The Song that I came to sing … Even before I started schooling, I knew about Rabindranath Tagore and that he conceptualized and gave life to ‘Santiniketan’. I also knew a few of his poems. This realization about Tagore came about while growing up in a small town in Kerala in an aristocratic family, a town which was famous for a very special social service organization going by the name of ‘Mitraniketan’ which was set up by a person who was personally influenced by Tagore and was a freedom fighter himself. He studied at Vishwa Bharati University founded by Tagore, and later in the UK and US. My paternal grandfather, who was into social service and the centrist political scene unfolding in Kerala in those days, was a close associate of the founder of ‘Mitraniketan’, a place regularly visited by the who’s who in India and abroad. Even the Dalai Lama once visited ‘Mitraniketan’. With my grandfather, I became a frequent visitor there and its socio cultural sphere, and thereby lie the reasons of my knowledge of Tagore. At ‘Mitranikethan’, I was most influenced by Tagore’s poems, and the one which impacted me the most was ‘The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day…..’ from ‘Githanjali’. It deeply influenced me and set me thinking about it from the moment I read it. I started searching for the unsung song in me. A few years passed and I had entered my teens and it was then that it dawned on me that my unsung song is ‘to write‘. I began to put together little by little poems about nature and love. During this time, I wished to share these initial poems with my father, the person closest to me. He was running a business and always inaccessible to me, and I used to wait days to get his attention and share what I wrote. I continued writing and whenever I had the opportunity, I used to share it with him. My father was very appreciative. My writing had begun to blossom. At that point of time, I kept having an innate fear that everything may not go as smooth as it is now. And it happened………. My father become critically ill and had to be hospitalized in faraway specialty Hospital in the nearby State of Tamil Nadu, in Vellore, making him totally inaccessible to me. After that our communication was through inland letters. I received these letters at my college hostel every second and last Fridays. Each sentence spoke volumes, and when I read them I could feel his emotions. But when the medical team started using his right hand for dialysis, he stopped writing. Shock, sadness, hope, relief, acceptance and joy were common emotions for all of us around my Father, depending on his condition. Days were filled with uncertainty. He was in hospital for months on end. Some months later, I received a trunk call in my college hostel saying ‘he wants to meet me’. I was so excited to go. An overnight train ‘Madras mail’ now “Chennai Express” from Trivandrum Central to Madras, took me there with my aunt and uncle. For me those 18 hours of travel seemed like a weeklong travel. I didn’t sleep for the whole day and night. The next day, early morning when I arrived, I rushed into his room. The scene, I saw was my mother lying unconscious in a bed with her helper, and my father in ICU with all life support systems. That situation shocked me into reality, and I took charge of the unfolding situation being the eldest of three children. But even then it was too much for a seventeen year old girl to handle. The doctor explained about what all that they did, and what little can be done further. I knew that my father would not survive without the life support systems, and that I have to take my father back home, and that these are the last moments I can ever spend with my father.
My 17 hours return journey in an ambulance home was a on a day before Diwali. I was holding his hand at his last breath. He opened his eyes twice before he closed his eyes forever, and I saw drops of tears in both his eyes, and he passed on in peace. I experienced that grief like waves of unfamiliar emotions. I tried to be strong and in charge, emotions under cover. Everyone around me thought I was coping so well, but little did they know that it was because in an instant I had become an amazing actress. I remember that never ending journey in the Ambulance, like yesterday, even after 28 years. We stopped at 3 places on the way home, one at Madurai to inform the relatives at home, next at Tirunelveli for refreshments, and lastly at a place called Thovala near Nagercovil, where my father had a large number of business friends. The ambulance was loaded with flowers, sandalwood and perfumed herbs for the last rites. Right from the Kerala-Tamilnadu border people started following our ambulance. I was overwhelmed by these unfamiliar expressions of grief and belonging, connecting us all together. I tried to write again, but most of them remained incomplete. ‘The song that I came to sing remained unsung’. I could not write. My writing which had begun to blossom, ended with my father’s passing away, leaving in me a big void. At that time I realized, dealing with uncertainty is an unavoidable part of daily life. But I had a strong belief in my passion, and that there must be a reason for everything that happens in one’s life. It took me 23 long years to restart my unsung song. I started penning again after becoming a part of Toastmaster in Doha, and it was for Toastmaster that I started where I stopped. My icebreaker took me to childhood memories, and I stared my icebreaker with “The only thing that will stop you from fulfilling your dreams is you.” And ended with “The best way to predict future is create it”. This give me a lot of confidence in following my passion ‘the unsung song’. I am therefore very grateful to Toastmaster to rekindle in me my passion to write and fulfil the song I came to sing…… TM Mallika Nair