Music of the night; and for a living.

The city takes away my words. I become a shadow writer.

Unable to write- unable to come to terms that there seems to be nothing remotely worthwhile to say.

The deep green cover of wild vegetation, the blue inverted bowl of the sky, the dawn and the chorus of birdsong at the unearthly hour of four am and nightfall at the equally unearthly hour of five pm, the Drongos, Oriental Magpie Robins and even the earsplitting screeching of cicadas from another life at the north eastern corner of the country have become memories. There are no longer snakes or menacing monitor lizards where we live now. The newspaper does not report of cannabis crops being destroyed by police. Memories are fading slowly in colour,  sound and sight.

I take those memories out once in a while, dust them off and play  “do you remember”  with my son.

The city has turned his head a bit. The little boy who was an enthusiastic birder has grown up. The parking space of the huge shopping mall, near where we live, is crammed with expensive cars belonging to rich Gujarati businessmen. His classmates routinely holiday abroad and are heirs to Audis, Mercs and BMWs; they wear sneakers which  cost a small fortune to class. He is a bit embarrassed of his ordinary, middle class parents and our rattling old Hyundai Santro. He asks me when I plan to buy the iPhone X; I retort that I may need to list my kidney for sale on OLX.

The city also teaches him that the world he inhabits in his imagination is not the only reality of India.

Near the ultra posh mall, right in front of the Apple store, each  evening a man stands, dark skinned and emancipated, making music on his primitive fiddle. Mostly people walk by without a second glance. He is resigned to it. Some hand him money. He is poor but not a beggar; he is an auto rickshaw driver by day, musician by night, to augment his meagre income. He sends his music out to the city- haunting melodies of songs from old Hindi films. Sometimes it is folk music that I do not recognise.  He is a migrant to the city from neighbouring Rajasthan. I am one too, though not from Rajasthan;  For a moment we are kindred souls.


Children younger than my son,  sell multicoloured balloons and cheap plastic toys outside the mall.

This is also India- I tell him. There is a whole spectrum of financial inequality out there. There are children just like you but growing up in villages, lean and hungry, with fire in their bellies. Dreaming not of iPhone X but of food and decent clothes and perhaps of books and education.

Remember you are blessed, I tell him, trying to sound non-preachy.

Maybe someday he will understand.



16 thoughts on “Music of the night; and for a living.

  1. What a lovely surprise to see a post from you Sylvia. I can understand that the different environment of the city has taken some getting used to, but as this shows, you do still have things to write about!

    • Andrea, what is this hunger we carry inside, which cannot be satiated by materialism? Or is it the curse/blessing for only a few? I feel like a prisoner- most of the time!
      Thank you for your kind words. Stay well, dear friend-across-the-oceans.

      • I live in a town and I often yearn for the countryside – I always think that I’d find more awe-inspiring sights there and more to write about than in this urban environment – much of my life is about going to work with all that involves. Fortunately there are always spaces I can go to, some of them small, that revive me. I hope that you find some small sacred spots in your new environment where you can be the you that you wish for.

      • Thank you so much. Your writing is so rich in detail and vivid that reading it is like walking beside you and experiencing the landscape!
        It comforts the soul, as no doubt, so many of your blogger friends must have told.

  2. Gopikrishnan Gopalakrishnan says:

    Sylvia, the city can pollute the sky and blur the vision. The stars are no longer visible, sun rises and sunsets gets masked behind the high rises.
    As an unapologetic middle class, I believe the life is beyond the iphones and the Luxury sedans. The fresh smell from these fade away fast and the depreciating ego remains:-)
    Give him more of the wonders and freedom of the middle class he can brag about.
    I am sure he will be so proud to have had them some day!

    • Thank you, Gopi. I gave up trying to watch the meteor showers- the Orinoid showers were supposed to be visible in end October. Since the Orion is the only constellation that I can identify, was excited. But it was Deepawal days – the sky was so light polluted that couldn’t see a single shooting star.

      How I miss the night skies of my youth!

      I am an unapologetic middle classer too. What worries me is that my son’s generation is (unwittingly) attaching more importance to things. Rather than on the more important things.

  3. Thanks for sharing this touching elegy.

    … Mostly people walk by without a second glance …
    This seems to be the coping mechanism of many these days, the world over.
    It seems to me we’re all becoming migrants among migrants whose communities are being lost.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Ashen.
      I am in India, but a rootless Indian, without a community.
      Probably this is a symptom of getting old, but I have started to dislike the way the world is changing now. Hate, intolerance and what suspiciously looks like veiled fascism. So many nations going down that road! Keep hoping for a mindset change.

  4. A moving and beautifully written post…
    my daughter in law creates a village around her in whichever big city she is living in, and I think this is the way to survive lovingly in a big city jungle…
    Village life is the natural way of life for us all, and the place in which we can be happy wherever we are… I hope you are able to find or create your village in the city, and show your son the joys of friendship and kindness as well as the materialist gifts of being middle class ! best wishes…

    • Thank you so much for visiting, Valerie, and for your kind words. In my country, environmental protection was not a priority, though it is slowly changing now. I cannot agree more with you- village life comes much more naturally to me also. Materially, employment in a city has accorded much; but a piece of the soul had to be given in exchange. So happy for your daughter-in-law; and blessings. The world needs more people like her.

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