He froze. A familiar music, too deeply connected to his past, wafted through the humid air. The aluminium bucket, his revered tool, slipped out of his hand. He moved himself closer to the source of the music. His Mother’s lullaby, an old Subramanya Bharathi ballad, played from inside the house.

He was shattered into million pieces. The once carefully buried memories, now submerged his senses completely. He remembered his mother lying next to him, patting his head slowly and softly singing his favorite song, always smiling as she said Kanamma and ending the song in faint tears. His Mother’s moist eyes were always the last image of the day.

As the music stopped, he walked to a shady spot in the backyard and lay there, staring at the trees, frolicking in the occasional breeze. Closing his eyes, he mourned, for his mother, for her music, for her dreams and his misfortunes. Years ago, yearning to fulfill his mother’s greatest wish, he had stepped into the  great city to learn music. A thousand doors he knocked and none let him in, for he was not their caste. not their color and not prosperous to satisfy their dakshinas. As the emotions emptied,  he hoped that the world now would have become better. He would set out again to find a teacher, a guru who knew only raagas and no caste.

The bucket had sunk inside the tank. Nonchalantly, he pushed his hand deep inside the fecal sludge. The stench grew as he searched for the metal handle in the knee-deep sludge. Having found it, he wiped the handle with his shirt and continued emptying the contents into a nearby pit. He then placed the concrete lid on the septic tank and washed himself under a lone pipe.

Thanking the amma of the house for paying him extra, he left through the backyard. Pausing his walk,he looked at his bucket. He returned to the yard and placed it reverently near the tank, for he would no longer need its company. His next journey was going to be different.

He walked onwards, with a new-found hope, humming his mothers lullaby.


With love, for the Magsaysay award winners Bezwada Wilson and TM Krishna



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