The Singing Portrait
- Part 2 -

By Kangabam Ranjan Singh *

I didn't stop him not because I like coffee but because I was toe heavy-eyed to do that. I checked my watch; it was almost a quarter to midnight. The hands on my watch ticked off slowly but without stopping and bringing midnight closer and closer.

"Ashok, Ashok wake up," Kanta shook my shoulder. "Oh! What's it? Does it sing?"

"Yes, come and see for yourself."

I could hear the soft tune. Soon we reached the drawing room. It was already lighted and so I could see the young Mumtaaz in the portrait. The soft song came from it and... to my horror, the mouth was moving. Her fingers were too moving on the strings of the sitar. The scene changed in the portrait as if it is a television. It has portrayed now the whole scene when it had been painted.

I could see the painter as well as the model, Mumtaaz herself. The painter must be Anand Ghosh. My doubt was clear now, he is my acquaintance, but he is very old now. I've met him recently. Anand Ghosh visited my Baba's Clinic quite a few times on account of his health. "He is my childhood friend," Baba used to tell me when I asked about him.

"He is a good painter but the world never knew him as he only painted for his interest. And moreover he had quitted the profession at an early age.

No one in family or his friends knew the reason," Baba used to say.

I tried to ask him the reason why he quit but he had never disclosed. But one day he told me, "If you really want to know son, I'll tell you but not now, sometime later." From that day onward I've never met him nor did he visit Baba's clinic.

Anand Ghosh, which is on the portrait, was very young. Maybe around twenty five years. He had hair carefully brushed and was, very handsome in his sky-blue shirt and black trousers.

Baba was right; Anand Ghosh was a gifted artist. He was painting by observing the singing model, Mumtaaz who was never at still. She swayed her head, moved her fingers on the string of the sitar and mouth singing with a melodious voice. Anand Ghosh enjoying the song almost finished the portrait. He was smiling at Mumtaaz in flirtating manner.

Suddenly the music stopped, so also the painting. Someone had interrupted them.

Apa," shrieked Mumtaaz dropping the sitar.

A bearded bespectacled man of age, around forty had entered the scene. He was wearing a white trouser along with a long sleeved white cotton shirt and with a cap on the head. His beard, I think was due to mehendi was reddish. He looked like a well respected Muslim man and must be Mumtaaz's father. His sharp eyes were on both Anand and Mumtaaz sternly.

"What is going on here? And what are you doing here?" he asked his daughter in severe tone. "Is this your music class and is he your student?" He pointed at Anand who was standing silently confusing at the acts.

"Apa!! "Stop calling me Apa. You are an undisciplined traitor girl and no longer my daughter anymore. Despite our refusal, you are still meeting him.

"But Apa, he was painting..."I don't want to hear anything; I know what you were doing. And you painter babu," he turned to Anand. "How many times did I tell you not to show your face to my daughter? Stop dreaming about her. Remember she is a Muslim and you, a Hindu."

"But Azad sir, I love her," Anand bowing his head without looking at Azad." "Please marry your daughter to me." "Never! Don't you know who is she? She is a great singer. And what are you?"

"He is an artist." Mumtaaz retorted.

Azad didn't listen to her and continued. "You are nothing as compared to her."

"He is a great artist-

"Get lost from the sight of my daughter...

"But I love him and will marry him."

Azad looked at his daughter from Anand and from her to Anand again and said, "Look, what have you done to my daughter. You have adulterated her mind. So, I'm begging you now, stop thinking about her. I'm wedding her off to my friend's son."

"Anandji please," interrupted Mumtaaz this time and she turned to her father. "Apa, I'll never marry that scumbag fellow and I'm not ready to be his second wife." "But Mumtaaz, I've promised my friend to marry you to his son," said Azad slowly.

"And I promise that I'll die if I am married to him," retorted Mumtaaz. "And they will kill us both if you are married to your Hindu painter."

"No..."Please stop, please stop," Anand shouted swaying his head and waving his hands violently.

The father and the daughter watch him surprisingly.

He continued, "Mumtaaz, your life is more important to me. I think I can live without marrying you but can't live seeing you die."

He sighed and said slowly, "Mumtaaz, I'm sorry but I think it will be wise for you to marry to your father's choice."

And he turned to Azad, "Sir, I'm ready to leave your daughter. Please make sure she is happy."

Saying this, he stepped toward the portrait, unhooked it from the stand, brought it to Mumtaaz and said, "Mumtaaz, I don't have anything to give you, except for this small portrait in which we spent a lot of meaningful time in painting it."

- to be continued ...

* Kangabam Ranjan Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on July 03, 2011.

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