“Seema where’s my watch, I am already late! I hope you know, every second matters on my way to office. God please save me from the traffic today, PLEASE…” Mr. Sahni rushed out of the bedroom with his tie hanging on the side of his collar as he wore a sock and stuck the other inside his pocket. “Everything is on the table, your bag, mobile phone, car keys, (coughs) not the (coughs ) credit card and God will not save you from the traffic, waking up early in the morning might..!” his wife switched on the geyser and smiled at him while she closed the door of the bedroom.
It was a sunny autumn morning; Mr. Sahni took the shortest highway to his office and switched on the radio for some news. After driving for few minutes he eventually got into a smaller area which he thought would be scantily humanized as it was his regular secret way to office. Little did he know Murphy’s Law would find its way in his life and create the worst traffic, the area had ever experienced.
Until he could reverse his car, there was a long lineup of vehicles honking and making way out of the crowd to reach their bread and butter (erm, office?)! Mr. Sahni took a long breath and did what the characters from the last night’s movie asked him to in such situations, he touched his chest, patted near his heart and whispered himself “ALL IS WELL” while he raised the volume of his radio playing “ek akela iss sheher me..” as a remedy to accept the inevitable situation.
It was more than 20 minutes and Mr. Sahni had moved his car for almost 10-15 inches into the traffic. All he heard on the radio was news of being stuck in the worst traffic of the year the city has ever experienced. He put a hand over the side of his window and supported his head to contemplate about the situation. Soon after, he heard a knock on his window. He turned, cleaned his blurred spectacles to see a group of transgender people standing near his car asking for money. Without even sparing a minute he took a ten rupee note from his car store box and gave it to the person outside. Until he rolls up the window he heard the trans-women showering him with blessings, prayers and a life full of prosperity for his family. He smirked and gave thumbs up to one of them.
Meanwhile at some distance from his car, he saw people coming out of their vehicles and getting into dogfights followed by their very own customized swear words. There were traffic police screaming, cars honking, kids crying and lots of spectators enjoying the complimentary impromptu merrymaking. Meanwhile Mr. Sahni realized it was going to be a day stay traffic/picnic for him; he chose not to think about driving his car anymore and pulled the laptop out of his bag to type an email.
A few minutes later into the jam he saw a young 25ish guy with a colorful guitar hanging by the side of his right hand, wearing unkempt denim, scruffier haircut and a dark mask covering his complete face with a fixed deadpan expression, playing songs for the people stuck in traffic. He approached every individual, every vehicle in the traffic, knocked at their windows, asked them their favorite song/genre and played it out on his guitar. Some of them even joined him in his fun and sang along. Surprisingly he did not ask for money to any of them, some gave him rewards out of gratitude while some felt awkward even to ask. But he did not seem to care about any of them and continued his journey through the congested road.
“Hey young man! Here, hey!” Mr. Sahni shouted as he saw the guitar guy enter a lane near him, lowered his window and waved. The guitar guy waved back, signaled him to wait for 2 minutes and continued to play for a kid sitting on a bike along with his father.
“Hello sir, you want me to sing a song for you?” “Tell me your favorite genre!” the guitar guy spoke in a deep Santa Clause’s voice. “With that base in your voice would you be able to sing Rafi’s “Pukaaarta chala hu mai”? Mr. Sahni pointed to his throat with an intrigued smirk on his face. “Haha, minutes ago I was trying to convince the kid there into believing that I am Santa’s nephew! That was the only way to cheer that chap up.” The guitar guy strokes the strings from top to bottom to make a melodious variable sound to start with the leads of “Pukaaarta chala hu mai”. That managed multiple heads to turn and look out for the source of that melody.
“You have an amazing voice, young man! You should try for independent band or even… erm… the music industry we have, BOLLYWOOD per se! I hope you understand what I mean… You know… Instead of roaming around in a traffic…!” Mr. Sahni spoke in a fading tone while he pointed at the music system on his car’s dashboard. “Even you need not to hide your face there!” he tried to sound less rude by keeping the smile on his face intact. The guitar guy laughed, pulled a business card out of his jeans pocket and handed it to Mr. Sahni. He took the white colored business card, had a brief look at every corner of it. It had one word “Sangeetkaar” written in the center on both the sides along with a contact number at the corners. “You may not know me, but, when you reach home today, tell your kids about your meeting with “Rahgir” in traffic. They might force you to stumble into each and every traffic of this city!” “You think I would have had the stamina to stand in this chilling morning and play music for fellow irked strangers, without even eating a piece of bread?” the guitar guy added.
“So you’re a singer?” “No sir, singer less, composer more!” the guitar guy cut Mr. Sahni before he asks another question. “I make music for the “Bollywood people” (Double quotes with his fingers) as a nine-to-five and sing those compositions for my stranger friends in traffic or street or a local train out of passion, to freshen up their mood and lighten up their frustration!”
“You are an inspiration man. Who does that? I have always had this dream of being an eminent sketcher! I used to sketch every corner of my books. Finished a pile of diaries during my board exam preparations but later when I had to appear for the reexaminations, I knew sketching isn’t going to help me get through this! Since then, the thought of picking up a charcoal never came to my mind!” Mr. Sahni cleared his throat, “I also had this dream of making my own Artwork exhibition hall, where artists around the world would bring their masterpieces and showcase it in front of connoisseurs! A room full of art lovers and appreciators!!” Mr. Sahni looked up to picture his younger self with a smile of satisfaction on his face. “Time never let me pass its hurdle. I always stumbled and tripped over the fear of losing my dignity among the people who knew me as a hardworking class topper! I was stuck in a traffic of competitions, exams, peer-pressure, promises of extremely orthodox parents, their unbound expectations…! I overheard my father once say this to my mother-Do you think anybody would ever marry a person who sketches the life out of every page he breaks into?” Mr. Sahni nodded sideways and tried to imitate his father’s voice.
“You remind me of my son.” Mr. Sahni took a long breathe, “He too was passionate about his music thing, though I constantly forced him to focus on academics. The music, sketching, dancing can be pursued whenever he wants, but, at least make sure you have money coming from the government treasures. Ironically I myself knew, the “whenever he wants” is actually a huge lie we and our ancestors have been telling each other through ages!”. The traffic was filled with chaos and hustle of vehicles honking and screeching, though, there was dead silence in the space between both of them. Mr. Sahni tried his best to hold back his tears and the guitar guy looked down with a smile on his face.
“You sound as if you have crossed the extremity of frustration sir! Let me tell you something”, the guitar guy takes a long breathe, “There is never a traffic in ART, nor will ever be in any “tense”! It’s your own damn expertise. You are not stuck in it, you are blessed with it by the love of god, and not everybody is blessed with this “traffic” of yours. It’s upon your honesty and extreme hard work which takes you to the zenith of success. Who cares, seriously-tell me, who cares some x person singing, sketching, or playing a trumpet better than you? In the entire life of human race, for nature’s sake, there is at least one thing to learn in every second and every nook and cranny around us, and mind it sir, these artists are the souls who can spot such learnings!”
“It’s never ever about how many people know you, the number of people follow you by just a click on social media, and it’s sure as hell not about the way you market yourself! Art was never meant for making money, it was supposed to be felt and adore about.”
The guitar guy adjusts his guitar bag, “Tell me something! Have your regular 9-5 job ever made you feel nostalgic, typing 1000+ lines of codes ever helped you dig into the past and feel the presence of your first love from school right in front of your eyes?” Mr. Sahni laughs, “Funny, isn’t it?” the guitar guy points his finger towards him as a notion of eureka! “OR, OR, managing the bank accounts ever felt as if you are sleeping under a huge mango tree on a sunny day in the lap of the love of your life?” “Oh MY GOODNESS, I am on fire today!” they both break into laughter and start giving each other high fives. “Well that’s what art does to you, it makes you reckon the stuff which a mediocre life could never! By the way, if you are able to make money out of it, it’s CHRISTMAS every day!” they both smile with myriad hope in their eyes.
“You sound certainly like my son. I wish if he was here today with us, he would have hugged you for this gripping speech of yours!” Mr. Sahni smiled and moved his car ahead as the traffic in front of him moved a little. The guitar guy walked a little and came back to Mr. Sahni’s window “Oh! I… I…m am really sorry for what happened with your son. I hope he rests…!” “Oh no no… He is all okay… Well I hope so… He left home two years ago in search of his position in the maze of music industry…soon after we had a terrible fight… calls his Mother daily… prominently says three sentences, “Hello Maa. Khana khaa liya hai, aur music bhi achha chal raha hai, milte hai!” the otherwise looking healthy and lively Mr. Sahni had already shed two tears while he talked about his son. The guitar guy gently kept his hand on Mr. Sahni’s hand and said “Don’t worry sir. I really hope he is doing well, or he will do well nevertheless. You have my card, ask him to get in contact with me. Let’s see if I can be of any help! Achha sir, ab mai chalta hu. Milte hai, kisi traffic me ya fir kabhi aapke bete ke saath!” the guitar guy adjusted his bag and kneeled down to tie his shoelace, “Okay Mr. Inspiration!” said Mr. Sahni with a bright smile.
He gets up, walks all the way to the other end of road against the traffic and disappears in the underground metro tunnel.
The traffic eventually started to open up after more 45 minutes of wait. Mr. Sahni reached his workplace as faster as he could. He barely could think of working and managing his daily records in office. Every time he thought of taking up a new task to work on, the words of the masked guitarist would haunt his mind and force him to think about whatever happened with his son. He knew he needed a day off and quality time to contemplate things. Mr. Sahni went home as soon as his office hours got over.
“Seema, Seema bahar aao toh… Jalddii…!” Mr. Sahni shouted as he parked his car in his garage. He opened the door on the driver side and sat on the driver seat facing outside. “What happened? Are you okay?” she came running all the way from their backyard garden with an axe and a water can in her hand. Mr. Sahni called her up to the passenger seat. Narrated the entire incident and his meet up with a musician that morning. They both discussed about everything and reached to a conclusion of calling up the Guitar guy home for helping them find their son. After hours of discussion and debate Mr. Sahni picked up his phone, dialed the number on the business card given by the guitar guy and called him. After two rings he picked up and Mr. Sahni broke into tears when the soft voice on the other side said, “Haa Papa! Khana khaa liya hai, aur music bhi achha chal raha hai, mile to hai aaj hum. This is my new number. Save it as “Rahgir”, aur haan, Sunday ko ghar aajau?”