I don’t really consider myself to be a talented singer. In fact, I am tone-deaf and cannot distinguish good music from bad.
But, if there is something I love, it is singing. I love singing out of tune, at the top of my voice. It gives me a kind of freedom, a kind of happiness and puts me at peace.
There are certain songs that fill me with some kind of deep emotion and trigger memories of a distant happier past.
I was brought up in a South Indian household, where though technically both my parents’ mother tongue is Malayalam, my father is the only one who spent his early childhood years in Kerala and knows Malayalam well.
My mother is more familiar with Tamil.
(Malayalam is a language spoken in the South of India predominantly in a state called Kerala, whereas Tamil is also a South Indian language, but spoken mainly in a state called Tamil Nadu.)
There is this song which goes like, “Paattu paadi urakaam njan” in Malayalam, which roughly translates to “I’ll sing a song to put you to sleep” It is a lullaby for all practical purposes. If my father had a theme song, it would be that.
It brings back memories of my Dad trying to put a 2-year-old me to sleep, carrying me around the house and the patio and waiting in front of the AC still carrying me in his arms to cool me down on blisteringly hot summer nights in the desert, tenderly stroking my hair and softly singing this song.
My mother’s theme song would be “Kannai kalai maanai” a Tamil song, which roughly translates to,”My dear, my spotted deer”. A rather old one and melodious too. I remember her singing it to me in hot afternoons while I refused to nap. I’ve vivid memories of her pulling dark curtains across the window in her room, where they let a 3-year-old me be for afternoon naps, darkening the room even in the hot summer Sun, and then snuggling next to me, pulling me close and singing this song in her sweet melodious voice, the only one of us in our family who’s not tone-deaf.
Yesterday night, while I was randomly looking through my father’s collection of old audio cassettes, I found one labelled rather simply as “Lullabies”.
Curious, I kept it aside and continued perusing.
At night, before going to sleep, I inserted the lullaby cassette into an old tape recorder that I found, hoping to go to sleep peacefully, because for once, I was not overdue on any project and I had a 5-day mini-vacation too. (Which unfortunately ends today. College tomorrow. Again. No. -_-)
Instead, the exact opposite happened. The first song that played was what I considered as my father’s theme. By the end of it, I was a sobbing, weeping mess.
Then, it played my mother’s song. I turned it off ’cause I couldn’t bear to hear it any longer.
I cried into my pillow deep into the night. Why? I don’t really know. It is probably because of the memories attached to it. Memories of happier days. When all was fine in the world and when my parents used to love me and each other and actually sing me to sleep.
Songs, they have the power to invoke things, strong emotions hidden deep inside our wrinkled hearts. It was a kind of yearning, of longing, to go back. Back to Happiness. Away from these dark days.
Music in itself is powerful, but when it is coupled with memories, it becomes stronger, swinging either ways.
I don’t really know why I was affected so deeply by it, but it is probably because I miss it. I miss it all. The familiarity, the happiness, the completeness.
We were once such a happy family. Then suddenly, I have no idea what happened. It has been ages since I heard my mother sing, in that beautiful angelic voice of her’s. And my father too. It has been ages since I saw him happy. It has been far too long. Far too hard.
A whole new place, a whole new life. Uncharted territory for me.
It has been frightening to say the least.
And when something stirs into it and reminds me of the had-been, it ends up in a breakdown. It has been far too long. I have tried to be strong, to put on a happy face and pretend to be brave. But, now, I don’t know. It is frightening.
What songs stir up strong memories in you? Do share your stories in the comments box below! I’d love to hear about it.