The rhythm of percussion carried a reverberating resplendence in Sriram’s house. Its residents had gotten used to the earthy beats for ten years now, thanks to Sriram’s 14 year old son, Krishnan.
While charting out his duties as a father, Sriram had made a mental note not to interfere in his son’s likes or interests and give him free reins towards them. On Krishnan’s third birthday, Sriram had heard rhythmic beats coming from the hall. On entering it, he saw little Krishnan squatting in the middle of the coffee table and tapping it with his tiny fingers. There was not even a trace of hesitation in those fingers…there was not even a single beat out of tune. That was the day Sriram decided to take his son’s future into his hands.
Eleven years since that day, his son was on the verge of fame. All the hard work that Krishnan had done was going to pay off. His first major Ghatam concert was scheduled for the evening. Krishnan was glad that he had chosen the Ghatam, or rather, the instrument had chosen him. Ghatam was the most difficult percussion instrument to master, due to its fragility and the subtle pressure related theories it required. There were minute adjustments one made with the opening of the Ghatam, its position with respect to the chest and the constant shuffling of the ghatam to effect the finer nuances in the thaalams or beats. The force generated by the wrist of the player was of extreme importance when playing the Ghatam. Krishnan had learnt this the hard way, breaking 4 pots before figuring out the exact magnitude required. But he felt he had now reached a stage where he can express his individuality through his instrument. The prospects of the big evening sent a surge of adrenaline coursing through him. After continuous persuasion, his Guru, Mr. Suresh, had managed to confirm the presence of the great Ghatam maestro, Vikku Vinayakram, for the concert. The mere thought of performing before his idol sent shivers down Krishnan’s spine.
Hurdles were never hindrances as far as Krishnan was concerned, as he had crossed many of them since his childhood. But, since morning, his whole body seemed to be weighed down by some uneasiness. It was not the usual jitter he used to have before a performance. This was something else…he was sure it was something else, but what was it?? He couldn’t pinpoint a reason for any of the happenings since morning…the ill fated breaking of his Ghatam during the practice, which had not happened for the past 5 years; the inauspicious stumble in front of the temple; the uninterrupted headache he was having. It was as if he was receiving a message, only he was finding it difficult to decipher.
He decided to put all of it behind him and focus on the job at hand. He and his father left for the concert by bike. It was a clear sunny day and the traffic was pretty sparse. That is a good sign, thought Krishnan. Just as he was beginning to ease himself off his worries, the bike came to a sudden halt. How much ever his father tried, it wouldn’t budge. Neither he nor his father had any idea as to what the problem was. As his father parked the bike in a corner of the road and hailed an auto, Krishnan gazed at the bike…what was wrong with it??
The whirring of the Auto’s engine almost blanketed the sound of the steady pattering of rain drops onto the top sheet. The pattering transformed into pelting and soon there was a storm beginning to rage. Krishnan was perplexed. What a dramatic weather change it was; moments ago was the sun smiling…and now this!! The traffic also seemed to have picked up and the auto was moving at snail’s pace in the congestion.
As Krishnan shifted his position on the seat to accommodate his Ghatam he heard a huge crash…even before he knew what was happening, he felt excruciating pain…something was crushing him…something huge…he knew he was never going to cross this final hurdle…the 20 feet tree was too big for him.
He lay on his belly with his right hand secure around his Ghatam. The last gasp of his life left through his fingers in the form of a final Jathi.
‘Trees are Earth’s endless efforts to speak to heaven’, he had read somewhere. It was absolutely true in his case…
Footnote: A tribute to the young Ghatam Vidwan, Krishnan, who died on 27th September 2009, under the immense pressure of a carelessly planted tree...may his soul rest in peace.