A few years back I wrote about Appa’s love for music and the range of songs and music he loved to listen to. Apart from loving to listen to music from some of the greats, Appa was a singer in his own right too. He did not have any formal education in music but he had a good ear for beats, tunes and rhythms. He could whistle tunes effortlessly as well.
When he remembered his business tour days fondly, he would always tell me about how he absolutely loved the music vibe of the African countries and how it was very normal to see a native walk on the road and suddenly burst into song and dance spontaneously as if the universe whispered in his ear and he had heard the call.
What Appa probably never realised about himself is he was exactly that way too. He would just spontaneously burst into song, sometimes even do a funny hips and arms swinging jig if the song that came to his mind was an upbeat dance number, always wearing a big grin, eyes bright with mirth. I was very used to this as a part of my day to day life and it never failed to bring a grin to my face to see the softer and fun side of my father. I’m the only one of the five of us who went to Sabarimalai with him and many a times during that pilgrimage, Appa would spontaneously begin to sing a devotional song about Lord Ayyappa. Before you knew it, the entire group going for the pilgrimage would join. This happened in train compartments, while walking on the paths leading to Sabarimalai, in the resting areas surrounded by forests. I didn’t quite realise it then but today when I close my eyes and recall those devotional songs, I am always transported to those surreal moments I spent with Appa.
One of Appa’s favourite songs was “Baharon Phool Barsao” from the 1966 movie Suraj. It is one of those evergreen songs that to this day is a favourite during weddings. Appa hummed this song to Amma all the time, much to her embarrassment and secret pleasure! Growing up, we were all used to Appa suddenly breaking into this song, his deep and soulful voice filling the air with the beautiful words and rhythm.
My eldest sister Bala though has a very different experience. In transition between two houses, there was a period when Bala had to travel a long distance to go to school and Appa would accompany her back and forth in the public BEST bus. Once settled into their seats, Appa would inevitably almost on a daily basis burst into song and proceed to sing “Baharon Phool Barsao” at the top of his voice in the bus. With the rest of the passengers staring at them both, there was many a day Bala wished she had the ability to disappear or to simply deny any relation with this eccentric man sitting next to her singing away without a care in the world.
Over a decade has gone by since any of us last heard Appa sing. But the beauty of memories is that all any of us need to do is think of this song and on cue, Appa’s voice plays in our soul. And we find ourselves yearning for even those embarrassing moments when Appa burst into song at the most inopportune occasions.