Unchained Melodies

Faraz laid staring at the narrow beam of moonlight streaming into his 150 sq ft size room at the poorer fringes of New York City. Sleep courteously waited as Faraz spiraled through the maze of memories, which all led him to his childhood. Parts of him, lie scattered in the room. His family photo glowed in the moonlight. Ammi cheering him with her radiant smile and Abbu engulfing him in the biggest bear hug. Sullen and mute, his rabab, too glared at him complainingly. It had been days, he had touched his soul mate, his first love. Unloved and ignored, it silently bore the brunt of a failing relationship. 

Faraz pined for his first love and his home in the mountains. That is where he belonged!

Tugged away on the Khyber pass, bordering Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan, was his home town, Landi Kotal. Belonging to the Pashtun tribe, his ancestors thrived on the flourishing silk route. Faraz’s love for literature and music had been sparked early on by his grandfather, who often read him poems by prominent Pashtun poets.

Faraz’s first love, his rabab had been his companion since he was just ten years old. Carved in mulberry wood, the sound of stringed rabab, teamed with the beats of tabla drum fascinated him. Sitting on the rooftop, Faraz often spent his evenings lost in the heady twang of his rabab reverberating in the mountain silence

The haunting dream was back!

Islamic extremists hurled loud abuses and threats at him. Aiming glass bottles through his bedroom window, they threatened to hang him along with his rabab. That fateful night! 

They buried his rabab’s music under the rattle of gunfire.

Ammi and Abbu were scared! 

Faraz’s rabab now lay quietened. He relocated like many other artists and now played guitar at a pub in New York. Foreign soil, foreign food, and foreign music, all added to Faraz’s distress. He yearned for the fresh mountain air and the feel of his rabab’s strings between his fingers.  

Faraz’s mobile suddenly awakened, ringing aloud. Iqbal’s cheerful laugh pulled Faraz out of his mournful reverie. 

“Man! I have some fantastic news for you!” raved Faraz’s bosom buddy, Iqbal.

“Coke Studio, the happening National TV channel has offered to broadcast Pashtun artists. Our name has been nominated. We will get national coverage every week.”

“You must return Faraz. Our time has come and it is now!”

“But Ammi?” refuted Faraz, sounding perturbed.

“Trust me, things have changed” rallied Iqbal. 

“Music breathes freely now! Insurgents have been curbed and law rules the land” convinced Iqbal.

“Faraz! Your homeland and your music are calling you back!” insisted Iqbal.

Faraz spent the night staring through the tiny skylight. As the morning rays shone on his face, he knew that sunny times reckoned him. 

His music and spirit now unchained, flew unhooked to familiar lands called home. 

Home, where his heart belongs,

Home, where echoes his happy song,

Home, where his rabab freely sounds,

With eager ears of Pashtun’s abound!

* * *

Glossary:
Ammi: Mother
Abbu: Father
Rabab: A bowed string instrument originating from central Afghanistan.
Tabla: A percussion instrument consisting of two drums, originating from the Indian subcontinent.
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