Songs of the Sunflower Valley
Satya They told him the valley was haunted, pleasantly haunted though. The valley was littered with ghosts, but not the screaming homicidal kind, or the dhoti or sari tugging remnants of unfulfilled desire. These were ghostly songs, voices as clear as your mother's singing, coming out of an empty room or sometimes a flute melody barely heard above the wind. Satya had lived in the valley for years before his revelation. When he first arrived, he followed the songs around the valley as some did, and could make little sense of their hard and soft and coming and going. He gave up, and like the sunflowers covering the valley floor, spent his days staring out at the Sun and his nights inwards thinking of death. One night when it rained hard he was caught, up in the hills, with only a tree for shelter and a single mournful sarod tune for company. In the morning, he understood. The songs were always getting stronger. The songs moved backwards through time, no doubt being heard before their creators were even born. Satya remembered that once he could write and became a map maker, charting the songs of the sunflower valley, predicting which ones would be stronger each year, and the exact year of each future original. Radha The first thing she could remember was the violins. Three separate players, separate because one was softer than the first and louder than the last, but all three were in harmony. Before breath and her mother's breast, there was the music. These were the years Satya had predicted, the years of the original performances, and no one knew who the players or singers would be. There were sacred spots known all through the valley and at one such shadowless place, Radha waited with a hundred others, for the music to begin its beginning. They waited, and no one came. Days in the heat and not a sign, not a word or sound, and so much silence in the valley. On a sweaty restless day, a day of waiting, like all the others, when the sunflowers willingly blind themselves in the noonday sun, Radha steps out of the group of onlookers into a sacred space, sits down, and begins to sing. She knows the raga of the song and the words, because she has heard them all her life. The crowd will sit still and listen, and when she is done, bring her food, and shelter her as best they can in this houseless spot. They know now that she will repeat her performance day after day for days to come, until the song begins to echo far before her birth and far after her death. And all across the valley, a hundred and one musicians will pick themselves out of crowds and begin their music. Saraswati The songs are ending. Some of them are already gone. There are hardly any sunflowers left in the valley, just temples. The miracles have flowered and withered, but the priests are still around to suck them dry. Saraswati is a singer in secret. She sits behind temple walls, in hidden rooms to prop up a dying song with her own voice. But not today, today is a day gloriously inauspicious. The timings of the dying songs are so predictable now, that the priests can time their own chants before and after each event. Today however, the priest will be interrupted. Saraswati will walk out among the faithful, her voice still in song, continuing with notes that have dropped off from the end of the original over the years. Now the faithful remember - notes from their childhoods, familiar and sweet, but not as sweet as the notes Saraswati continues with, extending the song well past its ancient form. A young man will rise and walk towards her, and at this exact point in time, no one knows what he will do. Whether he will be the first one to cast a stone, for these are days of blasphemy and stoning. Or whether he will join her in song, for that is what every voice raised in song hopes for, always. That at some time and in some place, another voice with answer it, a jugalbandhi that will echo through the ages.
December 29th, 2015