Bhajans and carols

Both bhajan and carol singers would not have had any regimen to guide them.

As the  street  is  sleeping   under a  sheet of fog,  the mellifluous sound of a mobile group singing would slowly close in from a distance as if a knob in a hi-fi music system was turned slowly to increase the volume. It would be the bhajan-singing  group doing the rounds during  Margazhi in Poonamallee.

The wizened retired post master  would lead the group. Though past eighty, he would pooh-pooh the early morning cold by having a cold bath and  cheer-lead the team comprising of a dozen men and women. Chandru and Chamu, the Laurel-Hardy duo would give instrumental support, the former having a battered single reed harmonium suspended from his neck from a thick tape and the latter a mridangam similarly hung. All others would have small burnished brass cymbals in their hands barring a few who would mark the time by clapping their hands with verve.

As the music approached, the street would wake up to women splashing water laced with cow dung and  ornamenting with colourful rangoli. The group would trudge along after stoppages like a local train at wayside stations. Soon the music would fade away as if the knob was turned down. But the notes  would linger on, cleansing the mind, that would feel fresh like a mouth after a vigorous brushing of teeth and a gargle of mouthwash.

After a short period of silence and stillness , another group would seem to approach the street with their singing. This would be the carol singers praising Lord Jesus of Nazareth--all looking joyous at the approach of His yet another  birthday. The group would have a guitar and even a small tambourine,  the choral singing continuous with an impressive supply of songs. Their singing would reach one’s ear at peak level as the group passes one’s house and would slowly decrease before plunging the street in silence, occasionally broken by crows’ call and the grating noise of broomsticks on the street made by late sweepers.

Both bhajan and carol singers would not have had any regimen to guide them through because of which the rendition may not merge seamlessly. A few of them would even be singing off key. Yet, their performance was not a practice for winning any award. It was meant for God who would listen—be they bhajans or carols—and bless all—the singers as well as the listeners. 

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