At around 4 every evening, as I settle down with my cup of tea, the sound of mrdngam being played drifts through the window to my left, setting a mellow mood in the golden evening light.
The player - a neighbour aged somewhere between 83 and 87.
He walks diligently every evening, stopping to catch his breath in between. He does not carry a stick for support, and sometimes has a bag of vegetables he has bought from the shop outside. He carefully makes his way between boys playing aggressive football in the complex, random cars and younger children running hither and thither.
Every time I greet him, I have to introduce myself - not because he cannot remember people or things, but because his vision is hazy despite the thick glasses he wears. And every time he will apologise to me for not recognising me instantly - at his age, he needn't care.
So yesterday I stopped by and expressed my appreciation for the pleasant aura his mrdngam creates in the evening and the diligence with which he practices the instrument.
He told me the story of his love for this instrument that made me stop in wonder.
He had initially learnt mrdngam when he was 10 for a few years from a leading guru. Then because of work he had to give it up. At the age of 62, he decided to revive his passion and approached Music Academy. He found a guru, another leading mrdngam vidwan. Then, when he was in his 70s, he started a school so that young boys maybe initiated in this art. But there were many dropouts, because boys nowadays want to learn the drums, the banjo or keyboard. It hurts him even to say this.
It was with great effort I restrained myself to ask him to do something similar in our complex. He is eighty plus, and I need him to initiate my son into an instrument that elevates me always when I am dancing?
He stunned me again when he said, "When I see the meditation hall here, I want to bring a guru for the boys in this building." My jaw dropped. But still I held my tongue - for my son doesn't seem too keen on the gentler arts, preferring sports. Seeing a cricket bat in my hand he asked, "You were playing cricket?"
"No, this is my son's. He is seven years old."
"I shall enlist him also when we start the class."
Does passion wane with age? I bowed to him mentally.
And, oh, he explained to me why he can't recognise me. "Your hairstyle keeps changing, so I tend to get confused. Please don't mistake me."
This time, I was truly speechless.