Being one of those days when one is with one's self, with nobody dictating terms, I decided to do dusting. Not that our maid does not do it but I am a bit fanatic about dusting my own things.
Knowing my dusting habits very well (!) my wife, in advance, warned me, 'Make it snappy dear. Don't forget. We have two complimentary tickets for that unique 'two men orchestra' in the evening.'
I was about to start my dusting detour with books, but my attention was drawn by a rectangular leather case that was full of dust. I pulled it down; cleaned it and opened it. It was very clean from inside encasing a four-octave Yamaha synthesizer gifted to me by my friend from Singapore. It had over a hundred sounds of different instruments and forty rhythms from waltz, rock and to the latest ones. The alternate white and black keys gave it a lovely look. It naturally reminded me of Sir Paul McCartney's famous 'Ebony and Ivory' song.
Although I had not gone beyond Do, Re, Mi.... and few nursery tunes, I could not stave off the temptation to run my fingers on the keys. The mixed sound of piano and organ pleased me. The sound that pleased me seemed to have opposite effect on my wife.
'Stop, stop that synthesizer of yours!' She came out from kitchen with a knife in her hand. I was taken aback. This was not the first time that I had played or tried to play the synthesizer in her presence. She, at one time, even had appreciated my talent and ear for music when in no time I could play her favorite tune.
So I was truly surprised by her reaction.
'Dear, dear! What's the matter?' I finally asked.
'Come on. Stop playing that instrument.' She sounded very positive.
'Why, what's the matter?' I again asked.
'First stop playing it.'
She had calmed down but was still sharp as the knife in her hand.
'I was not playing it at all my dear. I was just...' I meekly tried to defend.
'You played it. You did play. I am not deaf.' She was now defiant.
Running my fingers on the keyboard purposely I said, 'Come on tell me what's the problem?'
'You are a threat to our culture. You and your synthesizer both are a threat.'
Every word of hers was measured.
'Threat! What are you talking about? And tell me dear who has put this idea into your brains?' I did sound concerned.
'Mr. Naushad Ali says so,' said my wife.
'Who, Naushad Ali!' I was irritated.
'That Baiju Bawra famed one.' My wife touched the right chord.
'Oh, Naushad Sahib,' Closing my eyes I touched my ears in true tradition of a disciple.
'Yes, that very Naushad Sahib of yours (here she too closed her eyes and touched her ears) said at a function that the synthesizer is nothing but a threat to Indian culture.'
'He said it!' I said unbelievingly.
'Yes, and do you want to know what your Naushad Sahib has to say about this so called versatile instrument?' My wife added sarcastically.
'If it is a versatile instrument then what's the problem?' I argued vehemently.
'Its very versatility is the problem.' My wife perfectly played her notes.
'I don't understand how versatility of an instrument could become a problem?' Shaking my head I posed a pertinent question.
But shaking her head more my wife continued, 'the maestro of Hindustani music said that in the wake of this unique invasion, other instruments like violin, sitar, veena, harmonium and shehnai etc. could become extinct in no time to become part of history.'
'Naushad Sahib said so! I was in shock.
'Yes and he sounded very much worried over the state of today's music,' said my wife worriedly.
'I think he has a point there.' I agreed.
'Yes, he has one. He was particularly disturbed with the lyrics, 'Main Bhelpuri Kha Raha Tha' and 'Ati Kya Khandala' as against the old songs, khayal, tappa and thumri.' She too looked discordant.
'But these are today's famous and hit songs and unless people like you like them they do not become hit.' I furnished the justification and continued, 'my dear, synthesizer has been in use since many years. So, I fail to understand this sudden agitation and step motherly voice against the one-in-all-in-one instrument? I personally see no valid and substantial reason in banning it. If somebody does not want it, let him not have it.' I finished my point off with a vigorous stroke of a piccolo sound.
'Your view point is right but what Naushad Sahib is saying is also not wrong.' My wife spoke in a mellowed tone.
'But he cannot be this harsh with the instrument he too has employed in his past compositions. And whose opinion is it anyway?' I was in the upper octave.
'Naushad Sahib is the cult figure. He is the doyen of Hindustani music. Not for nothing this octogenarian composer is respected. His word is thus final.' My wife
disconnected the plug of my synthesizer.
'Look Naushad Sahib's time has gone. His word may be final but he has become old and his voice therefore cannot go far. So, who is going to listen to him.' I almost put her into quandary.
Packing my synthesizer my wife whispered into my ears, 'But Balasaheb Thackeray's voice certainly goes very far my dear.'