Music makes Firoj Ahmed cryptic – in both body and soul. His words, usually strong, tricky and profuse, an undercurrent of a torrential mountain stream, become sparse in the times he is leaning back in his chair, hearing one of his many cassettes play – cassettes that are kept in three wooden baskets lying on the floor besides the music system. He says it is like eating during a widespread famine, crumbs of cake that have been preserved over years of poverty. So while he is eating those scrumptious crumbs, he wants to savor their every atom.

Even when the words do find expression, they are uneven, abrupt. As if among the ones he’s been thinking of during those silent moments, translating them into sounds and gathering them upon his tongue, some have slipped out of his mouth mistakenly, it not being capacious enough to hold them all. The words retain their trickiness, but now they are much softer. So is his voice.

He is not happy or sad along with the mood of the music, or the song. He floats upon those he’s created on his own, prompted instead by the thoughts and memories the music evokes.

Sometimes he gets up from the chair and walks to and fro feverishly, when the notes of an exuberant song have filled him with animation, with an uncontrollable urge to move his fingers along its crests and troughs. But walking on the strings of melody, it’s sadness that often enters his heart. Then he puts his arms on the arms of the chair and leans back on it, his eyes closed.

The sadness slowly deepens – in stages. After a few moments he tilts his head sideways, resting them upon his fist. As if the sorrow has taken away his strength to hold it high. He becomes almost motionless then, except at times when a quiver passes through his body, and the eyes open vacantly upon the room. For a while they take in nothing.

While moving down and down with the tune, his heart has paused for a brief instant in between. Then it goes down on its way again. Like a cascade of water down the stairs. And his eyes close.


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