It was 1978. Rain was incessantly pouring outside. For a young man who had just shifted to this part of the world, such rain was nothing short of a catastrophic, but for the people of that sleepy small town on the Konkan coast, it was just another day in their half-year lasting monsoons…they slept unfettered by the thunderstorms.
The young man had no idea of how things would shape up in this new place. Geared with his ambition to make a career in radio, he had recently joined as an engineering assistant to the Akashvani radio station of Ratnagiri.
Music and Mathematics were two of his greatest passions, the ones he had successfully nurtured since childhood.
If middle class would have allowed a luxury of choice between his passions – and had he made up his mind to sing and play the harmonium, he could’ve been a prodigy.
But nonetheless through his indigenous formulas, he soon treated numbers like musical notes… he would calculate huge numbers within seconds… like an illusionary creation of musical symphony… numbers and musical notes grew more alike.
So being the kid of the 60’s and in a family of 6… the academic route was the safest. After graduating in Physics, he grabbed the opportunity to work at the radio station as a technical assistant, something that combined his academics and his passion for music.
As Gulzar Sa’ab has famously said, ‘…jo lagaye ne lage aur bujhaye na bujhe…’ Passion never dies.
So even unknowingly, the kid… now a young man saw himself taking up the ‘engineers’ job at the ‘radio station’.
The rains showed no signs of letting up; the peon came into the technical room and brought with him a world full of solace: a cup of hot tea. With it also came the first job at hand - the young man was asked to inspect a technical error, none had been able to figure the lapse. The sound console was lying like a corpse that was turning colder every minute. The technical error had to be resolved to bring the radio station back to life.
He concentrated his sight on the wooden board, the board with the colours of the world descending on it in the form of the many different coloured wires. Soon the hot tea worked its magic, he noticed the two wires that were responsible for this technical glitch. The wires were separated from each other and to get the Sound console working, the wires needed soldering. The peon got the equipment and soon the dexterous hands started to repair the fault. But something strange happened then…something he hadn’t seen in the 23 monsoons of his life. Hardly, did he know that this ‘first’ incident were the ‘first’ of the symptoms to come, his troubles had still nine more years to come by.
As he was about to join two extremely thin wires through soldering, he couldn’t figure out the approximate distance between them! It was amusing, for an adept technician like him, joining two wires was not the hardest of the tasks. Little did he know that his amusement could lead to a frightening reality.
Scientifically, observing a very thin set of wires during soldering requires many of one’s eye nerves to concentrate on that small junction. And even after putting in several attempts, the young man still couldn’t notice the distance between those thin multi-colored wires. Finally, he had to give up. The Sound console couldn’t be repaired, even after successfully identifying the problem!
His apprehension got the better of him… neither did he mention this rather unusual occurrence to anyone, nor did he took up soldering in future.
Few months into the job, personal family reasons had him to leave the job at the radio station – thereby terminating a career close to music, however obliquely but still close to music. He returned to his hometown in Gujarat. The family needed him there.
Then – much like the quintessential small town middle class today, all that the family aspired was a government job for their son and the obvious perks associated with a stable job. Soon, the young man struck gold. He was appointed as a cashier in a centralized bank. The mother was ecstatic and the family members couldn’t have asked for a more suitable career. A few years passed, he got married, and soon ‘settled’ in his career and routine life. He’d to his good forgotten that obscure occurring on that rainy night in that coastal town, an incident which had left him baffled then… now rested in the deep forgotten pits of memory.
Life was looking up - sometime later, he fathered a beautiful angelic daughter.
And then came 1987. The year that he would never forget throughout his life. The young man and his two brothers, with their respective families decided to visit Kashmir. This was just a year before the Kashmir insurgency. (The insurgency has got nothing to do with this story though.) The joint family was enjoying the snowfall at a hill station near Gulmarg. They had just come out from a major Railway ticket-fiasco at Jammu (an incident I would narrate some day later, it’s a different story for a different day).
The weather was extremely cold. There were some tourists lurking around. The tough dark-brown horses were shuttling the tourists, the mules were carrying the heavy construction material and the locales were busying milking the tourist season.
While enjoying the snow, the eldest brother took out his film camera and asked the family to pose for a memorable picture. After all joint family trips, snow, Kashmir - all are a rarity. Our man was given the camera and asked to click a picture of his elder brother and his family.
As soon as our man held the camera, he was in for a surprise again… a surprise that would bring back a memory conveniently forgotten. He saw through the viewfinder and could easily see the family he was trying to take the picture of, but there was an electric pole besides the family, which appeared strange for some reason. No he wasn’t seeing a ghostly apparition… but on second thoughts – what followed wasn’t any less ghastly.
The sight left him cold. A certain portion of the pillar that was in the frame appeared bent from the middle. It was as if someone had hammered the vertical pole from the centre and taken its central part away from the vertical line. What was it?
To be continued…
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