It was almost noon by the time Saraswati finished her daily pooje. She observed she was singing aloud when she was doing mangalaarati to the deities. If her husband was home, she would only mumble the song to herself. In reality, she was quite a good singer, but lacked the confidence to sing in front of him because he was indeed very well versed in music. That was the cause for the hesitation to sing before him. He might say a thing or two about her sangatis. Or he might even bring the tamboori, and show how to sing those sangatis to sound better. That’s why the walls of their ancestral home heard Saraswatis singing voice only when Srinivasa was away. She often wondered if he could dedicate himself to music if not for the family business. Saraswathi just thought how nice it would have been to listen to his singing all day. It was several months since he had touched his tamboori. His singing was so overpowering and made her emotional that she  would feel that Lord Krishna’s brindavana was right here at Kshemapura. The only other person she new who had a comparable voice was that of Vaikuntha Dasa of her hometown.

Saraswati felt very strange at thinking Belooru as her hometown even after being married for almost twenty years and living in Kshemapura! It reminded her that she had not visited her parents for couple of years. She was indeed worried when there was a talk of her marriage, and when she knew the suitor was from the hilly rainy country. Her hometown was a real beauty. Such a peaceful and tranquil town with  the three hundred year old Chennakeshava temple as the anchor for all activities in the town! What to do? Once a girl gets married, she has to think her husband’s home as her own. She was indeed very happy when she arrived in Kshemapura first time. So green! But when the rains arrived she was terror struck at the force of the torrential rains that would not budge for four or five months! But now she preferred the rainy season since she saw more of her husband at home doing his music practice. As she went into the kitchen, Saraswati started counting how many more months till Ashadha  arrived.

****

Srinivasa looked at the pendant Nagachari gave. Yes, it was looking good. May be few less emeralds would have made it look even better.  He started to write the pattern for the necklace to match this pendant. Then noticing that Nagachari was still waiting, Srinivasa reminded him that the work should be finished soon because it had to get to the Palace before the festivals. As Srinivasa was completing his sketch, he thought of the hours he was spending at his store these days. Hebana was almost eighteen. It was time for him to take more responsibility in the business, Srinivasa thought. May be then he would have some time to pursue his first love, music.

Srinivasa’s father had trained him to be a jeweler right from the days he was a young lad. But among Srinivasa’s children, only little Madhvapati shows interest in coming to the store. Madhwa often watched has father designing the jewels, and also attempted to some of his own. The older two boys were not coming to the store  even once in a bluemoon! May be it was time to make sure they come somewhat regularly, or else it might spell problems! But as Srinivasa recollected that he never came to the store regularly as a young boy, he thought all was not lost with Hebana and Abhinava yet.

In fact, Srinivasa’s father was quite lenient. He even had told his wife not to distract Srinivasa with household errands if he was practicing music, or studying all those books related with music and poetry. But Srinivasa still remembered what he had told one day : “Seenappa,  I have seen the plight of musicians who depend on the kings  and landlords. Thankfully, you have a business to carry on.  Practice music as much as you want, but do not leave our family business. Keep your music to please yourself” Srinivasa had indeed followed his advice to the word. With riches that allow him to lend money to kings and chieftains, why should he leave the gold and gem business and stand at the doorsteps of the king?  ‘Now, I am the king of my business or my music’,    Srinivasa thought but when he remembered that it was amost three weeks since he touched his tamboori, it was not so pleasing. As he was sensing the  unpleasantness of this, Madhwapati came in from the inner room to show a pattern he had sketched for an ear ring, and helped Srinivasa’s mind to dwell on something else.

****

It was the usual time when Abhinava would sit for his music practice. Father was very strict when it with music. Whether he taught any new lesson or not, the kids had to do their practice like a ritual. They had to practice all the varases daily in three speedszZ! Of the three brothers, Abhinava had the best voice. Although Srinivasa never explicitely said anything, Abhinava knew that he was always giving some extra attention to his lessons.

Abhinava suddenly remembered the comment Venkatesha, his friend from across the street had made sometime ago. “Ha! Your dad seems to have a lesson plan no other music teacher in this world has! I wonder how you would manage to sing with a teacher like him !” – he had remarked in front of all his friends when they were playing. Abhinava was felt angry, as well as humiliated.

Next day he had gathered courage to ask his father: “Appa, Is it true that you are teaching us in some new way that no other music teacher follows? Other kids make fun of me for that”

Abhinava remembered  that Srinivasa did not even blink at this remark, let alone get  angry. He had told calmly: “Yes. No other teacher teaches with the system I am teaching you and your brothers. You know what? I made these excercises myself so that it helps in making you musically aware much faster than you other wise would be. Why shoud you worry?  I am sure that this system works well, and that is why I teach this way. Stop worrying, and sing Sri Gananaatha”

Saraswati was sure that Abhinava’s mind was wandering somewhere else. She softly patted his back, and asked him if he forgot what to sing next.  Abhinava came back from his thoughts and started to sing the prabhandha in devagaandhara raga that his father had taught a few weeks earlier.

****

(to be continued)