‘What does melody mean?’ I asked, suddenly in the middle of watching late-night TV.
He sat up straight with a glint of excitement in his eyes. The slightest mention of music livens every cell in his musically talented being. ‘Essentially, a melody is stringing together of notes to create a tune’ he said, putting it as simply as a tone-deaf person like me deserved. ‘And it should sound pleasant for it to be called a melody?’ I asked.
‘No, not necessarily. What is pleasant to one may be noise to the other. Say, in many Jazz compositions the melody is difficult to understand and appears as a mixture of … why do you ask though?’ he stopped short with curiosity and turned down the volume of the TV.
‘It’s in the news. Tomorrow onwards Gandhi Jayanti will be celebrated as World Melody Day. By India and some other countries. Some relationship between music, peace, tranquility and harmony’ I said matter-of-factly and turned the volume back. I ignored his frown of incomprehension. I knew what it meant. Comedy Central drew back our attention and all too soon, we were at peace with it.
I woke up this morning on the 2nd day of October and the scent of a national holiday was lolling everywhere. The road some distance away was quieter today. The MCD park had no men walking their bicycles to work, no lunch boxes tied tightly on them. Even the strays seem to take a break from good morning play, for no children in blue uniforms ran along with them to seize the school day. Within, no one was looking at the arms of the clock for they were fast asleep. A handful of snores, the fan above, a group of babbling babblers and my clicking keys is all I could hear. As the sounds conspired to keep pace with each other, I thought to myself – what does melody mean, to me? Which collection of notes, when strung just right, makes me feel alive and happy to just be? Have I even bothered to realise?
Without further thought, I decide to type away whatever came to my mind. And I also swore not to spoil it with editing later.
Melodious it was to hear my dance teacher say to my mother – ‘She is perfect’. Even better was to see both women turn towards me and beam with pride. I was 10. 'She went the highest' chirped my cousin, as we raced to win the who-goes-up-most on the mango tree. All 6 of us. We still talk about it. The sound of my confident voice when Whitman’s ‘O Captain My Captain’ fetched me my first poetry recital award, and the ‘prize we sought is won’. The applause, the thunder of a thousand hands clapping for me - melody. The lip-syncing father in the crowd somewhere saying it in a whisper ‘well done’, but heard so clearly when you are 13. Melody! The uncle who always lovingly introduced me as 'Born BA Pass' to everyone who came home, for I could be witty. Pass. Reminds me of my Sanskrit teacher's surprised saying – ‘You passed?’ Musical note in the report card. Piano tuned when I heard my friend whisper – ‘The head-boy is interested in you’. I hid the music inside, showed but a scowl when him I saw. Playing hide-and-seek, this melody! ‘Interested in me’ and my 17-years-old pride soared higher.
‘I am quite lost too, just like you. Don't worry’ and just the right notes struck as I made my first friend in college. Big city new college I have a friend already. Why worry? ‘Have you copied from a critic?’ the professor asked dumb-founded, as my heart squealed with delight, knowing in the literary world I had arrived. Melody singing all over. The drums rolled the notes and ‘Death, be not Proud’ got published. Then. A bigger degree, and even better friends. On farewell they did say – ‘You have the best heart inside’. Bells chimed. Those were big words for me. The 21st birthday was full of music, loud, real loud!
'Come and stay with us now. You've been gone the longest while. We miss you.' they said in unison over the phone. Back home to my parents, how could I have refused? Then.‘I quite like you’ and the proposal was done. The head-boy and I tuned our lives together in our small town. Years after the first chord had struck. The 'like' again, perhaps used for love? Melody in words. And the Musician was now mine. Endless times of ‘Im with you’ followed. Times of crisis or vile relatives, new careers or infinite plunges. 3 words of support and what else do you need? Just two more to strike the perfect note – ‘We’re ready.’ My son was born. Melody, that first cry and then the giggles, the burps and even the first words. Named him after the highest note of the octave, in perfect unison of his mind and mine. Heavenly music when he now says ‘We are family’. Family melody. It even rhymes.
… and I stop to catch a breath. My mind would have gone on, but my fingers are tired.
Was it the combination of snores and babblers and fans that got me jogging down the past? Hit the right note, inside? Have to tell him how I understood melody today. Words strung together forming the perfect tune. In that moment when they were said and heard. Years back, months back, days back. For the rest of the time, tucked away inside the box of memories, waiting to be opened at just the right O'clock. Today the hour struck.