Sunday, Apr 02, 2023

Play Us A Memory, Violin Man

Play Us A Memory, Violin Man

They say the violin mimics the human sound. In his case, it was that of love, of longing. He didn’t know any other way of loving.

Play Us A Memory, Violin Man Illustrations by Govit Morajkar

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving.

—Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

The man could have said this to the bird or the violin. Perhaps that’s the song he plays. Everyday. In memory of his lost love. A bird. I don’t know if he had read Pablo Neruda. But I did after I met him. To get to the story. That was the only way. You can love a bird, a musical instrument, a person. It’s simple. Love is simple.

In a part of Fontainhas in Goa, an old house stands as leftover memorabilia from a time that now exists only in memory of those still out there, and in a few online posts which mention a man who played the violin very well. This Christmas, the windows in the house had stars. Old handmade ones. White and pink. On most afternoons, a man stands in the window of this house in rags and plays the violin. He is part of the landscape.

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I first saw the Violin Man in the window of that crumbling old mansion in 2017. It was a summer afternoon when I heard this music in the empty streets by the San Sebastian Church. They say the violin mimics the human sound. In his case, it was that of love, of longing. He didn’t know any other way of loving. He played on. The music was like the defiant flutter of a shirt hung out to dry in a storm. It felt like rain on an evening.

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There was a blue wishing well in front of the house. There was also a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. Mater Dolorosa. The next day I returned. I saw the green and red parakeet in a wooden cage. He was playing the violin as usual. He didn’t talk to me for two years.


The Letter (2019)

One night I sat in the little bar in the Latin quarters all by myself waiting for the Violin Man to show up. I wrote a letter to him.

“If the bird dies, what will happen to you? If you die, what will happen to the bird? When I saw you in the window playing the violin to your parakeet two summers ago, I wanted to ask you if you love your caged bird. When I was a little girl, we had a lot of sparrows in our old house. But in the city, we have no sparrows. I once had two goldfish my boyfriend sent me and I named them Hector and Athena. They lived in a glass jar but they died one night. I buried them in a flower pot and sent the glass jar back to my boyfriend.  Do you think love can exp­unge all these things from memory?”

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I folded it and asked the friendly waiter at the restaurant to give it to the Violin Man.

Somewhere in that great lonely house, my letter must be lying. Must be part of his things. In 2019, the bird died at the age of 41. He had called him Zubin and only when the parrot laid eggs, he realised it was female and he called her Zubinica.

Did he love her? For 36 years, he had played the violin to the bird. Would he get another?

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He is 72. He flicked his hair. Longish and greyish. He smiled. “Love is on the way,” he said.


The invitation (2022)

Now, he plays to the empty streets. He offered me bread one evening this January.

Even gave me a star he made. A white one. We are finally friends. And it has been sealed with a star. 


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