I remember a story that I read a long time ago, how a suburban housewife ends up becoming a leader of gang after a cataclysmic nuclear war. The transformation is complete; she becomes a ruthless fighter in the post-apocalyptic land. Suddenly, one day she listens to some music from the era before, and all the hopes, dreams come back flooding to her, she cries and cries…
I digress. Of course, cataclysmic events like the nuclear disasters are rare in our lives. We go through lives like frogs in hot water, getting used to one thing at a time. Of course, we grow. We learn. Still, if one were to be transported back and take a look at out our present selves, what would the feelings be?
I am comfortable with my information sources: TV, NY Times, and Yahoo. I am comfortable with technically sound entertainment these channels offer me. If I objectively think, I know that I am more intellectually stimulated with these sources than what I was used to before.
Surprisingly, I often discover, there is one thing I cannot discount. I am no music lover, I rarely listen to songs, yet somehow, some neurons in my brain respond to those age old Telugu words so instinctively, oh so wistfully that I would cry if I could. I know that it is mere a blackmail, I know that the words are as sincere as snow in Guntur, but I can’t reconcile, I can’t stop this feeling.
It is not just love, youth, compassion; the concepts are abstract in English. But in Telugu all these have a smell, a color, a face, a word. When I hear that word "pogaDa poolu" (పొగడ పూలు), I remember my walks in Nagarjuna Sagar wondering how I would look back on those days. The words "mudda banti" remind me of the Sankranti when we put those flowers in "gobbillu" (గొబ్బిళ్లు). When I hear the "saraagam" (సరాగం), I remember a long forgotten face from memory that responded so much to that word.
Then the words! All these words come back to me flooding through those songs. All these words crowd me with curious combinations, pregnant with new meanings out of each union. Even if I am listening to the words "malle teega" (మల్లెతీగ) or "vira jaaji" (విరజాజి) or "sOga kallu" (సోగకళ్లు) or any of those 287 words that make up 90% words in telugu songs, I still get goose bumps.
May be I am a prisoner of my vivid imagination, but I could smell vira jaajulu in jet black hair, I could see eye lids heavy with shyness, I could feel hesitating touch, I could picture myself imagining these things ages ago, walking on next to Krishna River in Nagarjuna Sagar listening to the same old songs.
Then one day, I withstand no longer, and go and rent the movies. I eagerly come home and watch them. The words that weave such dream magic, the phrases that paint the gossamer veils on faces, all those are brought to life on the small screen with a rude shock of reality. What was hinted, what was left unsaid, what was best imagined is laid out bare on that screen. The myriad hues of rainbow are coerced into a limited palette. The words become string of sounds. They tell prosaic, oft-told tales.
Suddenly, I am cured of my brief relapse. I no longer am immune to these songs! At least until I forget my movie experiences!
Dec 23, 1998