And then she said, “It was me all along…”
As he stared into her eyes, his heart registered no surprise. For hadn’t he always known this truth? From the time he was a toddler of 3 months when she had first realized her son’s gift, it had always been his mom making it all happen for him
He remembered how he was then, barely managing to crawl but already able to create music by banging his dinky cars together in beat or turning a plate and spoon into a makeshift melody box. No one, not his dad, grandparents, assorted neighbours could tell the difference between the sounds he produced and the general cacophony that kids carry as an omnipresent aura around themselves. But his mother, with not a shred of musicality in her veins or in her DNA saw the method in her son’s melee.
So she recorded his banging and clattering and sought audiences with musical maestros to figure the answer to the question that all parents grapple with nowadays – is there something special about my child?
Now considering she was just a middle class housewife married to a mid-level State Bank employee, she had zero access to any avenues that could facilitate striking up an acquaintance with any of these musically gifted gentlemen. But she didn’t let that stop her.
Armed with nothing more than a list of recording studios in the city she proceeded to stalk and haunt composers on their way in and out of the rhythm havens. Many a time she was verbally abused by a fed up musician. At times she was physically man handled and shoved away from getting close to the composers or their fancy cars. Once she was even carted off to the police lockup and kept there for 3 hours. It did not dissuade her in the slightest. On the contrary she made the other captives and ultimately the law enforcement folks listen to the sounds her son had created.
Finally it was a septuagenarian music arranger who decided that the only way to end this nuisance once and for all was to listen to the damned recording, till his obsessed mother that it was all bullshit and send her off packing on the wings of shattered dreams.
Only after listening to what the boy had created, he found himself incapable of harsh words, in fact of any kind of speech at all. He saw then, what the mother had known all along – that the boy was a prodigy.
The arranger, though part of a self-serving, scheming industry was a kind soul and had a soft spot for budding talent. So he used his good offices with the city’s premier pianist and musician par excellence – a man who spent more time with European Philharmonics than in the city of his birth, and prevailed upon the latter to extract ten precious minutes from his triple booked schedule and spend them with the boy who was now 4 and still making music with kiddy instruments.
The doyenne was not peeved. He knew the arranger wasn’t the kind of man to just randomly foist on him, some upstart child with delusional parents. So he allowed the kid into his own music boudoir and allowed him to run riot with his 200,000 dollar Steinway.
Ten minutes into the session and the older man knew he was in the presence of potential greatness. Only the potential needed to be harnessed, giving form, the diamond needed to be polished before it could become a thing of beauty and awe, in perpetuity. He could do what was needed but only catch was he was a wanderer flitting from continent to continent, stage to concert hall. If only the boy could travel with him…
But only the mother could make that decision.
For it wasn’t just a question of the boy going. A five year old couldn’t fend for himself. But how could the mother leave everything and just take off. There was a husband, home, in laws…
The mother of course didn’t even blink once when the proposition was put to her. She gave her answer and came home and told her husband what she intended to do. As can be expected all hell break loose. The husband and in laws screamed their abuse, told her it was out of the question, no way would they allow it, and any case it was all a stupid pipe dream. (All this is the watered down, made suitable for family audiences version – the original involved accusations and aspersions on the mother’s character or lack of it with insinuations about why she really wanted to go off with the maestro.)
She heard it all calmly and then informed them that she had already, in anticipation, started divorce and custody proceedings. And had popped into the bank, taken out all her jewellery and stree dhan.
Her only condition to her son’s would be mentor was that she would not take a penny of his money, not for travel, nor for living. She would fend for herself, thus keeping her self-respect and the sanctity of their relationship intact and beyond reproach.
And she did. But it wasn’t easy. Let’s not forget that our lady’s qualifications and abilities didn’t stretch beyond cooking, cleaning, looking after kids. Which from a classical chauvinistic viewpoint would seem like diddley squat in terms of making a living. But this ordinary, middle class, housewife turned exactly these humble abilities into her means of sustenance. Sure she had to turn herself into nothing more than a maidservant not to mention working around the clock make ends meet but she didn’t care.
For when her darling son sat with her every evening and told her what he had learnt that day, played her pieces, when she watched him wowing audiences and far older and more experienced musicians, nothing else mattered, just that he should fulfil his destiny.
And for 13 years, that’s how things went. She slaved, he studied and practised and perfected his craft. To the point where the most sought after Music Conservatory in the world was more than eager to take him in, despite his having just barely crossed 18.
Unfortunately that’s when he fell in love…
So what’s the big deal one might say? Thing was that unlike most kids who had their first hormonal rush soon after or just before entering their teens and got done with the obsessive, all-consuming madness of first love by the time adulthood and its attendant responsibilities came their way, our prodigy had reserved all his passion for the creation and playing of music. Until now, when he could think of nothing but the object of his affection, spending time with her, doing things for her. It wasn’t even as if his love was spurring him to create great art. Totally the contrary – he was neglecting his music and putting at risk his glorious future for which his mother had sacrificed her all..
His mentor, the Dean at the Conservatory, his teachers, even a couple of his colleagues who weren’t the envious, self-serving sort, were all appalled and tried their best to reason with him, talk sense into him.
All in vain.
That’s when his mother took matters into her hand. She didn’t bother trying to drill sense into his head, she knew he wasn’t thinking straight, intoxicated by what he saw as the love of a lifetime, he was incapable of understanding…
Instead she went to the root of the problem – her son’s inamorata.
Only the two women knew what was discussed in that meeting. But after that the musical genius received a terse sms from his lady love breaking off all relations and informing him that they would never meet again.
Naturally he was distraught, tried calling, meeting her. But she was gone – her phone was disconnected, her flat had been given up. No forwarding address, no trail… nothing.
He felt like he had nothing to live for. So he gave up on everything, just stayed in bed or on the couch, crying or moaning softly, at times alternating the pattern with screaming at the heavens or throwing things at the walls.
His mother let him. She laid out food which was mostly untouched, changed the sheets, picked up the wreckage of what had been sacrificed at the altar of his pain. Not once did she try and chivvy him out of it or mention music or that he was moping his life away.
Most importantly she never mentioned her meeting with his ex-lover.
One day he woke to find his violin near his bed. He tried to look away, ignore it but it seemed to exude a magnetic pull that would not be denied. Ultimately he took it on his hands. And gave vent to all his heartbreak and agony through his gift.
It was as if the floodgates had been opened. After that he just couldn’t stop playing music, making music. Only now there was a different quality to his compositions, they were layered with pain, textured with love and loss. The boy prodigy was gone and in his place was a man, one who had been matured like a fine wine so that now there wasn’t just sweetness, but tart, acidity, a bitter bite – all melded together to a rich, complex whole.
His mother was content. Nothing could stop her son now from scaling the pinnacles of the musical world…
And he did. In the coming three decades the world danced to his tunes, laughed and cried, celebrated and mourned to the accompaniment of his music.
His erstwhile mentor, now on his death bed had little that he could ask from life. His every wish, ambition had been gratified, the phenomenal success of his foremost pupil being the crowning glory of his illustrious career. And yet there was one thing stuck in his conscience which would not let him be at peace. Nor embrace oblivion.
He knew he would have to have the chat…
The musical genius sat next to the bed where his former guru laid. He had to bend his head down to hear what his master had to say cause the latter’s energy was ebbing fast.
There were just six words.
“I’m sorry I told your mother…”
The younger man couldn’t understand. He tried to ask for elucidation but the teacher was gasping for breath and had to be put back on the respirator.
Our hero pondered over the words, tried to make some sense of it, before finally giving up and going to the source for clarification.
His mother stared at him, fondly but also taking stock. She wasn’t concerned about whether he would angry with her or what their future relationship would be. As always she was concerned about just one thing – that his musical career should not be imperilled.
Then she smiled. Perhaps in her scan, her mind had flashed over her son’s entire musical journey from banging dinky cars to crafting out complex symphonies. She knew he was safe now. Music and he were wedded to each other so firmly that nothing could drive a wedge between them, not even the enormity of what she was about to tell him.
About that day soon after her son had joined the conservatory when his mentor had come to her lamented the fact that his pupil’s musical and technical genius was coming out in his compositions but they lacked true feeling. Perhaps because his only relationship had been with music, he had never experienced that intensity, that depth of emotion vis-a-vis another living person. And this lack of life experience was now showing up in his music.
The mother thought about what she had heard calmly and knew just what she had to boy. Her son had to experience love – every aspect of it – from the heights of passion to the depths of heartbreak. And it all had to happen at once, she couldn’t wait for Fickle Fate’s intervention.
So she made it happen, every step, every event – all as per her direction.
As she put it, “it was me all along…”