‘Ja tose nahi bolu Kanhaiya….. Ja ,ja tose nahi bolu.. Kanhaiya…..ja ja tose nahi…jaaaa…tose nahi bollluuu kanhaiyaaaa…’
Archana heaved a sigh of relief as she looked up to see Tarun exhibiting a thumps-up sign. It indicated that the recording was successful.
“Here,” Tarun said, handing over the CD. “Do you want to hear the song?” Archana nodded with anxiety writ large on her countenance. She did want to make sure everything sounded perfect. Tarun switched on the CD player and sat next to her, savoring the melodious song, with his eyes closed. Archana too had shut her eyes.
The tears that formed a pool in her eyes threatened to overflow anytime.
‘How long had she been waiting for an opportunity of this sort!’
Now she would be able to submit her song for the Voice of India selection. If everything goes fine with the first round, she will proceed further. Archana had never even reached this first milestone despite being a mellifluous singer with a voice that had the perfect skill to catch music nodes.
Life had offered Archana this golden opportunity for the first time in twenty nine years of her life. A smile broke on her lips as she thought of Atul. If it wasn’t for his staunch support, she might have never reached this far. For all the disappointing days Archana had seen from her childhood, God had been kind enough to give her a considerate life partner. If it wasn’t for Atul, she might not be in the recording studio of Tarun today, and the CD that captured her beautiful rendition would not have been playing now.
Her song blended well with the percussions of Tarun’s team.
‘Ja tose nahi bolu Kanhaiya, Raah chalat, pakadee mori baiyya,‘ the song in Raga Hamsadhvani reverberated in the air.
“I know I can’t sing half as well as Lataji,” Archana smiled.
“Well, but you have your unique style. It sounds good. Shall I drop the CD at the audition center?” Tarun asked.
“No, thanks, Tarun, but I need to copy the song, and also, I want Atul to hear it,” she said, blushing involuntarily.
“Yes, of course,” Tarun shrugged his shoulders.
“Atul said he would leave the CD at the center en-route his drive to the airport day after tomorrow morning.” Archana carefully placed the CD in a red box.
“I hope you know that submission closes on that day.” Tarun reminded Archana and she nodded.
“So you are going to be one amongst those who love to submit things in the last moment?” He teased her and Archana smiled.
Two days later almost three hours after the CD was submitted Archana received a message from the audition center. Her mind began racing so fast that the words blurred together and no longer made any sense. Just three lines, but enough to make her life; the life she’d worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build, begin to crumble like a pack of cards.
Dear Archana madam,
‘The CD you sent across today morning has no song recorded in it. If you wish to participate in the selection, kindly send another CD with your recorded songs before 7 pm; failing which, you will be disqualified for further rounds.’
The room almost darkened in her eyes. How could this happen? She tried recollecting each and everything that took place in the morning.
With the red-colored box held possessively in her hands, Archana had walked towards the room where Atul was getting ready to leave on a foreign tour.
Standing behind him, she had helped him put on his coat like she always did when he left for work.
“Here, Atul,” she had said, handing him the box, “Please do not forget to drop this with Nitya at the audition center on the route to the airport. My sincere efforts and umpteen sacrifices are all swaddled in it. I have given my best performance.” Her eyes had turned damp as she could visualize the arduous journey she had crossed so meticulously for years together.
Atul had cautiously taken custody of the box from her. “Of course, you have done your best. When I heard the song yesterday, I was convinced that you would soon make it to the top.”
Planting a kiss on her forehead, he had wished her all the best and left. Precisely 50 minutes later, Atul called to tell that he had handed over the CD to Nitya, who was the receptionist at the audition center and a very good friend of Archana.
Then how could such a grave mistake happen?
She called up Nitya and informed her about the message.
“Oh, Gosh!!! That sounds intriguing. Mr. Atul came at around 10.15 am and handed over the box containing the CD to me. I personally enter all the details of every participant on our company label and stick it on the box. I handed over your CD along with five more at the audition room at 11.05. Did you check properly before you sealed the box?”
Archana distinctly remembered that she had placed the CD in the red-colored box. There was no other similar box in the house that could have created any skepticism.
“I suggest you somehow submit a new one, Archana. Maybe you could have avoided this fiasco if you had submitted earlier. The team listens to the songs as I pass on the recorded CDs after every hour of submission. If the faux pas had been found earlier, you could have amicably gone through a fresh recording. Today is the last day and there is no way I can help you with an extension.” Nitya hung up.
Nitya was right, but then what use it would be crying over spilled milk?
Aspiring contestants needed to record preferably a classical genre song. An eminent jury panel would then call the best ten to perform live in their august presence. Another two rounds of elimination later, the most deserving one would make it big in the world of playback singing.
Archana nervously looked at the clock. It was 1 pm. Six hours before she could hand over a new CD.
Though it didn’t sound impossible, it was not that easy to go through the entire ordeal in a matter of six hours. Recording a song with the required percussions and a sound recording room on such short notice was a scintillating task.
Suddenly Archana’s face lit up as she remembered that she had a copy of the original CD.
‘How could I be such a fool to have forgotten it?’ she chided herself for her memory lapse and frantically began rummaging the cupboard where she had placed it, but it was missing.
Racking her brain to the maximum possible intensity, she tried hard to recollect if she had kept it elsewhere, but no, not that her stretched memory could answer.
Archana’s throat parched and she held her splitting head between her palms. Something suddenly struck her memory as a flash of lightning.
‘Oh good god, how could I have been so naive to have fallen prey to their sweet talk?’
Archana’s stepmother, who had nothing but deep seething hatred in her heart for Archana, right from the time she had married Archana’s father nearly two and a half decades ago, had come to visit her yesterday along with Uttara, Archana’s step-sister.
As they had portrayed it to be, the purpose of their visit was to wish Archana the best of luck for this selection. It was intriguing, though, but Archana’s soft and delicate heart that had been yearning for their love and affection was overwhelmed to see them at her doorstep with a wholly changed disposition and kind gesture.
All these years, her stepmother had left no stone unturned to find ways and means to hinder Archana’s prospects of becoming a renowned singer. Her father passed away only a couple of months before carrying this regret that he could not do much to promote his daughter’s talent.
“Come on, we cannot send her for all this rubbish,” her stepmother had jeered at her father when a similar opportunity had come across her way when Archana was only eight. There was a massive hunt by the music world for a child singer.
“Please understand,” her father meekly beseeched. “They say she has rendered the classic song of Lataji perfectly. At this age, it is not very simple to sing a song of that caliber with such ease.” He broke into the song, “Ja tose nahi bolu Kanhaiya….” But was rudely interrupted by his wife.
“That all is a complicated affair. One of us will have to accompany her off and on. We have better things to do. Your job is even otherwise hanging precariously on the verge of being given the pink slip, and I cannot afford to call off the food supply in the home mess. If I declare it closed now and then, people will stop coming here for the food. This is a steady income compared to your unstable job.”
Father could say nothing in retaliation. His job at the scrap iron dealer was genuinely not going fine. To supplement the monthly expenditure, Archana’s stepmother was running a small mess from home.
Archana was a gifted child with a melodious voice and talent for grasping musical notes. She had been a prodigy. Her stepmother had never been in favor of her love for music. There was constant bickering in the house over a decent amount of money being spent on her training. Her father, who otherwise always maintained peace by never raising his decibel levels, would listen to none of this banter regarding his daughter’s music sessions. He had this strong inkling that she would be a great singer someday.
The opportunity lost did not hurt an eight-year-old. She was too small to realize what she had been deprived of, but it wasn’t the same for a twenty-year-old. Once again, this drama was enacted with more intensity when Archana’s music teacher expressed her wish to take Archana to a dais where she could prove her mettle in singing and emerge as a famous singer.
“Your daughter is indeed talented. I marvel at the way she effortlessly sings classical as well as light music. Her favorite number has always been the one in Raag Hamsadhavni.’ The teacher broke into a few lines. ‘Ja tose nahi bolu Kanhaiyaa…’ Archana’s stepmother’s voice broke her rhythm.
“Look here; we are trying to seek a good alliance for her. There is yet another girl in the house who has to get married off. This singing and selection will take a lot of time, with too many elimination rounds and stuff. Moreover, who can guarantee that all this will lead to her fame? It may be wastage of time and money.”
All arguments to convince Archana’s stepmother fell on deaf ears. This time, Archana felt the pinch and she realized that it was pure envy that stopped her stepmother in helping her cherish her dreams. Her daughter, Uttara could never sing and that probably might have triggered her jealously. The other fact being that Archana’s mother was herself a good singer and had passed on the genes to her daughter. Archana’s stepmother on the other hand hated music.
Archana could see her perennial woes getting some respite in the form of a passionate soul mate in Atul. He had been supportive of giving her enough space to continue her practice sessions and participate in many stage contests.
However, Archana had faced some resentment from her mother-in-law. The latter had been pretty upset that she had this idea of not wanting to get into the intricacies of motherhood until such time she had accomplished a particular feat in the field of music. A yardstick Archana had set for herself.
Archana had meticulously crossed this distance, sacrificing so many things from her favorite ice cream to the lovely pain that a mother undergoes when her child arrives into the world.
Now with the CDs missing, the prospects of making it big in the music world seemed to be crumbling as the time tickled slowly.
The previous day Archana’s stepmother had cried her heart out and asked for a pardon a thousand times, requesting her to let bygone be bygone. She had held both her hands and keeping her palm over Archana’s head had blessed her with significant achievement in this venture.
“I am certain that you would meet with success and reach the zenith soon.”
‘How well she had enacted the drama! As if she had rehearsed it several times to confirm the factuality.’ Archana bitterly thought.
On mentally running over the events retrospectively, Archana realized that seizing an apt opportunity while she had gone into the kitchen to make tea and snacks, Uttara had kept her strategically engaged in some conversation.
Archana’s stepmother, who had expressed her wish to go in for a siesta, must have sneaked near the cupboard where she had seen Archana place the CDs after playing the songs for them. She would have then swapped it with a plain one that she may have carried and also taken away the copied one.
A well-planned move that would have never evoked anybody’s suspicion. Then the duo had stayed back till late evening, saying they wanted to meet Atul too since he was leaving for an extended tour abroad. Archana had by then sealed the red box in their presence. Definitely, they must have been waiting for this and left with the feeling of triumph for having carried out their plot successfully.
Had fate been favorable on Archana’s side, someone would have come wanting to hear the songs, and then maybe the cat would have been out of the bag, as the copied CD would be missing, giving rise to doubts. But destiny was not in her favor.
It was nearing 2 pm. Archana desperately looked upon Atul for some emotional support, but he had switched off his phone. She guessed he must be on the flight and might contact her once he reaches. It should be another ten hours before he reached the destination and got in touch with her.
She wiped her tears and tried fighting the fresh bile that threatened to come out of her mouth. The message had upset her so severely that she had been through a bout of vomiting and felt weak. There was no point in dawdling further. She had already wasted a reasonable amount of time in remorse. Confronting her stepmother would only lead to more wastage of time.
She should immediately contact Tarun, Atul’s colleague Nishant’s brother, who recorded her songs. She could request him for a session before 5 pm to allow her some cushion time to go and hand over the CD, but that is only if he had no other recording scheduled.
Archana washed her face clean, took warm water with salt to ease her throat, and left the house. She was determined not to give up. She had been looking forward to this for almost two decades. Under no circumstances could Archana afford to miss this opportunity.
Five months later!
Archana was recording her first song as the playback singer, and when she completed it, a round of applause greeted her from within the recording room. The moment gave her the much-awaited sense of achievement, and a strong intuition indicated that she would soon be counted among the renowned playback singers.
Acknowledging all of them with a nod and eyes brimming with tears, Archana rushed out to meet those who had helped her accomplish this feat.
Hugging her stepmother and sister, Archana let her tears roll down her cheeks.
“Thanks for helping me with the recording that day. If it hadn’t been for both of you, I cannot imagine what I would have done; Tarun being out of station.
Thanks a ton, Uttara, for taking me to your brother-in-law’s friend who had this recording facility. I am sorry that I suspected both of you of having tried to sabotage my diligence. God is indeed great that he made us bump into each other accidentally while I was madly rushing to find someone to record my songs.”
It was an emotional scene where the three hugged and cried. The mother asked Archana to pardon her for many of her previous discourtesy, and the sisters giggled like school kids.
The office boy interrupted them. “Madam, someone has come looking out for you in the reception,” he handed a visiting card.
Archana’s face turned red as she saw it. ‘Atul Kelkar, VP Sales, Nirmala textiles and garments.’
She bitterly handed the card back to the boy and said, “Tell him I am not interested in meeting him.”
Archana felt a gentle but firm hand on her shoulder. She turned to meet her mother’s misty eyes with curiosity and anxiety writ large on them.
“No, mom, please do not ask me to pardon him for what he did. He breached my trust. I handed over the red case with the CD to him, believing that he would safely deposit it with the audition center, but he ruthlessly threw the recorded one and placed a plain one in the box. He very strategically misplaced the copied CD too. I had placed my full faith upon him, and so blind was my trust that not once did he feature in my frame of suspicion. All the while, I only thought that you and Uttara were responsible for the loss of the CD. I kept visualizing how you both could have possibly carried out the whole exercise. I had been such a fool to have trusted Atul unconditionally. I still have the malicious message he sent me upon reaching his destination.”
‘Dear Archana, by now, you must have come to know that your songs have not been submitted, and by now, the deadline for submission must have got over. I swapped your recorded CD with a plain one, and I also have the copied version, rendering you helpless.
Call it Male Chauvinism or whatever you choose to, but my ego did not allow me to let you go ahead with this. I know you could have made it to the pinnacle with this audition, but I definitely wouldn’t like to be known in public as the husband of a singer.
I chose this move also to avenge you for having made my mother yearn for a grandchild. When she passed away with that lacuna in her heart, I had vowed to teach you a lesson and deprive you of this pleasure of being called a famous singer. I adapted this strategy to complete my revenge.
It will take a lot of time before another such opportunity comes your way.
Well, I do not deny that we had arrived at a consensus regarding parenthood. As days passed, I started having doubts about your promises since you were getting more and more involved in your practice sessions and seemed to be only thinking of this audition. What if you go back on your words of starting a family once you get to the pinnacle and start spending more and more time with your rehearsals and songs?
I know Nishant’s brother is out of town, and he will not be available for you to re-record the songs. By 7 pm, it would have been impossible.’
Archana bit her lips in resentment after reading the message out again.
“This was pretty unfair. We had well contemplated the subject of parenthood. Atul too had agreed to my proposal of accepting the responsibility of motherhood once I accomplish the feat of carving a niche for myself. I don’t see how I am responsible if a frivolous doubt about my promise had crept into his mind. How can he accuse me of having played with his mother’s emotions?
He tried calling me many times during his stay there because he learned that I had submitted my songs and had gotten through. I never answered his calls and chose to ignore all his messages. I cannot live with a man who has adapted perfidy to throttle my efforts. You can never expect love and affection from such a spiteful person.”
“Archana, but must Atul not be informed that you are expecting now and his child will be born soon?” Uttara looked at her sister, half hoping that her perspective would change and the bitter, harsh feelings for her husband would thaw, but Archana looked invulnerable. She shook her head firmly and walked out of the studio with determination lit large on her face.
She was humming the song that had reached her to the playback singer’s stage today.
“Ja tose Nahi Bolu Kanhaiya….”
Her first song took the music world by storm, and offers came pouring in. And then she sang till eternity.
‘Ja tose Nahi Bolu Kanhiaya,’ she sang over and over again, sitting beside her wedding photograph.’
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