The Singing Portrait
- Part 1 -
By Kangabam Ranjan Singh *
I reached my hand to the door bell and rang it twice. A moment later a man of aged twenty eight opened the door. He was wearing white plain Koutons T-shirt and a Peter-England black and grey stripped trouser. He was in Bata chappal. I knew all these because he is my friend, my best friend.
"So tell me, why are you calling me?" I asked Kanta.
Kanta was nervous as I asked him the moment he opened the door of his new rented room to me.
"Nothing but to show you something," he replied as we sat down on the sofa in his drawing room.
"And what is that?"
He gestured me to wait as he left for his bedroom.
Kanta and I were bonded together since our primary school life. He is from Manipur and is the only son of the former Chief Minister of his State. We shared same room in a hostel during our school life in Delhi. Now, he got a job in Kolkata and resided here in my own State. It was hard to get a rented room in the city and so he lived with me till last month when he got a triple room for 8500 rupees per month.
When he told me first about the room, I asked him, "Isn't it very costly?
Besides, is not double room enough for you?"
He smiled at my question and said, "There is no other option for me, you knew it too. There is no other room."
"You can still stay with me," I said.
"This new room which I choose is with a lot of spaces and I love it. You know how I love spaces."
Yes, Kanta used to love spaces since his childhood days and clean and attractive places as well. His new rooms filled with paintings and portraits in addition to model statues, made from wax and decorated flower vases. Of course, his new room suited well to his love for art. Feeling more thirst for art, I heard from him that he bought a portrait last week from Kolkata Auction House.
My guess was right; he came out of his bedroom holding a computer keyboard size portrait.
"Are you calling me to show that portrait?" I asked.
"Yes, but not how you were thinking," he said as he sit on the sofa opposite to me. He was so uneasy holding the portrait.
"Not how I was thinking? What do you mean?"
"You were thinking... Never mind. Just see it and I'll tell you why." He handed me the portrait.
It was an oil painting depicting a woman sitting in a pillow and playing a sitar. Her mouth was slightly opened as if she was singing. She was in her teens and wearing a chador. Something was going on my mind by observing the portrait.
She seemed to be so familiar to me as if I knew her in real person.
"Do you know whose portrait it is?" Kanta was smiling when he asked this. I wonder why if my guess work made some strange action.
"What? Do you mean it's someone whom I know?"
"Yes, you knew her well," Kanta said pointing at the portrait on my hand without even staring at it. He continued, "The only thing is that she is now old and you met her when she is in her middle age."
"That means I never knew her when she is this much young." Saying it I monitored the image again and then, I saw those, the moles on her forehead. "She. .. She is- "Yes, Mumtaaz," Kanta helped me.
I knew from the alignment of the moles on her forehead in the shape of Great Bear Constellation. She is one of the music teachers of my cousin sister who lived in Darjeeling. I've met her before twice during classical music festival in Darjeeling when my cousin had invited me there along with Kanta.
She was a great singer during her teen days but due to some health problem, she could not sing anymore. Though she taught sitar, she is living like an ordinary lady. No one in Kolkata knew her as a singer except for someone like me who loves to listen to her songs.
— to be continued ...
* Kangabam Ranjan Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 28, 2011.
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