While fiddling with the broken radio, Rakesh was suddenly struck with a heavy dose of nostalgia. It took him a while to figure out what had happened; the radio wasn’t broken anymore and the speakers were croaking out a familiar tune. He immediately regretted bringing over the piece of junk and switched it off hastily. Who listens to the radio anymore? One should always have control over what music he is subjected to.
He looked around to find Meera sitting alone near the campfire. She was hugging her legs, her chin resting on her knees, lost in some distant thought. Sighing, he went and joined her and pushed few twigs into the dying fire.
“Where are the others?” he asked.
“The couples need their privacy,” she answered.
Rakesh knew this would happen. He was apprehensive about the trip from the beginning. It sucks to be the only single guy in a group, and he wouldn’t have come if the others had not assured him repeatedly that he won’t feel out of place. Well, there he was, feeling out of place. Meera’s boyfriend had caught the flu and bailed on the trip, leaving her stuck in the same situation.
There was a cool breeze blowing that night. It traced ripples on the surface of the dark lake and fanned their hair before disappearing silently into the woods. The stars were shining brightly and the moon extended its pearly aura over the scenery. On nights like this, people in the city would be out for leisurely strolls, old people would be sitting on their verandas and remembering wonderful things, stressed college students would experience relief and depressed people would be glad to be alive. On such nights, only good things could happen.
But Rakesh was oblivious. The tune from the radio was still playing in his head and the associated memories occupied his mind. He was torn between the desire to be alone and the need to be occupied. Inwardly, he cursed the others for being selfish; to leave him with a person who was an acquaintance at best, in a place with so few distractions. Gloomy thoughts welled up inside him repeatedly, only to be fanned away by the breeze before they became a threat.
“What are you thinking about?” Meera asked.
It must have been the timing of the question, or the atmosphere, or positions of the stars, or whatever factors that might influence a person’s mind to do something completely irrational; Rakesh decided that he would tell her. He was surprised himself, as he had been reticent all his life, and this sudden urge to open up was completely new to him. He decided to succumb to it.
“Do you believe that a relationship can be built around a love for a common thing?” he asked.
“Sure. Why not?”
“Well, the song that was just playing on the radio… I had a relationship based around that.”
“How can you have a relationship based around a song?”
“Not based around the song, exactly. Based around a love for music rather. But it started with that song. It is a perfect song to fall in love over, especially if you’re a teenager with an impressionable mind. There is a delicate playfulness in the music and the lyrics, which keeps things lighthearted. I find it very necessary to like a person without getting overwhelmed by complicated emotions, at least in the initial stages.
“She and I chanced upon the song together one day, and even though we had been friends for a while, that was when we had our first real conversation. We were both clean slates and curious souls, ready to take on whatever the world had to offer, and were dissatisfied with the kind of music that our friends listened to. Together we explored all the unknown territories of music available on the internet, old bands, rare records, genres that hurt our ears, and musicians that made our hearts melt.
“Mind you, we were 15 years old and our friends were all busy fawning over songs from latest Hindi flicks and Backstreet Boys and stuff like that. This fact distanced us from the rest of the world – we believed that we had better taste, and we would let no one convince us otherwise. Of course, such misguided notions evaporate with time and you realize that tastes are just meant to be categorized as similar and different, not superior and inferior. But, the music stays.”
Rakesh turned to check if Meera was listening.
“Why didn’t it work out?” she asked.
“Life gets in the way.”
Both sighed in unison. It was getting a little chilly and the fire was dying once again.
“I think we are going to be good friends,” Meera said before returning to her tent.