Sunday 1 March 2015

Prose500 2015 Longlist, Namitha Varma Rajesh

For a Moment There…

It was a boring day in the office. Anagha was listening to songs on YouTube, searching for some old melodies and playing a few in a loop till her mind stopped listening to the tune or lyrics. She was working on a powerpoint presentation on the trends in plastics manufacturing in the last decade, and she had to have it ready in four hours for the boss’s eyes. She’d finished about four slides, but her mind refused to stay focused on the job.

She hit next on YouTube’s readymade playlist of Carnatic classical songs without even pausing to watch what song was lined up. It wasn’t until the singer hit a high note that she sat up with a jolt. She suddenly became a twelve-year-old girl, making dosas for dinner and listening to M S Subbalakshmi croon Swathi Thirunal’s Bhavayami Raghuramam in her divine voice.

The girl was trying to memorise the lyrics of the song. She was trying to remember the tune, the notes, the swaras – she was hoping to be able to sing it to her stepfather and surprise him. Her stepdad was lying supine on the sofa, nodding his head and shaking his legs to the rhythm of the song. She took a plate of dosas to him – he looked up and smiled at her. “There’s no one like Subbalakshmi.” She smiled and nodded and ran to the kitchen to tend to the dosas.

She didn’t know how long she had been staring at the video recording of Subbalakshmi singing the bhajan . Tears shimmered down her cheek. It was her stepfather. He wasn’t even a nice man, her still-purple bruises reminded her. But it was a semblance of family – pleasant music wafting through the house, the simple dinner, her mother singing a lullaby to her two-year-old brother … and something was better than nothing.

She dabbed off the tears from her cheek, looked around to ensure none of her colleagues was watching her, closed the YouTube webpage, and returned to her presentation. It took her around an hour to finish it. She worked for another thirty minutes on fine-tuning it. She wanted the boss to be sufficiently impressed.

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