The first I heard of it was when the better-half was asking a friend[who was going to Kerala, India] to check the price of a chenda.
“Chenda, what’s that??????” I ask puzzled.
“What do you think it is???” the better-half questions back.
“”Noooo ideaaa…………. the only chenda I can think of is the one they use in the temples in Kerala, you know those long drum-like thingies which they beat with sticks for temple festivals. But you were not talking about that, were you???” I joke weakly.
“I’m talking about the very same chenda” the better-half says happily.
“Okkayyy…..so why are you asking your friend to find out the price” I was totally mystified now.
“To buy it” says better-half casually and walks out of the room.
I stare at him open-mouthed trying to assimilate the information.
I always knew he was crazy about drums. Within a month of marriage I found out that his dream from childhood was to be a football player & to buy himself a state-of-the-art drum-set. Injuries and a back-problem ruled out a career in football[thts the story he sticks to;-D] but he was determined to realize his other dream come what may.
Since he didn’t know how to play the drums and plus we really didn’t have the required space in the apartment he decided he would buy it whenever we moved into our dream house in India[whenever that was].
Right, all this was cool with me. I cherished a secret fantasy myself to bang on a drum set…….. diding dish bang BOOMMMMMM tish-tinsh tadum dish tidding tish TisHH TISHHHHHHH.
Which is why I was so bewildered as to why he was opting for a chenda……a chenda for goodness' sakes.
A chenda for your information is a …..a…....actually I had no clue what a chenda was all about other than the odd glimpses in the Malayalam movies where the actors portraying simple village life, play it very enthusiastically in their temples during festivals & such-like…..oh let me just google it for you……
So you see what I’m getting at….
I followed him into the living-room “You are joking!!!!!”
“Nope, I dont want to wait anymore. Since we have no space for a drum-set in the apartment, I’m going to get myself a chenda and start practicing on that."
On that note he started beating an imaginary chenda with accompanying sound…….
“Tan-tan, taga taga taga, taga taga taga,
Tan-tan, taga taga taga……………....”
I shook my head in bafflement; I mean whatever next.
In the following months I heard the......
“Tan-tan, taga taga taga, taga taga taga,
Tan-tan, taga taga taga……………….....” every now and then and couldn't help smiling.
Then when we went to Kerala recently I heard him telling his father about it. I quickly positioned myself so that I could watch my father-in-law’s face. Then ducked away & laughed so much; I understood his incomprehension & bewilderment so well. Why did his son want to buy a chenda of all things[now all of u please don’t mistake me….a chenda is beautiful instrument and we have nothing against it. Its just that nobody else in our whole family or acquaintance or anybody(in my knowledge) ever expressed an interest in it. So many of us send our kids to learn to play the piano, guitar, violin and even the veena & tabla but chenda.....we know next to nothing about it, the closest we've seen it is in the movies]
Anyways my father-in-law found out places where they sold musical instruments & off they went together to check them out. Before going the better-half armed himself with some basic knowledge about the chenda from the internet[can you just believe this???] so that he could converse knowledgably.
I found the better-half’s obsession with the chenda very endearing and the situations centred around it hilarious. I mean he is such a practical & sane guy most of the time;-D.
When they came back they had different emotions reflecting on their faces. The better-half was disappointed that the chenda cost more than double the price in his home-town compared to districts like Trichur & Ernakulam[the hub of art & culture] and his father was relieved that better-sense prevailed.
I did empathise with the better-half at this point. He was the kind who never splurged on himself. This was actually the 1st time he showed so much interest in something which he didn’t really need in his normal day-to-day life. I was like “Just get it” but he shook his head. He wasnt that far gone yet;-D
The “Tan-tan, taga taga taga, taga taga taga,
Tan-tan, taga taga taga……...............” tune was still hummed at odd intervals but very mournfully now.
Soon it was time to go back to Dubai. In all the bustle and the shopping I forgot about it but just once saw him wistfully looking in a particular direction[while we coming back home from a shopping trip] and I glanced curiously in the same direction. It was one of the musical instruments shop which he had gone to earlier. He hadn’t forgotten.
Reached Trivandrum airport and found the flight cancelled. It was rescheduled for 11 hrs later.
I thought it was a Sign.
All the way upto the hotel my eyes unconsciously searched the shops we were passing. Reached our room & I found the yellow pages right on top of the shelf which gave me some information. When I casually questioned the head-waiter at the restaurant, within 5 minutes he got me all the names of the stores which specialised in musical instruments and directions to boot.
I tell you it was meant to be.
The waiter asked us to hurry….all shops closed by 7.30-8pm & it was already 7pm.
The kids[they were excited too] and I tore out of the hotel with the better-half following hesitantly. He had other things on his mind now[the flight delay had played havoc with his appointments for the next day]. We caught an auto and the nice guy took us around the whole town; the 1st shop was closed, the next shop had a piece which was not tuned[will take a day to tune it], the next shop had a damaged piece, the third shop had moved, another closed……….we were rushing from 1 shop to the other to beat the closing time. The auto driver finally dropped us back at the hotel around 8.30pm.....we had come back empty-handed.
The better-half was resigned but I just couldn’t understand it. The signs were all in our favour but we were beaten by time I supposed miserably. If only we had started off half an hour earlier we could have made it to all the shops. Just then, right next to our hotel we see this old board which read “………..Sports and Music equipments”. It had some sad looking crickets bats & badminton racquets on display. Not very reassuring, I looked at the better-half & mouthed “just one last try”.
The shop had only sports equipments but the shop-keeper points us to his other shop down the road which had the musical instruments & warns “We close in 10 minutes.”
The kids by this time were totally grumpy. According to them we rushed all around the town for nothing; we didn’t stop at even one book or stationary store which was downright unfair. They were also hungry and tired.
I rashly promised them everything they wanted and we took off in a run. Reached the music shop and found it very different from the old & dusty sports shop. Impressive-looking instruments[Indian & western] adorned the walls and the sides of the room. We found our beauty almost immediately. There were just 2 pieces and ours was the one with white ropes on it just like how we wanted[the other had yellow]. It was perfectly tuned and just waiting to be taken home. The price was a little more but not as expensive as the one in our hometown. Still there was no harm in trying is there??? I hesitantly asked them to reduce the price and what do you know; we got a discount. Paid up quickly, got it carefully packed and brought it back with us to Dubai. There was a bit of a heart-stopping moment when a customs official tore thru all the wrapping and wanted to open the drum to check the insides. Luckily another official intervened and they let us off.
As of now the chenda stands proudly in its special place in the apartment; the better-half has downloaded a few chenda tunes from the internet and is practicing very conscientiously. My advise to go learn the basics at a kala-kendra* is treated very disdainfully. The kids watch him very interestedly and try their hand at it under his supervision. He gave a marvellous performance[only for us ofcourse] on the occasion of Onam...... well it sounded pretty good to my inexperienced ears.
Everytime I walk past the chenda I marvel at how it all fell into place, I told you it was meant to be….I knew it the minute I heard the flight was cancelled, I just knew it.
Here's a picture of the prized possession......
“Tan-tan, taga taga taga, taga taga taga,
Tan-tan, taga taga taga………………………….” **
*institutions which specialise in art & cultural dances
** our version of how the instrument sounds
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