The gentleman who stood by Ayesha's side looked dignified despite the rather worn out shirt and trousers he was wearing. I joined my palms in the namaskar gesture conveying to Ayesha how grateful I felt for her welcome. And then I remembered that this meeting was not about feeling welcome but about offering whatever help I could to this young widow with two children. So I got down to business. The file open in my hand, I asked the gentleman, who was her brother, what was the financial liability of her treatment. He looked a little worried but quickly set that aside and asked me to step into their humble little abode.
The sadness of the situation started gripping me from within and then my eyes fell on something that changed my perception abut Ayesha altogether. Five gorgeous musical instruments were kept, rather carefully at the corner of that room, shining brass and silver on the sitar, tabla, and three more Indian instruments. The brother explained. Ayesha had been the pride of the family and was a child prodigy having begun her vocal renditions at an age of five. She had been performing live on stage from the age of 7. Next to the instruments lay reams of sheets. I, as if in a trance got up to see what they were. Carefully written pieces of music-pages and pages of it.
"She started teaching her daughter Rukma when she was just a baby. You should hear her now. Here would you like to hear some of her recorded songs?" The brother prompted me. Ayesha walked in with a tray load of tea and some homemade sweets. It was unbearable; neither had spoken to me about any help or any problem so far. For Ayesha not being able to sing was perhaps the ultimate punishment and I couldn't bear to sit there knowing how unjust life can be to some people. Getting up quickly, I handed the cheque over to the brother and told him to contact me if he ever needed anything. Ayesha looked at me with warm and friendly eyes as if wanting me to stay and give her company. Not a glimmer of pain seemed to reflect there.
Many years later I was still working for the same social service organization which brought me back to that village in Assam. I couldn't help but go to Ayesha's house. I had come to know that she had succumbed to cancer two years back. As I walked in, a melodious voice, wafted through the air, magical! It sounded just like Ayesha. I entered in a trance; a young little Ayesha, was sitting at the sitar, with a bunch of young kids listening and learning from Ayesha's book of music. This was not a home of tragedy. It would be a travesty to call it so. Ayesha's home resounded with hope and beauty, with joy of music and that would make her live on forever.