At sixteen (yes, how cliched!) I watched Charulata. And discovered the soft, gentle world of Bengali music I had only known in snatches until then, through the occasional performance during a school Annual Day. I also made a promise to myself – that The Boy would be one who knew and could sing this song:
A few years later, I fell in love. With a man whose films I wrote a dissertation on, simply so that I could lie in the magical light and shade of his movies, wallow in the searing lyrics of his songs, lose myself in the dark gaze of his eyes. And then I set down a new test, a harsher one. The Boy would know the lyrics and meaning to this song:
and be able to sing this one:
Boys came and went, few with any inkling that a man such as Guru Dutt Padukone once walked this earth. Those that did could not sing. One did attempt playing Chaudvin ka chaand on a jal tarang, but I will be kind to him and say no more.
Years later, I did find The Boy, but had forgotten all about my promise to myself. I think it may have been then the lilting Lalita he played or the haunting Sindhubhairavi or even the devout Kalyanavasantam that erased all memory of my strict conditions.
And then one day last week, I woke to a strangely familiar humming. The Boy had been up hours before me as always and was sitting at the desk, coffee in hand. He turned to me and asked, “Do you know the words to that Charulata song?”
A sweeter question has never been heard.