Neha tore herself away from the kitchen window and completed her cooking. The lilting tunes of a favourite song had wafted in from a nearby radio, momentarily taking her mind off the timetabled life she was so bound to. Neha and her businessman husband Sharad were married for nineteen years now. Their teenage children, Dhruv and Dhruti, were doing well. They had everything they needed and more.
Before marriage, music had been Neha’s driving force, her raison d’etre. Sharad, however, was completely indifferent towards her passion. Hence, she had reconciled herself to a life of subdued domesticity. As the years rolled by and motherhood happened, she became an epitome of earthy pragmatism – her demands were few, and her love for music, swept away in the whirlpool of home-making.
Neha had one special friend in her apartment, Shirley. An upcoming assistant music director in Bollywood, Shirley was a person who always revelled in her single, independent, successful status. But, in spite of hitting it off so brilliantly together, Shirley was oblivious to Neha’s singing skills. And the latter intended to keep it that way.
One morning, Neha ran into her college bestie, Parul, at the supermarket. Parul’s words, “I always remember your performance in our college fests” or, “You were magical with your soft, romantic numbers” seemed to singe her soul.
Neha got back home with a leaden heart. She was seized by a sudden fire, a deliberate defiance of all those draconian household rules that she had willingly abided by, these past nineteen years. That afternoon, Neha sang….she sang like she had suddenly harnessed all her inner zeal to do something for her own happiness. And this became a practice every afternoon when nobody was home. It suffused every niche of her body and mind with an inexplicable joie de vivre. With each passing day, she improved….the dulcet tones, the finesse of her pitching, all blended into one lyrical, mellifluous whole.
One day, on a sudden impulse, Neha recorded a couple of her songs. In the evening, she decided to send them to Parul on Whatsapp, thanking her for catalysing her second innings on the musical turf. While she was doing it, Sharad called out urgently from the living room.
“Neha, can you please bring me the credit card from my wallet? I’m halfway through an online transaction….please hurry up, Neha!”
“Yes Sharad, coming,” Neha shouted. She quickly sent the recording and rushed out.
A week went by. One evening, Shirley visited them. Neha, though a tad surprised, warmly welcomed her. Shirley was an intelligent woman who believed in coming straight to the point.
“Well, I’ve been in a bit of a quandary these last few days. But finally I decided to go ahead and do it, and I hope you guys don’t mind,” she began, shifting her gaze uncertainly from Neha to Sharad and then back to Neha again.
“From the time I heard your songs, Neha,” Shirley continued, “I’ve been playing them on loop. And then, a couple of days back, I played them before my music director, Akhil Sir. He is looking for fresh voices, both male and female, for his new romcom. And Sir was floored!! He wants to meet you ASAP and if all goes well, sign you up for the film!” Shirley sounded euphoric… her hosts looked completely flummoxed and flabbergasted!
Neha made the first attempt to recover. “W-What are you saying, Shirley? When did I send you my s-songs? Why would I do that?” she managed to ask feebly, “I sent them only to Parul…..” Neha couldn’t complete the sentence. She flashed out her mobile and after what seemed an eternity, was able to locate her chats with Parul. To her utter disbelief, there was no record of any audio clip there. Shirley, almost guiltily, showed them her personal Whatsapp window revealing the transfer of the songs.
Neha’s face looked like a multi-hued canvas – embarrassment, guilt, awkwardness, fear, all took turns to colour her visage. Her tiny, happy secret was out via a colossal blunder…what would she do now?
“I…I’m so sorry Sharad,” she fumbled. “Believe me, it was a huge mistake. This clip was meant for Parul, just for fun! You HAVE to believe me, Sharad…” she implored like a child, who was begging her teacher to not punish her for bungling her homework. Sharad looked clearly annoyed.
“Neha, you could have told me once about starting music afresh… what was the need to do it on the sly? And imagine, having to learn about it from a stranger!” Here Sharad pointedly looked at Shirley. “Besides, your hands are already full. Do you think you’ll be able to handle this Bollywood stuff? I mean, the work is gonna be demanding and….” he broke off, unsure of what more to say.
Shirley got up to leave. She had tried her best to showcase Neha’s talent to the world but at the same time, she didn’t want to be labelled a trouble-maker, a spoke in the wheel of Neha’s domestic bliss.
Dhruv was the first to speak. “Isn’t that incredible, Ma? Look at you – sitting at home you landed a Bollywood offer?!”
It was Dhruti who then interjected, “Ma, it’s bad enough that all these years we never tried to encourage you or your craft. But now that you’ve got this golden chance, please don’t let it slip. This was no casual mistake, Ma – it was providence that opened up this avenue for you…go tread on it with steady steps!” Saying this she went and hugged Neha. Dhruv joined them. They all looked at Sharad for his concurrence.
Sharad, an innately mellow person, was looking visibly sheepish after his initial outburst. Seizing this opportunity to redeem himself, he relented, albeit uncertainly, “Fine then, whatever you all say….”.
As Shirley tiptoed her way out of the main door, she remembered some lines she had recently read – Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.