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UNHEARD MELODIES: CHAPTER ONE
Bharathy shut the window, her fingers trembling as she did so. On a sudden impulse, she opened it slightly and gazed in silence into the starlit night. There was that face again. Would the face in the photograph never cease appearing, bring with it the troubling remembrance of that fateful day- the day her grandmother, Vasantha died?
That handsome face with that clear cut chin and angular jaw and the steady light to those strong, purposeful eyes. Oh, why must she weep over a tale that was no more? Those eyes must never trouble her again… she said to herself
She woke up with a start.
“SINDHU! Wake up” she yelled. Sindhu brushed her bangs from her eyes and simply rolled over wordlessly to her great annoyance.
“Sindhu! We ought to leave-like-now” she yelled again.
“Alright. Bharathy. You wouldn’t insist on me bathing, would you?”
“That is for you and your conscience to decide. I am going to take a quick shower”.
“The water…” Sindhu began and stopped abruptly, rolled up cozily in a mess of warm blankets. Bharathy sighed. She took her clothes and hung them on the door of the bathroom and readying herself for the first sharp spikes of water, she turned the knob. Once thoroughly soaked, she shut her eyes and let her mind dream up the magical charm of that mountain-region that had held her fancy right from childhood. She felt as though she was going back where she belonged.
Kodaikaanal! Home! It felt like she was going back home though her own home was in Madurai. But ever since she’d joined the same college along with her cousin, she’d started visiting her cousin’s family every December. For the summer holidays, she would go back home, sometimes accompanied by Sindhu.
But every December, she felt thrilled beyond belief at the prospect of going to Kodaikaanal. How did that line go: “Heard melodies are sweet, But those unheard are sweeter still”. That summed it up. There was a certain unheard music about Kodaikaanal. She was still engaged in trying to coax it out of it like a practiced hand tries to coax music out of an old piano. There was a certain charm to that name. It was a happening place despite the sluggish pace at which life moved there. She loved everything about the place. The bus-journey they undertook early in the morning, the slow, steady ascension up the spiraling mountain-path, the sight of the virgin Silver Bells falls, the first whiff of the charged, cold air that filled one’s lungs making them feel like bursting out into a song like Maria Von Trapp, she loved it all. She loved the bus depot where they would get down to partake of some scalding, hot, coffee. Above all, she loved the cold, the blood-chilling cold which made the denizens desperate for warmth. That cold air had some romance to it. Yes. There was some inscrutable mystery to that place. She had a feeling she would discover it sooner or later but for now, she would just let her thoughts drift along aimlessly as she soaked in the painful coldness of chilling jets of water.
The bus arrived quite early in the morning and they reached the depot right on time, around 04:30. There was no mad rush. The bus was only half-full. The duo lugged their bags sleepily up the steps and took seats in the top row. They knew by experience that once they began to ascend the hills, they’d have a magnificent view the closer they sat to the front of the bus. There would be the low, plunging ravine on one side and stony boulders on the other. A mild wave of nausea would creep over them but it would soon subside once they got used to the snail-like pace of the bus.
“Shove this under the seat” Bharathy told Sindhu, handing her their luggage.
They watched as a child and her mother made their way into the bus. And then, a foreigner appeared. A tall, gangly-looking, olive skinned man stepped up and everyone turned around to look at him. A white man in Periyakulam was always a spectacle and he would always be looked at with awe by the natives. He wore a button-down navy-coloured shirt that brought out his dark blue eyes. He brushed his hand through his hair, made self-conscious by the attention, partially hiding his face but those eyes… she’d seen them somewhere. They brought a sudden wave of memory, a sudden flicker of recognition to her own eyes.
He quietly took his place in the seat right opposite them. For a minute, she let her eyes rove over the other passengers but irresistibly, they were brought to rest for a moment on… on… Markham? Could it be him? After all these years? Could he still be alive? It wasn’t possible. He must be someone else. Or perhaps, her mind was playing tricks on her. Just the other day, he’d visited her in her dreams and now this blue-eyed white man had awoken that remembrance- that face. That must be it. Or maybe to her racist eyes, they all looked alike like her aunt had once remarked, mistaking Tom Cruise for the only other white actor she knew, Roger Moore.
He caught her eyes and reddened with anger, irked by the unwanted attention and she smartly jerked her head away.
She looked at Sindhu in a sudden fit of desperation.
“Are you okay, Bharathy?” Sindhu asked her.
“Am… am I okay? Yes, of course, I am okay. Are you okay?”
“What on earth? You look like a deer caught in the headlights” and with sudden meaning, she added, “Oh. That handsome hunk. He does rather look like Dr. House and everyone know you had a long-time thing for him”.
“Could you please stop referencing Dr. House every time we come across a white person?”
“Hey! If Tom Cruise could become Roger Moore” Sindhu replied and they laughed together.
The man looked their way again and Bharathy bit her lip.
“For God’s sake, Bharathy. Gurl, you have to control yourself”.
“Oh! Stop! He just reminds me of someone. Can you please scooch over? He looks rather mad! I don’t want to sit next to him” she said and they swapped seats.
They rode in silence for the rest of the journey. Sindhu fiddled with her phone and Bharathy gazed through the window. Unheard melodies are sweeter still. What could it mean?