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As she changed into her comfy pyjamas, she heard a sweet voice croon an unfamiliar song. Neema couldn’t decipher the words as the voice came from afar yet she was enchanted by the melody.
“You were listening to the hugely talented and famous singer Rina in conversation with RJ Shikha, and here’s one more of her popular songs in her own mellifluous voice,” RJ Rahul announced in his splendid baritone.
Neema felt something tug at her heart. Rina had finally reached where she deserved to be. Despite all the initial hesitation and hiccups.
That day was still vividly etched in her mind…Neema had just returned from her fortnight long business trip abroad. It had been an unusually taxing trip and Neema was tired to the core of her being. It was a relief to be welcomed home by an ever smiling Rina. Asking her to make her a cup of strong coffee, Neema had gone inside to freshen up.
As she changed into her comfy pyjamas, she heard a sweet voice croon an unfamiliar song. Neema couldn’t decipher the words as the voice came from afar yet she was enchanted by the melody. She wondered if the song was being sung by her new neighbor whom she was yet to meet. Perhaps she was being introduced to her through the porous walls of their flats. She was so enchanted by the soulful song that instead of going into the hall, she slipped into her recliner and waited for Rina to bring her coffee which, going by the strong smells wafting in from the kitchen, was almost ready.
She didn’t know when, lulled by the soothing voice, she fell asleep.
She had woken up only the next day, still groggy after her 12-hour sleep, still jet lagged. Rina had already arrived and was half-way through her chores. She brought Neema a large cup of black coffee and asked, “What happened, Didi? Are you still feeling sleepy? Last night you were so tired that you fell asleep without having dinner and even your coffee.”
“No, I am fine Rina. Thank you for your concern and the coffee. I don’t know how I would survive without you. You’re a real sweetheart!” Neema felt like giving her a tight hug. She was so fond of this petite woman who had come to her on the recommendation of her previous help who was returning to her village for good. There was a certain honesty and sincerity in her brown eyes that immediately endeared her to Neema, and she had hired her without much fear.
Rina was from a small village in Uttar Pradesh and had studied till class 8 in her village school for girls. She had been married off early much against her wishes, and had come to the city with her husband who worked in a cloth factory as a security guard. Some months passed quite uneventfully, but one day her husband lost his job for picking up a brawl with the security supervisor. He was unable to find another job soon enough, and the threat of inevitable penury and eviction from their tenement had forced the shy Rina to seek work in the housing societies nearby.
It had been six years since then, and with the passage of time both had grown immensely fond and protective of each other. Rina had almost become the younger sister Neema never had. “Don’t you want to study further and have a more dignified job?” she had once asked Rina.
“Didi, I don’t have any aspirations now, though as a student I had always wanted to study fine arts or design clothes and have my own boutique. But that was then, not any more. I am happy working for you and all my dreams are for my 1-year old daughter now,” Rina had confided, albeit a bit wistfully. Neema knew Rina was lying, but she couldn’t help her if she didn’t have the courage to venture out on her own.
“Didi, should I lay the table for breakfast? Laptop pe gaane chala du?” Rina’s caring voice jolted Neema to the present. “Yes, Rina. Please do.” Neema nodded absently.
Then she remembered something suddenly. “By the way, do you who is our new neighbor? Have you met her?”
“No Didi, I haven’t even seen her. Why are you asking?” Rina asked curiously.
“Oh it’s nothing. Last night I heard someone sing an unfamiliar song so I was wondering if it was the new neighbor. It was so melodious and calming that within minutes I fell asleep in the recliner. I wonder if she’s a trained singer! I will have to meet her soon.”
Rina smiled enigmatically.
“Why are you smiling, Rina?”
“Because it’s me who was singing, Didi!”
“Don’t tell me, Rina! How can it be you? You don’t sing, do you?” Neema blurted out incredulously.
“You didn’t know because you’ve never heard me sing. I am just a casual singer Didi. I sing for myself, not for anybody else.” Rina replied in a plaintive tone.
“But you must sing for others, you’ve such a fabulous voice, Rina! You don’t know how incredibly talented you are!” Neema was suddenly very alert and excited. “Today itself I must arrange a guru and begin your training at the earliest.” She chimed enthusiastically.
“Didi, ruko! Please stop. Don’t get so excited. I know I am not a singer worth a penny and I have no hope of becoming one.” Rina tried to check to Neema’s ebullience.
“No my dear, you don’t know your own worth. As a music video producer, I know you have an excellent voice. You just need to be trained in some classical music and you’ll amaze the world with your singing.” Neema was insistent.
“Didi, I don’t know proper Hindi, I have never been on stage even in school and you’re asking me to sing professionally. It’s so scary, I won’t be able to do it. Please don’t give me false hopes.” Rina spoke tremulously.
“No Rina! I am not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Even though I didn’t understand your words but they had the power to calm down my jangling nerves. And look, I am not asking you to sing in Hindi. You can sing in your own language because even regional music has become quite popular these days. In the meanwhile you can work on your accent and diction and when you’re confident enough you can start singing in Hindi.” Neema’s mind was working at a furious pace now. She had it all planned in her mind by now. “Just say ‘yes’ my dear!”
“But Didi….,” Rina fumbled for words. She didn’t know what to say to such an enthusiastic and supportive employer. “I don’t know if I will be able to give so much time to training. My house is so small, where will I train? What will happen to my work? How will I earn?” She was trying to find excuses to back out of this sudden challenge that life was springing at her.
“Don’t worry about anything. Your expenses, your training, everything will be taken care of, Rina. You trust me, don’t you?”
“Yes, Didi,” Rina mumbled.
“Then leave everything to me. Have faith in your talent and my management skills. You’ll go far, mark my words dear. Tell me, will you do it?” Neema asked and hugged her to assure her perplexed mind.
With a leap of faith, Rina had uttered those three magical words, “Yes, I will.”
That was the day. And here she was, THE Rina Rana – the Bhojpuri singer with the most mellifluous voice.
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the May 2018 Muse of the Month, but not among the top 5 winners.
Image source: Flickr
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