Where are you Maa? I can’t hear you here. Everyone else I hear . Papa, Daadi, Dada. I can hear Naani cry. Her voice is just like yours. I remember you telling me that you are just like her. Her mirror image. But where are you Maa? I want to hear your voice again.
So many voices but I can’t hear yours. The one that I know best. The one that defines my life. It belongs to me. Your voice is my rhythm. My heartbeat. My only source of music.
Yes Maa, I love your voice. It calms me more than anything else in this world. When everything else in the world is a buzz, I can always hear you. Loud, clear and beautiful.
Remember that tune you hum. How does it go? Ta-ra-hmm…la – ri – ta…I have heard it so many times, but I still can’t get it right. Can you sing to me again?
You always tell me to stay calm. Even when the noise of the cooker whistle alarms me. Or that rude horn of Papa’s car. Why does he honk so much? There is no music in his car. Just like his voice. Always grunting. Always shouting. Always alarming. Did I tell you I am scared of his voice?
I know you love to read. The thud of a book on the night stand, the soft rustle of the pages of your book. You gently tap your book at the edge as your read. Reading and soaking all that your eyes cover. Yes, Maa I can hear that too.
Your telephone has a lovely chant too. Not like Papa’s shrieking tring-tring. Isn’t the sound on your phone the Veena piece you play? Is that you Maa? Is it your tune?
I love to hear you doing your riyaaz. You say it calms you, gives you strength. To me it is the most magical hour of the day. As you sit and position your Veena, I can hear you breathe. As you close your eyes, the voice travels from your stomach, up your throat. And there comes the silken voice that always makes me smile. As your negotiate the crests and troughs of your raag my heartbeat moves in sync. Sometimes fast, sometimes at its usual rhythm.
Where is that magical voice Maa? Where are you?
When you say you will protect me, I believe you. Like that day when the loudspeakers blared all night? When there were people knocking at our doors. I was restless that night. Scared of them. Scared that they would come to get us. You said, there is a riot outside. You shut the windows. Thud. The voices deadened. And then to calm yourself and me, you began humming that song again.
Ta-ra-hmm…la – ri – ta…Where are you Maa? I want to hear that sound again.
And then you stopped singing. You talked to me. You read the Gita. You prayed to God. But you didn’t sing that song. I was restless again. The night before you and Papa had a fight. Thud I heard you fall. No you screamed. You can’t do this now. You can’t do anything now? Accept her you said. Accept us you cried.
He shouted at you. Called you names. Even me. I wanted to hug you Maa. I know you were hurt. I could see you bleeding. Your heart was bleeding.
And then…all of a sudden you stopped singing.
Where are you Maa? Why can’t I hear you sing again?
I remember the rocking of the train. It lulled us both to sleep. The roar of the sea. The sound of the seagulls. These were all new sounds to me. You said we were on a holiday. Just you and me.
And then I think I heard it once again…Ta-ra-hmm…la – ri – ta…Maa I still can’t remember the rest of it.
You went to the beach for three days. You didn’t talk to anyone. You didn’t hum your song again. There was no Veena. No riyaaz. No music. You didn’t even talk to me. But I was happy. Because I could now hear your heartbeat. Loud, clear and beautiful.
And then one night I heard your voice for the last time. I am sorry you said. I heard the sea again. The water. The sound got closer, louder. Your heart beat faster. I woke up. Alarmed. Scared. I kicked hard. I tried to tell you that I am worried. You clutched you tummy hard. I could almost feel your grip on my bones.
And then there was a silence. I could hear nothing. Not you…not anyone.
I can hear everyone now. I can hear Papa say She walked into the sea. I can hear Nani cry. Yes, her voice reminds me of you. But where are you Maa? Why can’t I hear you now?