The Tune


Sitting cross legged on the floor, amidst the dust of a thousand ancestors, he sang for all his life was worth.

There was a synchronicity between father and son that could not be faked as they kept up a repetitive rhythm with their musical instruments. Head tilted, the boy’s lungs filled with warm air and sometimes his eyes closed to help him remember the rhetoric that has been passed down through generations.

When you live in a city so rich with history

I didn’t understand the words but when you live in a city so rich with history, I’m sure they were recollections, passed on by others, of battles fought and love conquered over the centuries.

Jaisalmer fort, in the background, rises out of the Thar desert like an abandoned sand castle. Positioned at the crossroads of famous trade routes, the golden glow of sunrise and sunset against the sandstone showcases the imposing height of 80 metres and the surrounding crenellated wall. Only close up to this living fort do you actually get to marvel at the astonishing intricacy and perfection of the structures within. A quarter of the population live inside – the rest spill out untidily around the base, in a confusion of modern but extremely modest homes built from left over chunks of the sandstone. Here the poor struggle to be heard among the crowd and to eek out an existence.

Lazily the sun relinquishes another day and it is only now, when the castanets are popped into the boy’s pocket and his father clips the pump organ back into its box, that I can listen to THEIR song.

The proceeds of the day have been brooding on a wonky brass plate. Fingers scrape together the rupees that will be converted to rice grains that will be rolled into balls by those very same hands; moistened with a tasty gravy; and fed to the young ones.

An enquiring look: “Did I do well, Pa? Did I recall the order of all the tales?”
A comforting squeeze of a hand on his shoulder: “You did great son”. And then they marched off together: two musical notes playing on the stave of life.

Two musical notes playing on the stave of life.

They perform a set of scales when neatly clambering over walls. Then the tempo changes when the young quaver runs ahead and laughs at his breve of a father who has paused to catch some breath. Sounds get softer as they disappear in the distance. The father’s devotion and the son’s absolute trust are obvious.

They are the tune that even the deaf can hear, the song that needs no words.

The song that needs no words.














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