Mugdha Nanal


It's a quiet Sunday afternoon. Ma has appointed me with a sewing duty, which means that we are going to have to spend at least two hours together. Two hours is a lot; talking the bare minimum wouldn't suffice. It's not that I don't like to talk, but for me to have a conversation, the universe needs to conspire in every possible way. As today is not one of those lucky days, I start to make a playlist.

I am not very picky when it comes to music, but if I were forced to choose only one category of songs to listen to for the rest of my life, I would go with heart-wrenching, melancholic stuff; the kind that goes well with sunset and coffee. Ma, being the personification of glass-half-full stereotype, would probably slightly resent me for the choice. I feel that she doesn't appreciate emotions on the sadness side of the spectrum enough. She thinks I appreciate them a little too much. So, to avoid possible confrontations, I am carefully leaving out the sad songs.

Armed with supplies to last me four hours, I take a seat in the corner of the room. The duty that I am appointed with is to attach a lace to a sari. Ma runs a school for special children, which is facing some financial problems due to current crisis. We have come up with an idea to make the students paint saris to get some funding. This will also act as a rehabilitation strategy for these children who don't respond well to conventional methods of education. To make this idea a success, we first need to try sewing and painting on our own and then teach the students. Today's lace-work is part of the same project. Ma gives me some instructions and goes back to her part of the work. I am focusing on moving my clumsy hands. Carefully curated playlist full of feel-good songs is playing in the background.

I am done with three-fourth of the work, when Ma suddenly exclaims,

"Wow! This song is amazing."

It's 'tum saath ho' from the movie Tamasha. How did it get in the playlist? Also, did Ma not listen to the lyrics? Even if she didn't, the melody itself is pretty melancholic. What is happening?

"Amazing? I thought you didn't like it when I played sad songs."

"Oh but this song is not sad. It is beautiful. It makes me want to have someone beside me, and it is quite a warm and fuzzy feeling."

"I don't know where you are getting the warm and fuzzy feeling from, but I think the song is actually pretty sad. Did you listen to what the male voice is singing? He is saying he doesn't care whether he is with her or not. She desperately wants to be with him and he doesn't care because he thinks that love is not real..."

I look up. I see Ma getting ready to attack me with either a 'see, you are negative because you surround yourself with negative stuff' bullet or an 'it is a shame that you don't talk more often, even when you are so good at expressing what you think' one. Before she gets a chance to do so, I add hurriedly,

"That is not why I like this song though. I like it because two opposite perspectives towards a same thing exist in complete harmony. No particular perspective is deemed to be the only truth. The usual dichotomy is shed, and something much more profound comes out of it; a little vague, but profound all the same. I really love these kinds of songs. This is a commonly used trick in musicals. It is called polyphony. Here in this song, at least the melody is the same, but in polyphonic songs, two different songs with both lyrics and melodies different are sung together to form a whole new song; and the goose bumps are guaranteed. It is my dream to live inside a polyphonic song. All the paradoxes, and contradictions and different streams of thoughts are allowed to exist together, without a trace of distress there. Kind of makes you think: it's probably not about the difference in opinions, but rather how the different opinions are presented."

I stop to catch my breath. Adding a 'sad song' to the mix was not as bad as I thought it would be. Ma patiently listened to what I said. I should give her more credit than I do.

"Hmm...I see...I hear what you are saying, but I missed half the song because you were talking. Play it again, will you?"


Mugdha Nanal is currently pursuing BA in Japanese. She lives in Pune. Her hobbies mainly include staring: staring out the window, staring at the screen, staring into the abyss etc. You can find her on instagram at @unreal_conversations where she writes conversations.