By Thiyam Ningol, Dr. Nalini, Africa
Since childhood John was a music lover. He was one of the active members of the children’s church choir.
As he grew up, he started writing and composing his own songs. When he was 15, one of the local musical bands picked him to sing in their chorus. Studies became secondary to him. When he finished O- level, he did not like to further his education. He wanted to be a musician; a real musician and possibilities of becoming a musician were approaching. He did not like the chance to slip off his hands.
With his parents’ moral support, he whole heartedly started dedicating to music. Within no time he started capturing the audience’s attention even though he was not the lead singer in the band. His favourite was the romantic songs, blues and rhythms. He could sing contemporary music to the perfect tunes.
He knew he would not be staying with that band longer. His style of singing was different. He wanted a different choreography. He wanted to introduce new style rather than sticking to the traditional ways. But the monitory problem was the biggest blow. He did not have any financier. He had to stick with the present band till the right opportunity came.
In one occasion, when his band was entertaining a marriage party, the bride’s father was very much impressed with his talents. Before the party was over, John received a note from him asking him to come and see him in his office the next day. Immediately he was hired to sing in the evenings at his hotel where the clients were mostly selective, middle to higher income groups and foreign dignitaries.
It was in this hotel dining room that he found his love-Julie. Love at first sight. Julie was charmed with John’s voice, his artistic expressions while singing, and his manners. She felt as if John was singing, dedicating all the words to her. Soon they got married.
Even after their marriage, Julie used to accompany John, listened him singing in the hotel. Their small world was full of romance and fantasies.
After their first child Josephine was born, Julie could not continue giving company to John. She had to stay home with the baby. John felt the audience empty, no inspiration, not lively. He needed crowd to cheer him up, to be lost with the rhythms of music, to be with the admirers. He left the job. With the little earnings he had, and the small amount of loan Julie arranged from the Bank where her father worked, John started a band of his own, of his taste. He was back to the open audience once again where people come to listen to music, the real music, not as an appetizer for the diners.
They got a second child, Jack. Julie became more and more occupied with the children and John was completely absorbed with his band. They needed a bigger space for John to be able to practice music but at an affordable price and not crowded neighbourhood. In the city center it became impossible to get such an ideal place. They had to move to the periphery, a suburb from the city center. Julie had to bear with the long travels by public buses to go to work. Josephine was already 4 years old, no place nearby to start nursery classes. Julie had to take her to her parent’s place. Every Friday evening she had to collect herdaugher and bring her home to be with the family.
John’s popularity was increasing day by day. On few occasions Julie and the children had gone to attend his concerts. The children needed space to run around, jump about while the concert was going on. Julie had to take care of them while John was occupied with the music. Slowly disturbances and frustrations started outweighing pleasure of listening to music. Sometimes after the concert, some crazy behaviours of some of the people in the audience irritated her, felt a bit of jealousy, especially when young girls with minimum cloths came and clad around John. She and the children completely stopped attending his concerts.
John did not notice the changes. At home, from morning till late evening there were noises of all types:-people shouting, laughing, singing, instruments creaking, screeching, banging. Litters piled up. Dirty utensils scattered everywhere with millions of flies and insects feasting on the left over food stuff. Choking smokes from cigarettes, sometimes an unpleasant smell of something like semi-dry grass burning made her and the children sneeze often. She suspected marijuana but could not prove. John and his band mates seemed not bothered by the scenario.
Josephine loved music. At 7 years, she knew almost all the songs of her father. On Sundays when she was with her parents at home, she used to join the singing with her father. Julie did not actually mind Josephine joining the father. She even encouraged her. But as she grew up, Julie was afraid that the behaviour of her husband’s band mates would have a negative influence on their daughter. Her parents named her house “mad house” and refused to come and visit them. They discouraged Julie from allowing Josephine to be with the group.
Jack was growing up also. One day, when he was 5 yrs old, he wanted to show that he knew how to spell John; he wanted to engrave his father’s name on his favourite guitar. He took a knife from the kitchen and was working on it. In the process, he made a big hole in the guitar. John punished him bitterly, inflicting bodily harm on his little son. That scared Jack to death and after that episode, he never bothered to approach even near any instruments, and he detested John and his friends. Nobody came to rescue him when John was punishing him. Later also John did not try to make up with his son, he did not bother to remove the wrong impression his son had about him. He was rather proud that he had taught a permanent lesson.
Tension mounted up in the house. Julie tried her best to relay indirect messages to John, but John was too carried away with his music. To him everything was him and music, music and friends, music and fans.
Julie started getting warnings from her boss in the office for making silly mistakes. Her parents were constantly nagging her to leave John alone with his music. She was confused and devastated. Nothing was going smoothly.
On a Saturday night when John and his friends came back after performing a concert, they found the house empty. No Julie, no children. On the dining table, he found a note from Julie stuck on an orange with the tooth pick:
-I have decided to stay with my parents for some time. Children are with me. Please phone.
Julie waited and waited. More than a decade had passed. The phone never came.
John was at his zenith of musical world. He had made a name for himself; at the same time he had created many enemies. Among the fans, there were many foes. His manager had mismanaged his funds, his band mates misbehaved publicly in the concerts, many ladies have accused him of pregnanting them and many, many countless events.
Every week, in the newspapers, always there was one or the other article about him. Several times courts had penalized him on different counts. Because of these problems, the number of performances, concert events had gone down. He was becoming bankrupt. He had been chased away from the house where he was staying for not paying rents. Friends and well wishers were disappearing from sight.
Julie thanked her parents for making her foresee the situation. The children had accepted their fate. They progressed well in their studies. Josephine still continued listening to her father’s music, sang together with the radio and TV sounds, and never missed a new album of her father.
When John had the accident due to drunk driving, Josephine was in her final year degree course in commerce. He lost both his legs. While he was in the hospital, she used to visit him daily and calmed him down by humming the tunes of his favourite songs. Julie and Jack visited John out of courtesy.
John and his band could not even afford to buy the medicines prescribed. His musical instruments were put in auction to pay the hospital bill. Julie and her father bought the instruments back on Josephine’s request.
When Josephine completed her studies, she was determined to bring back her father’s lost glory through her. She persuaded her grand father, her mother and Jack. Reluctantly all agreed to give her a chance. She took charge of a new band, the manageress of the band.
They moved into her grand father’s farmhouse. It was not easy for her to bring back John into line again. He had lost trust, interest. He felt ashamed in front of his in laws and family. His own relatives had abandoned him. He was an invalid, had to be a dependant on his children whom he hardly knew; on his wife whom he mistreated.
The family jointly worked out the feasibilities. They had to make the public realize that John still had the spirit and quality of the musician they knew. His physical disability did not cripple his talent. For that they had to organize a concert.
John was stubborn. He was refusing to cooperate. He was not ready to be openly discredited. But Josephine was not less stubborn than his father. She sang all of her father’s old songs
Jack was a mechanical man, an IT technician. He set up a home studio with the modern recording settings. Youths started flocking for recordings. The atmosphere of music had come back in John’s surroundings. Josephine wrote and composed a song dedicating to her father, pleading to be the same man whom she knew, to hear the call of his fans. That touched John’s heart. It elated a new light and inspiration. He responded.
The long awaited concert “Josephine John live” had arrived. Nothing went unaccounted under the strict supervision of Julie’s father as the financial controller. Julie did her general managers job to the utmost perfection. Jack set the stage in the “never before” style, John and Josephine composed, recomposed all the songs creating perfect songs for the perfect audience.
Josephine opened the concert with the emotional song “ Here comes the man’’ which was dedicated to her father. The audience remained pin dropped silence, some swaying slowly with the rhythm, their eyes closed; some with tears rolling down their cheeks. Before the tune of the last word died down, the light on the stage dimmed down and from the corner John wheeled in; in his wheel chair, with his guitar on his lap. The audience stood up, clapping, cheering. Endless ovation. In the midst of the applause, when the light on the stage became brighter and brighter, the duo, John and Josephine sang the most popular song of John-“You are my life”.
John, the celebrity was back to where he belonged.
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