Shipping (per book) : 50
Genre : Fiction
TARGET AUDIENCE: Teenagers, Adults
Pages : 320
“black shoe” is a work of dramatic fiction in a background of western classical music, with themes of tragedy and touches of surrealism. The story observes the lives of two unlikely companions in the form of Mr. Arun Mascarenhas, a revered conductor, and young Ron, a prodigy, and the meeting of two because of a common thread: the book dives into the phenomenon of past, ever a subject of philosophy - profound, effective and ever-present. The entirety of the journey past and present is sprinkled with music, another thing that dictates their lives, which takes the center-stage as the story reaches its last third.
It is a curious thing how people are remembered years later when their presence has become just an indelible spot of a cluster of memories, and how they shall come to one but in images, little flashes of a bodily movement, a curve of a smile, a frown, a tear just forming behind the eyes when you can sense the ache of their throats and their own film of some memories that are inevitably once mournful and in another, quivering with terrible longing, to bring back someone, to say something, to change regrets into present action, now regrets, now the past. And thus, past shall govern our fates forever.
“I remember her last cry,” he had said suddenly on that drunken night of disclosures while his wife lay comatose in the hospital, the kind of revelations in their intricate and intimate details that come after a certain point of acquaintance where you break down the façade and categorically strip off your past. That is the most striking thing that comes to my mind when I think of Mr. Mascarenhas. Not in glimpses, but with vividness, his posture, his silence between words, his piano. His cat.
His cat had green eyes. Nina, he called her. She was snowy white with little brown spots on the head. She purred, and with her chubby claws, walked right into the door ajar. He was asleep it seemed, with an almost empty whiskey bottle, and an almost empty glass. She climbed and settled in his lap and found the caress of his palm. The phone rang and he had to come back to his senses.
“How is she?”
“Yes, fine, thank you,” he said and hung up, with the last of words of the woman on the other end left floating into incoherence.
Nina licked his cheek; he kissed the head of the cat and devoured the last drops in the glass. He laid her down on the ground and went about to open the curtains. Gleaming, dying sun of the late evening cleaved in and seared his skin blinding him for the moment. He came back to go out of the room, barely erect, stumbling. He changed into his clothes; when almost at the door, he was called by the note on the refrigerator and he looked at it for over a minute with a blank face.
I think I’ll be late tonight. Let’s order something from outside. Also, somehow, I am feeling a strange kind of happiness today. I don’t know what it is. I think I’ll bring wine tonight, and we’ll celebrate nothing. Yeah, it’s just a sudden change in mood or whatever. I love you, my esteemed husband. Look at me, putting up a note in this manner. Also, since our precocious little fella is out of town, let’s have some fun! Tonight, serenade me, maestro.
That was the last ever message she could give him before she was a living corpse.
He couldn’t prevent a rush of undefined emotions every time he read the note, multiple times in a day. He almost laughed in agony inside at how she received the most terrible news of loss when she was happy without a reason, happy like an infant.
Nina uttered a sound and he looked back at her. “It’s too late, dear. The aunt next door must be asleep. I’ll be back soon.” He smiled a little watching himself talk to the cat. Out of the door of his exquisite house, he reached down the lift out to a sumptuous place where the performance of a band filled the room with serenity. When he reached to the bar, the bartender drew a broad smile and said, “Welcome, sir. How are you today?”
“Ah, you know... I’ll have the regular.”
“Yes, of course, right away.”
He hung his coat near the door. He waited looking at the place which he must have known every inch by now and saw the manager coming his way with a polite smile. The owner of the place wasn’t present.
“He sends his regards. Also, the band that’s playing there wants your autograph, sir.”
“Oh,” he said, a little amused, “fans of classical music?”
“Everybody knows you, sir, at least, in the vicinity. They admire your work. And if you wanna know, there’s that violinist, you see? He insisted.”
He obliged, shook hands with them and talked for a while. They approached the stage back again and resumed playing. I get overwhelmed by Dark Rooms.
Now, a celebrated conductor, he was a violinist in his early years and had played in several quartets and operas. His collaborations with various prestigious symphonies across the world had brought him fame and wealth, and a lovely wife whom he met in one of those concerts and with whom he had a child.
But it had been a year since he had played a melody. His hands had simply ceased to make music.
Three drinks down; he was at that verge of oblivion every drinking night offers, where one begins to find even the dreariest surroundings rapturous, when one is forgetful of life outside the door. One never understands alcohol to be a depressant, until he isn’t in his senses to entertain the idea of such understanding. None minded his solitariness out of acquiescence. There were whispers among the waiters: “It’s tragic, so very tragic. Awful. Awful.”
It wasn’t long before the horror struck him again and he paid and left, not failing to tip the bartender, waving at the manager, gesturing a thumbs up at the band.
When he walked out of the place on a cold winter night, the music ringing in his ears faded away and his legs started taking rapid steps in an unknown direction. He had nowhere to go, and his house screamed of its vacuousness.
When he took a turn around a corner into an alley, the faded music suddenly notched up and barren roads until now were filled with a riveted crowd gathered in that corner. It was as if the music called him out of kinship. It was the violin concerto called “Armageddon” from his purple patched period.
He joined the crowd as if coming home to his melody; in the corner surrounded by all those people was a young man with the instrument. The young man stretched the bow to emanate a higher pitch, enchanting the crowd, specifically the one who had composed it. It was like the stretch of the bow conceivably reeled melancholy out of a physical body, a composition of delightful sounds mingled with underlying woeful depths. Mr. Mascarenhas started listening intently. He found it a little strange and at the same time, a little relieving that nobody there recognized him, lest it would make an impact on the performance. The young man couldn’t be distracted while he played, especially when that part of the music was so silent, the bow crawling, the strings almost resigned of effort as if hugged.
The youngster had a beard, had on decent clothes, and played nimbly, comfortable and familiar with the skin and smell of the instrument, and was doused in the emotional potency of the piece. His eyes were shut. He had no luggage beside him, but there was a bowl for money. Carefully, Mr. Mascarenhas dropped in some money and left. He walked further in a curious rumination where the thoughts were vague and eluding. He conceded that he hadn’t heard those notes in a long while, remembering that his wife had usually insisted to collaborate in their leisure time and play that composition, not failing to reflect that the recital of his piece was something close to brilliance.
Again, the music was fading away but he kept looking over his shoulder. This was a less visited area by him and apparently not boasting of a luxurious well-to-do crowd. He drew a cigarette out of the pack and lit it. He was deadly quiet. His eyes were sour red with alcohol and sleeplessness. Dark bags of cloud hung underneath his eyes. The claws of thoughts snatched and shackled him. He tried not to break into tears. But that couldn’t prevent his eyes from becoming moist, and of course, there was a pain in the throat. He took a drag again and disregarded every memory, “Oh, shut it!” he said to himself sawing the air with his hand.
He was still, and he looked at the cloud of smoke formed when he took a drag and burst it with the following exhalation. He looked around; he walked around, smoking one after another until the pack was empty. He bought a new one, took one out, dangled between his lips, lit it, and decided to head back home. He was wondering along the way if he would find the crowd still listening to the young man. He wasn’t surprised when the area was absolutely vacant; it had been a while. He turned the corner and then another one, and stopped short suddenly at what he saw.
The young man was sitting in a different corner with his kneecaps to his chest, head bogged down in despondency, crying a silent cry. Mr. Mascarenhas narrowed his eyes. The borrowing of his piece for recital had initiated something in him.
He reached out to him with his hand, and said, “Hello, son.”
The young man looked up. That was my first encounter with him. The young man was I, who was crying, alone on a cold winter night in a deserted place, noticed and offered help by, I would remember and realize soon,one of the most adorned and appreciated conductors, and a troubled soul himself.
About the Author:
Yogesh Tak is a writer from Mumbai. He’s completed his Master of Arts in English Literature. He reads, writes, and is deeply fond of art and cinema. His eclectic interest in music was the first thought, amongst many, that inspired this book.