What can take you back in time? For Surbhi, it was a majestic black guitar. A story of long lost love and the magic of music.
The well-lit staff-room appeared all dark and enclosed like a black box as I sat there looking at the two-small cut on the middle finger and the ring finger of my left hand. The fourth-floor staffroom was one room that was supposedly a well-ventilated room in the college. One, that was always graced by the kissing sunlight coming directly from the open verandah and bringing with itself a vibe so positive that it almost turned the room into a pious zone breathing in the air of serenity. My eyes kept wandering to-and-fro from my two injured fingers to the black beauty resting on the wall, in front of me. Today was supposed to be a class for my students that would enrich them musically and make them understand the soul of the music and its aesthetic value, as we slowly divulged deeper into the topic but then again, my life has never been the one that would turn out to be a replica of my planning book.
Generally, I would play a video or audio as a teaching-aid for my students but this year it was different, different as in, I had this strong urge to play the actual musical instrument rather than using the virtual aids. And the end result of this was that what was supposed to be an enriching experience for my girls, turned out to a draining experience for my soul. Maybe, that was the reason I was here on the fourth floor’s empty staff room instead of the first floor’s general staffroom; trying to recover myself, build back the Professor Surbhi Mukherjee, who joked and made the students smile but was strict in her work, from the broken pieces of the college-girl Surbhi, who used to love the fresh breeze on her face and found rhythm and melody in every piece of life.
I had never expected that something so simple, something that had been nothing but a black guitar, would still have the power to dig so deep that it would succeed in dragging out a girl that had been long asleep, resting in the grave of her soul. Then again, it had been four long years! One thousand, four hundred and sixty days of the void! And I was ignorant of the power it still had over me.
I remember the moment I freed the guitar from its cover in the class, the girls were excited at the sight of guitar in my hand and I was anxious and nervous but veiling it from the world with a well-practiced smile, but the moment I had touched the strings it unlocked the emotion long chained. The first note of the strings made me go back in a flashback, one where the same strings had a different set of fingers caressing it. A note turned into a couple of melodies and with a cheer from the enthusiastic girls and a tug from somewhere deep within, the melodies took a turn of the songs, successfully teleporting me back to the shade of the tree in University compound.
A girl with brown hairs, wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans, her hairs flowing freely with the blowing winds as she matched her voice with the fingers strumming the strings of the black beauty. Dressed in a blue shirt and blue jeans, with his hairs cut short, the tall and well-built man smiled as he played while looking at the girl beside him. The parallel melody of her voice and his guitar created a music so soulful and enchanting that forced each and every pair of ears in the hearing range to go into a daze. The two sang together, lost in their own world. Those were the days when the girl was too carefree to consider about what the parents, teachers, friends or society would say about her choices and was busy building and living in a world that was her oasis from the inferno raging in the world outside campus.
How she longed to meet the carefree smile once again! To feel once again the pair of lips that would regularly kiss her bandaged fingers! To have a moment to blabber and complaint about the whole world as the pair of black orbs adored her! Today her fingers were bandaged once again, but there was no one she could call out to kiss away her pain. The burning sensation of her fingers provided a nostalgic satisfaction to her, as if reminding her that she was still alive with a part breathing within her, one that she had hidden away from the judgmental eyes.
How lost she had been in the flow of music during her class! A class that started with a note concluded to be a live concert, where her girls sang aloud to the music she produced from her guitar. She still failed to understand whether it was the request of the girls or the bespeaking desire of the petitioner long-lost, that she had started singing a song so dear and pious to her, YARA SILLI SILLI VIRAH KI RAAT KA JALNA….. The silence in the class was a prove in itself of the appreciation from the girls. She knew that she had thirty-four pair of ears listening to her in a state of awe but her closed eyes only cared for the black orbs that sat in front of her, still adoring her like He did a decade ago. She felt that she was eighteen once again and he was sitting right there, in front of her, looking as she strummed the melody of her heart.
“I want you to focus on your post-graduation while I am away, training myself to earn the uniform of my dreams. Remember this is not a good-bye, it is a promise that will keep us alive and strong while we are away from each other.” His words still gave her the assurance like it did almost seven years ago. His voice still loud and clear as he sang his heart out for the last time before taking her leave. That night the university campus had seen a magic brewing and weaving an emotion in a song that was as fresh as the waving willows, even after seven years.
Once again, her hand found their way towards the memory gleaming in the black guitar resting in front of her. MALAY – the name printed in cursive and bold, smiling at her, as her hands caressed his name on the guitar. That had been her gift to him. She had specifically avoided him and stole his guitar that day, just so that she could write his name on the instrument. That had been her parting gift to him. Sub-consciously, her fingers started strumming the piece of AE DIL-E-NADAAN…. making her dive, once again, in the treasured past, a secret she had kept from the world.
It had been two years of his service in army and he was due to come back any day now, for her. She had also kept their promise and had got herself a seat in the Ph.D. course in the same university that had been the witness of their relation blooming and nurturing with the passage of time. It was a conscious decision on her part. The walls of the university made her feel closer to him.
She was in her small oasis when a storm had hit the land and successfully trespassed the high walls of her sanctuary. She was not broken when she received the black memoire that she had given to him as his parting gift. Everything that belonged to him was given to his family and the only thing she received with the dreadful news was that black guitar- that had weaved their love. She never cried, nor did she allow anyone to feel what she felt. She had silently accepted the guitar and the news delivered to her by one of Malay’s fellow soldier. The only thing that reflected upon her life was that she gave up the music that had been her life, their life. She sold each and every instrument she owned but for the black guitar. The guitar had found a perfect place in her life, her room, her silence and her grief.
It was four long years without Him and for the first time in these years she had unchained the guitar from its cover. She convinced herself that it was only out of love she had for this particular batch but somewhere deep, the girl in the grave knew it was because the day had been the day when they parted their ways. The girls were sorry when she had cut her fingers while playing the guitar. Little did they knew that the cut was not an injury that would pain her, it was something that brought her peace and a smile. After four long years, she had met Malay again, he was there right with her. And then a strong breeze blew and she felt a light sensation on her fingers.
“Malay” she said breathing in his presence. For the first time in these years, she felt the tear drop rolling down her eyes as she felt Malay kissing her bandaged fingers.