Savitri sat in a corner, gloomy, heartbroken, sobbing in spurts, masking her mouth with her sari pallu. The body of Pandit Sadashiv lay there on a blanket on the floor, wrapped in immaculate white sheet, his face, open, eyes half closed. Her eyes turned to Keshav, the pet disciple of Panditji, taking control of the rituals with aplomb. “The soul never dies”, Panditji often declared to his disciples, “our music is our God and God is immortal.”
Sadashiv had earned accolades very early in life. By the time he was 38 he was a celebrity in the classical music arena. Disciples flocked to him. Keshav, only a shade younger than Panditji, had a special place in the heart of the Guruji.
Savitri’s old sister arrived at the door, sobbing uncontrollably, rushed to Savitri and wept. Savitri’s eyes were blank. Keshav, placing some Tulsi leaves in the half open mouth of Sadashiv, saw her and made a sign to stay calm. She wouldn’t even blink. The events of their life together flashed by in front of her blank eyes. The wedding, the first night of honeymoon; nothing had happened. He pleaded to her, “I am sorry, Savitri. My mother wanted me to marry.”
The honeymoon had ended without the silver bells that she had heard about; the moon never rose to full bloom. But why me?
“Stay calm, sister, all because of your karmas in the last birth.”
Savitri’s young niece made her visit a psychiatrist.
“Not your fault, madam. Your husband is …….., you know. Come let me examine you” the strange looking lady psychiatrist, Miss Ganapati led her into the examination room, locked the door and taught her the basics of enjoying the bliss in weird manners that Savitri never knew existed. Savitri screamed with pleasure when Miss Ganapati played an active role to demonstrate the techniques. Savitri had no clue why it made the lady ecstatic.
“No baba, no. I won’t go to the psychiatrist again” She told her niece. Her heart longed for an encore but…
Pandit Sadashiv was a passionate teacher. Yes, very passionate; with Keshav in particular. They would spend hours doing riyaaz under closed door. Savitri never dared to disturb the duo. The muffled sounds emanating from the locked room – were not too different from her screams in the ‘examination room’.
The handful of people crowding around the body of Panditji placed wreaths, one by one till the heap got too high to manage. The first timers to visit the place marveled at the plethora of certificates, citations that Panditji received in his short lifespan. They lifted the body, chanting “Rama, Rama…” and left. Savitri’s sister struggled hard to get her to weep. Keshav had told her to stay calm, hadn’t he?
Keshav was back the very next day, took care of all the rituals for the next few days, his attention around his Guruji’s life partner – just to make sure she was all right. She wasn’t. Sadashiv for her was like an alien who was made differently.
To Keshav, Guruji meant so much, especially when they toured different parts of India, together, to perform. Keshav always got to stay in the same room with Guruji; to perform, to look after his needs at odd hours. In a show of reverence Keshav adapted to the blissful togetherness with Guruji who didn’t approve of Keshav’s eyes straying across to the front rows packed with objects of desire. Keshav, his senior and most talented disciple had to surrender to Guruji, and no one else. He had just begun to enjoy his own performance., embarrassingly.
But now Guruji was in the heaven, he might expect his pet disciple to carry on. Someone had to take care of Savitriji whose beseeching eyes melted his heart at times.
After the pooja ritual of the twelfth day, Keshav tidied up the house. Where would Keshav go now? What will he do next? There was no one in his family. Pandit Sadashiv was his sole family. He had to fit in that family. Savitri hadn’t. He didn’t dare to look at Savitriji before leaving. He garlanded Guruji’s huge portrait, closed his eyes in silent prayers.
He felt someone hold his hand. Did Guruji descend on the earth to make him perform again?
“Keshav, please don’t go”, once again Savitri’s beseeching eyes threatened to melt his heart. It was real this time.