A Musical Unravelling 

‘You know you cannot possibly always have an excuse. This holiday actually means something to me, Neal.’
The Gothic Quarters in Barcelona is one of those places where time truly stops. There is this sense of incomplete wonder about it which ensures that everyone standing witness to it is left a tad bit amazed and at the same time in awe of their surroundings. The tall walls and narrow streets ensure you are always boxed in and not able to ever completely take in the entire moment. You are chancing upon cafes, souvenir shops and lovers kissing and children running after pigeons. There is a constant shadow that isn’t taking away the sun from you but only introducing it to you at those little street corners where you want to take a break and notice people going by or just light up a cigarette and get your thoughts together. Barcelona, is undoubtedly stunning, but the Quarters is where you get to take a little time off and proceed with life in its fullest and coziest.

It’s where lovers meet to reconcile and build on something beautiful. But on this rather sunny day, Neal and Ayesha had decided that an itch so unbearable was due for some treatment.
‘Ayesha, I cannot understand how you see me just asking you whether we should head back to Paris a day earlier, comes in the way of some dream of living in Barcelona. It’s a simple request that comes from a place of practicality and which really doesn’t change any plan so drastically.’
Ayesha, had parked herself at one of those street corners. She was trembling with anger, and decided to light herself a cigarette with no intention of allowing it to calm her down. Neal, who had just quit smoking before the trip watched her in horror as she lit it up. This was not going to be pretty.
‘Good job on lighting that cigarette by the way. Real mature.’
Ayesha took in a few quick puffs and exhaled like she wanted to breathe out fire instead of the smoke.
‘Neal, screw you and you trying to quit smoking. I really care a damn about it because that is your bloody battle. For now, all I care about is your insane logic of trying to leave earlier. I don’t see how getting back to Paris will help. Our flight is the morning after we reach Paris, there is no need to panic, just because you heard someone had an issue on the trains. That cannot determine our bloody holiday.’
They were screaming, rather unabashedly, and people didn’t spare a second look, mostly because they didn’t understand what was being said. For the few who did, just didn’t really care. The weather and the city was too beautiful to be spent on agitating about someone else’s tiff.
‘All I’m asking for is that we exercise a little caution because we have heard of not one, not two, but three fucking people who got into Paris late because of their trains delaying them. Can we not under estimate something as serious as this. And I’m not asking for us to leave back to India from here. I’m just saying we head back to Paris, spend an extra day there. Go back to some of the patisseries we liked or even that club in Bastille or the café in Montmartre. It’s really not that bad a deal. ‘

Phoolon Ke Rang Se Dil Ki Kalam Se Tujhko Likhi Roz Paati

Kaise Bataaoon Kis Kis Tarah Se Pal Pal Mujhe Tu Sataati

Tere Hi Sapne Lekar Ke Soya Teri Hi Yaadon Mein Jaaga

Tere Khayaalon Mein Uljha Raha Yoon Jaise Ki Maala Mein Dhaaga

Both Ayesha and Neal paused for a bit as they heard the song echo and vibrate through the walls. The beauty of street musicians in the Quarters was that they could be singing in any corner of the winding mazes of the Quarters, but their voice would magically transport itself across the walls. And, especially, when the song was a Kishore Kumar classic from another time, the quotient of magic on which it began to unfold was rather stunning. Both Ayesha and Neal, mid argument, began to walk towards this voice. In the middle of Spain, it seemed that someone knew a song from a bygone movie of a long forgotten era. Maybe all wasn’t lost yet.
They walked in silence for a while until Ayesha couldn’t keep it in anymore.
‘Neal, do you have a problem with me and my love for this city? Like is there some strange blend of jealousy and insecurity about me having this deep connection with something other than you? I mean, not like I can say I understand but it would atleast seem to make sense if there was some deep seated shit like that hiding somewhere deep down there. Or else I fail to understand why you never have seemed to quite wrap your head around why I love this city so much and why heading out even a day earlier is fucking pissing off!’
Haan Badal Bijli Chandan Pani Jaisa Apna Pyar

Lena Hoga Janam Humein Kayi Kayi Baar

Haan Itna Madir Itna Madhur Tera Mera Pyar

Lena Hoga Janam Hameh Kayi Kayi Baar

His voice pierced through their argument for a brief second and left them quiet. There was no shame in allowing ego to be suppressed with wonder for a bit. They both felt like this was a Spaniard singing but unsure how his accent could be so perfect. Either way, this was a song that seemed to pull at their heart in a way that nothing had in the past few days. Like all the bickering of the last few days was so miniscule in relation to this moment right here. Like why were things so unhappy when a moment as surreal as this could happen, in this city, in this place, and that song, That song.
They snapped back into action as they continued to walk unknowingly in search of the voice.
‘Ayesha, you sound bloody demented now. You really think I am insecure of a city! Like what the hell does that even mean. Yes, I do not understand your so called spiritual connect with this city. For god’s sake you have just been here three days. Three fucking days. The rest is what you have read about it. That doesn’t make you a part of anything. And you talk about me being jealous. I don’t even bloody know where to begin with that fuck all question..’
‘ There is no science to this Neal. I do not expect you to understand this..’
‘No no Ayesha don’t you dare go down that route of not expecting to understand this. No way. There is nothing to understand. I mean I actually would have loved this city if you hadn’t decided to descend into this whole ‘made for this city’ bullshit you have been doling out for the past few days. It’s really pathetic and a dampener to what I’m trying to do, which is to enjoy the city like a normal human being.’

‘ That right there is the problem with you Neal, you refuse to see it from my perspective. There is magic here for me, there is mystery and there is a connection which your mind cannot comprehend. When we were at that café in Born yesterday, I trailed away because there was this house, at the balcony of which stood this old lady who looked at me for long and continued staring until she decided to walk back in. At that empty balcony after she left, I felt like I saw myself. Like I could be there or could have been there or should be there right now. Like I should be living here for some reason. Like it feels so right.’

They turned another corner and seemed to close in on the voice.

Purab Ho Paschim Uttar Ho Dakkin Tu Har Jagah Muskuraye

Jitna Hi Jaoon Main Door Tujhse Utni Hi Tu Paas Aaye

Aandhi Ne Roka Pani Ne Toka Duniya Ne Hanskar Pukara

Tasveer Teri Lekin Liye Main Kar Aaya Sab Se Kinara

Ayesha I’m all about finding meaning and losing ourselves in our trip but after a while it gets numbing. Like it’s all there is. I’m also here right, I too am contributing in some way in making this trip what it is. I don’t need acknowledgement, but I atleast need some bloody attention. Or find a way to involve me in this feeling. I mean something ya..’

‘That’s exactly what I thought. You are bloody jealous and just because you can’t understand this feeling you need some sort of reinforcement of your presence. That’s just such a stupid bloody expectation..’

‘It’s not an expectation Ayesha, it’s bloody normal..’

‘Normal is you trying Neal. Trying to see it from my eyes. Trying to be a bloody sport on a holiday that deserves..’

‘Sport! Sport to your fucking fantasy. Do I look mad like you?’

‘It’s not about being mad, I mean if this is so hard..’

And there he was. He was about 65 years old. He wore a slightly tattered coat with what seemed to be a white shirt that had lost some of its color over years of being on the street. His hat was like a part of his head, comfortably propped there and not planning to leave. He had a thick beard, messy but something alluring about it. But most of all it was his eyes, he looked plainly back at the audience in front of him. Very little emotion but so much to say. He had no instruments, just his voice and the walls for the acoustics. He looked at everyone and then he looked at Neal and Ayesha, briefly, but intently. They had paused their argument. Ayesha took a step back and allowed Neal to be alone in front of the man as he sang. Neal stood there. He was aware but transfixed. He wasn’t there anymore, not completely atleast. It was a song from his world in another part of the world and suddenly nothing seemed alien anymore. There was no argument, no concerns about trains or missing a flight. It was just him, standing on a tiny street in Barcelona and that man, and that song. It all came together for him as between his anger subsiding and a gripping smile taking over him, he felt a tear and eventually some more. He wasn’t even sure why. 

He turned to Ayesha, who stood a little away looking only at Neal. She smiled looking at his face and she couldn’t believe it. Nor could he. In that one moment, they both discovered each other  again..Simple.

Haan Badal Bijli Chandan Pani Jaisa Apna Pyar

Lena Hoga Janam Hume Kayi Kayi Baar

Haan Itna Madir Itna Madhur Tera Mera Pyar

Lena Hoga Janam Hameh Kayi Kayi Baar

Kayi Kayi Baar

Kayi Kayi Baar

A Musical Unravelling 

Drawing a Parallel

‘I think it’s all the writing that makes you romantic, but i’m not sure if you really are or is at all a pretense choreographed for me?’

Neal stared at Ayesha for a while. Smiled and then abruptly wiped the smile off his face because he realised he did not have an answer. So he allowed her to dig that dagger in a little deeper.

‘ You see Neal, after a point, after all these days of you being so unbelievably nice and patient with all that has been going on between us, we finally sit here completely out of sync in terms of how we really feel about each other. I still remember that note you had sent me at work. I still can’t believe you came all the way to my workplace to just leave it at the reception and go all the way back to work. That was cute. Those words were magical and dinner later that night was all I could ask for. I still have no clue how you know the days I want to be in my jammies and eat Maggie and the days I need many many drinks and loads of recklessness. You just seem to have that hold on me, yet it feels like you are constantly just trying to get it right. At what point is it just going to be the real ‘you’, unhinged and possibly making a wrong move?’

Neal was confused, still speechless and not sure where this was going still. He tried a few words in his head but Ayesha was already at the top of another wave that was going to hit hard.

‘Neal. Are you really interested in me or is this all some sort of way of rescuing yourself from your demons or whatever the hell you keep hidden in that head of yours?’

Neal took a deep breath. A little hit, a little confused but mostly a lot lost in her eyes. He hadn’t felt this before. He hadn’t been assaulted in years in this manner. She wasn’t rude, she wasn’t even insulting. She was just asking very real questions to which he had answers but he wasn’t sure where they really were.

‘You know Ayesha, when I was really young, I remember watching the Republic Day parade at home. I think I was about 11 or 12 and it was tradition at home to watch all the Republic Day parades. I would be the first one to wake up that day and put on the TV and quickly turn on the Mute before it fully comes on to avoid the sound which would wake up Mom and Dad. I would watch in wonder as the Prime Minister’s convoy would drive in. In such perfect and practiced coordination, the doors to the cars would open. Seeing the marching soldiers escorting him with their incredibly smart salutes would always leave me with goosebumps. It was always the might and not the grandeur that would amaze me. You would have every state drive through with a tableau talking about their cultural relevance to the country. But that was just ornamental for me. The real joy was in seeing the soldiers marching, the squadrons of tanks driving through, the mounted cavalry units especially the camels. And then the jets. The jets Ayesha. The sight of them do those ‘vertical charlies’. Man, nothing back then left me so shocked and amazed at the same time. Every year used to be the same routine. The same thrills and the same sense of disappointment once it got over. I would spend the rest of the day replaying every bit in my head and I wish there was YouTube back then, but maybe it was beautiful because of that. I would talk at the lunch and dinner table endlessly about what a jet did mid-flight or the paint on the tanks. Everything about it fascinated me. That fascination was unhinged, it was pure and it was the last time in my life I didn’t need anything outside of what rested in front of my eyes to amaze me. That was the last time in my life, all those years till I turned 18 maybe, that I did not need to motivate myself to be truly moved by something. The Republic Day parade isn’t the same anymore for me. It doesn’t excite me that way and nor do I look forward to it the same way. It was the last true moment of unadulterated joy for me. Since then everything has required a layer of sugar and fiction. My first promotion was great only because I got myself to believe that it would lead to better access within the organisation. My first pair of expensive running shoes was enchanting because I hoped like hell that it would improve my running times and change the way I feel on the road. My favorite restaurant isn’t great because of how I feel there, it is because of the people I go there with and that one waiter who always gives me an extra bit of dessert. I love my car, because of the sound system in it, my  house because of my neighborhood, my job because of the people around me, my phone because it helps me brag. There isn’t an ounce of unhinged and real joy attached to any of it.’

Now Ayesha needed to take a breath as Neal held her hand.

‘Do I need to draw more parallels for you Ayesha?’ He said with a big smile now.

She smiled. A little surprised with his reply but fully understanding him.

‘No you don’t Neal. I think I got my answer. I wish it was shorter though. Now show me those Republic Day Parade eyes’

‘It’s the only eyes I have for you.’

They laughed. And they moved on to live another day in love, doubt and wonder…


Drawing a Parallel