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When the lights went out, music came alive and the family bonded

It was a typical weekday evening. I was sitting browsing on my laptop, looking for a crochet pattern on the Internet while listening to some of the wonderful music available online. My son Shashank was also in the room, working at his laptop. We had not exchanged a word with each other for over half an hour. This, in itself, is strange as both of us are generally garrulous enough. I think both of us were enjoying the companionship without feeling the need to converse. Suddenly, the lights went off thanks to a power-cut and the UPS started beeping, announcing that it was taking over. Neither of us looked up from our work or acknowledged the power-cut in any way. Our work, of course, continued uninterrupted as the UPS took over — the modem's connected to the UPS so we don't even have that one extra minute of inconvenience.

Looking up at my son's face glowing blue from the reflection of the computer screen, I remembered the frequent power cuts we used to have in Kolkata when I was a child. In our tiny house, a sudden power cut meant that we all converged in the main room where a candle would be lit. This was in the days before inverters, UPS sets and generators became a common feature in residential areas. The candlelight was never enough for us to be able to read, so studies were postponed for a while. There would be silence for a few minutes while my parents, siblings and I found our favourite spots in the room. My father always sat with a torch, ready to fetch another candle in case the power cut out-lasted the first candle.

My mother would sit down on the floor, and one of us would lie down beside her, with our head on her lap, waiting. Slowly, she would start to sing. The voice would slowly go louder and louder. We would sit watching the candle burn, slowly reaching out to feel the melting wax. No one spoke to break the magic of her voice in the darkness. There were two favourite Tamil songs that started the session — Muruga nee vara vendum followed by Chintanai sei maname, both in praise of Lord Subramanya. These would be followed by Man tadapat from a film called Baiju Bawra, and then Yeh zindagi usi ki hai from the film Anarkali. On lucky days when the power took ages to return, we would get to listen to Jaag Dard E – a wonderful song, also from Anarkali. I don't think any of these songs sound even half as good when heard in broad daylight or in a well-lit room. As we grew up, we would join in to sing some of the lines.

When the power came back, there would be a loud shout from all the neighbouring houses, heralding its arrival. In our home, I like to believe, we always greeted it with a groan! It was time to get back to our lives, out of this cocoon of too few moments of togetherness.

(The writer's email is: sandhya.srinivasan@gmail.com)

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 11:38:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/When-the-lights-went-out-music-came-alive-and-the-family-bonded/article15459769.ece

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