I never saw him in anything other than a short dhoti and a short kurta. White. When my dad closed the door to his room to practise playing the violin with Master-moshai, I used to spend the next sixty minutes standing outside, listening to them play. My dad was learning, while Master-moshai, who usually played the tabla, rarely picked up the violin.
I heard from my dad that he used to play like god. Then why doesn't he play any more?
Every Sunday morning they used to sit together for one hour. Then Master-moshai had to go visit his other pupils. On foot. I watched him from my upstairs window as he walked till the end of Sovapur Road. I never knew who his other pupils were. "When did you hear him play?" I would be curious at times, but my dad's answers were vague.
I grew up, went to college and got to meet Master-moshai only when I came home for vacation. He was still the same. Same white dhoti-kurta, and looked the same age. As if warped in time. "How are you, Suvo?" was all he asked every time he met me. I even played the harmonica for him at times and he would pat my back and walk out. To meet his other pupils. Maybe I'm no good, I thought.
One such Sunday morning I was sleeping late as usual. (Those days were blissful, weren't they?) I woke up to this wailing of a violin from downstairs. It was like a mendicant friar singing a sad story, to no one in particular. I kept listening till it stopped playing, wiped the tears that welled up unawares, and rushed down to meet Master-moshai. There he was in dad's room. My mom was standing at the door. And there were two other people that I'd never seen before. My dad introduced me to them: Mme Reba, a beautiful old lady with her exquisite violin on her lap, and Mr Gunther, a rather lean German who worked at the local Max Muller Institute. They were obviously the two other pupils that Master-moshai used to go to. Apparently, most of the others were dead.
I never saw him after that. And I would never have known his story if I didn't chance upon a strange article in The Statesman last week. It was the story of an unsung hero. Siben Guha, or Master-moshai as he was popularly known, was a Naxalite leader. In 1971, the year I was born, the police had beaten up and paralysed his sister Archana (a fellow revolutionary) in their custody. For the next twenty-one years she kept fighting two battles, one against her paralyis and another for justice. One never knew where the funds for her lawyers came from. Archana Guha finally won the case against the ex-police commissioner of Calcutta. It was a moral victory she had to trade an entire lifetime for.
But Master-moshai was never to be seen again. The police suspect he is still a leader of this secret society of Naxalites who remained underground after the uprising in the early 70s. Some say he is dead.
I haven't called up my dad since. Maybe I will, some Sunday morning, to hear a violin wail in the background.