Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sounds like…

Memories come in all shapes and sizes. Some are sights. Some are smells. Others are sounds. One of my most distinct aural memory is the almost unearthly “uulfeemalaay” cry of the kulfi vendor who went down the Khetwadi Main Road on his nightly round around nine o’clock. His creamy kulfi used to come in little aluminum cones the mouth of which was sealed with a seal made out of dough. A little later, a fakir would go on his alms collection round. Strangely enough, I could hear him approaching and retreating but never stopping to receive alms. He must have been a Sufi or a Kabirpanthi, judging from the fact that he used to sing a doha (hymn) of Kabir, the weaver saint who lived between 1398 and 1518. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabir. (I knew it was Kabir’s poetry because I grew up listening to my father singing it.) Then there was the sound of a hack Victoria clop-clop-clopping along our road in the dead of the night. If it was coming from the Charni Road and going eastwards, I would start hearing it in my bed as soon as it approached the Girgaum Police Court. Then as it took the right turn at the corner, the pitch of the clop-clop would rise, reach a crescendo as it passed our house – the third house on the right – and then start receding as it drew away out of my aural range. Sometimes, I would wake up suddenly around midnight just when the 9-30 film show at the Krishna Talkies (later renamed Dreamland soon after 15 August 1947) got over. There would be a lot of approaching sounds – people talking and laughing raucously, hack victorias clopping along, stragglers waiting at the corner for the last tramcar that would arrive soon and clatter along the Charni Road on its last journey of the day – all of which eventually would die down. Then all I could hear no matter how much I strained my ears was the deafening sound of silence.

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