A remarkable book that shows how nature, humans and music can resonate as one.
Truth in fiction is more a matter of recognition, the realisation of a particular person or experience, as somehow being true. Malini Rajendran's debut fiction The Night Raaga is nuanced and delicate in its exploration of its larger theme of this all-powerful medium, “The Silva Method” which holds the secret of unleashing the powers of our mind. A practising Silva graduate herself she takes a dizzying spin into the spiritual realms with great clarity, and with a good deal of research lays bear the immense benefits of this technique.
The interface with music and research marks the process for Dr. Micheal Swami, the musicologist to arrive at Raaga House. Through his intervention with the legendary patriarch Aachen, who runs a music school, he meets Shruti, who is stoical in the face of sustained personal crisis, and her daughter Swara, the talented musician of Raaga House.
If The Night Raaga has one heroine it undoubtedly is Swara who displays an incredible forbearance and understanding that is so well brought out by Malini. Micheal's quiet admiration and liking for his demure research assistant, Swara is poignantly set out in the first half of the story.
When Micheal particularly after attending that live performance by Swara is engulfed and mesmerized by her musical genius which creates tangible images of nature's splendour and its healing powers completely changes his idea of music forever. He blindly becomes her follower and yearns to be one with her.
For the first time he could see music, smell the fragrance of a musical arrangement of phrase and reach out and touch the vibrations of an overwhelming symphony. But what was hitting Micheal's ears were not the sounds, but the smell of nature. In each note that Swara was producing with her eyes closed she was engulfing the listener in the environment. One could actually see buds popping open at the end of the Aarob.
Swara's personality too begins to emerge in this vignette and the reader quickly realises her unspoken awareness of Micheal's presence. As a talented and devoted musician Swara uses the Silva method to create music that could be felt as a physical entity and move people at a molecular level.
There are other characters in the book, Troy the flutist and Juan Ramez — the famous rock-band and drums player with whom Swara establishes an affectionate relationship and Shruti eventually marries. However, after Aachen's final letter of parting to Shruti, Malini gets most of the books characters together as their search for their story ends and gives them a new life with the true sense of happiness.
Malini Rajendran is a spiritually gifted evocative writer who can tell a story really well adding on a universal theme that can touch you at an inner level. Rarely does one come across something as good as this; at the end of the read, one feels touched by the goodness of Aachen and Swara's remarkable talent truly astonishes. The dialogues are not only evocative but equally poignant and emotionally touching.
A philosophical quality of music underpins her novel capturing moments of torture, anguish, despair, love and hope in her characters.
If you are the kind of reader who relishes musical realism, that transcends all barriers and dimensions, then there is something in this book for you.