Back in the 90s, I used to live in Bombay. My apartment was close to Marine Drive. My family’s New Year celebrations consisted of a stroll around the Drive, apart from feasting on cherry cakes and sodas from The Talk of The Town restaurant across the street. After having our fill of the dainties, my sister and I, accompanied by my father, would amble across the road to marine Drive, each of us proudly brandishing a raspberry-and-blackcurrant ice cream.
On one such New Year’s eve, we watched the robust colours of sunset give away to the pale, silvery-purple glow of twilight; and the sea was growing dark. The cold air smelled of heated corn. I had always liked the crowd at Marine Drive – it was a jazzy collage of cosmopolitan life. Suddenly, I heard the notes of a flute, which remained clear even amidst the din of the vendors. I turned and looked. A middle-aged flute seller was the musician.
I was taken aback. The simple music enthralled me. It seemed to charm the twilight into slipping into the bosom of darkness. It conducted the stars out from behind the veil of the night and brought them into limelight. I was a mesmerized member of the audience. The vast Arabian Sea rippled calmly to its melodies. As we passed the last lamp, the last bead of the ‘Queen’s Necklace’, the music abruptly stopped, but its notes continued to haunt me. I could not recover from my sense of wonder. I stood on the stony steps leading down to the deep, whispering sea, gazed at a fishing boat which set out before our eyes, and felt the chilly breeze dishevelling my hair. People spoke in low tones, except for the vendors, who were loud. Yet, I could still hear the music from an ordinary ten-rupee flute. There was something surrealistic about my surroundings.
My reverie was broken when my dad said that it was time for us to go home. However, I would always cherish the memory of that magical evening at Marine Drive.