akka!
"Vanakkam akka. I have come from Salem. You have danced at our college two years ago."
She must have thought for a few moments...
"Oh yes! Do come in!"
The door was opened.
"Do sit down. What has brought you here in this pouring rain?"

I sat on the edge of that bamboo chair.
"Akka, I want to learn dance. And I have to learn from Chitra madam. That's why I have come."
As if she still was thinking what answer to give me, she said, "Is that so? Where are you staying now?"
"In T. Nagar. In a room with friends."
"Wait a little while. I will ask Chitra akka first."

Sigh! Relieved that the mission I came on had concluded so effortlessly, I sat watching the entrance wondering what response I will receive. Within ten minutes Chitra madam emerged. I stood up instantly and fell at her feet abruptly. She must have been startled. She took a step back.

"Do get up and sit on the chair."
"It's alright, madam. I will stand." I felt like fainting in my fright.
"What is your name?"
"Zakir Hussain, madam."
"From Salem? I remember now. Are you doing well? Have you finished college? Will they agree to it at your home if you want to dance?"

"No, madam. I have left home. Bharatanatyam is my only aim."
"So then... what do you do for your meals?"
"I am working as a cashier at a hotel."

She looked at Srikala with confusion.
"Chikku, there are no boys in our classes. But why can't we enroll him as a student?" she asked in English.
"Oh yes, we can try."
"Chikku, I must know how dedicated he is to dance. Let's ask him to wait for a while. Let him watch all the shows in the upcoming December season. Let him know." She went inside after conversing with Srikala.

Chitra and Visweswaran

Just then Mr. Visweswaran came out smiling.
"Hello! Are you the boy we met in Salem? Why have you come to Madras so suddenly?"
I explained everything to him all over again.
"Chikku, tell Chitra to enroll him in the dance class. There is an amazing radiance on his face. He will become a great dancer someday."

Visweswaran athimber repeated this foretelling every time he saw me, until his last days.
"Uncle, you should also talk to akka. She had asked him to wait for now," said Srikala.
"Alright, then. You have come all this way. Have some tea before returning."

Tea arrived in a little while. While I sipped, Mr. Visweswaran inquired a lot about me. He acknowledged my existence with words that instilled confidence in me.
"Srikala akka, when shall I return to see her?"
"Chitra akka will let you know of that. Come to the program to meet her."
"Thank you, akka. Thank you, sir."

I bid adieu. When I came out I felt as if I was floating on air. Imagining myself to be a world-renowned dancer within, and without regard for the pouring rain, I returned to my room soaking in rain and dreams. From that day on, Ranganathan Street seemed like the Music Academy. The shopkeepers there seemed like musicians playing the mridangam, flute, violin, and veena. The distant skies seemed near and within reach.
(July 14, 2020)

To be continued...

It's so nice to go down memory lane. When Zakir came to visit akka in Chennai, it was just after Chitra akka's mother Rukku aunty had just passed away. It was I who opened the door for him. Another very vivid memory from that day is Viswesh uncle, in his usual magnanimous nature, asked me to bring a veshti for Zakir from his cupboard. So blessed to have been and continue to be part of that Gurukulam.
 -  Sukanya Ravindhar (July 17, 2020)

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