Hear me out. Last Holi, I had a dream during the daytime. I heard it first, I wandered the woods to find this flute, a tasseled flute, tessellated with stops, so many no one man’s fingers could cover the holes of that glowing honeycomb. What was a flute doing aloft in the air like that? It swam the spring wind over Vrindavan like a box kite scaffolded with laugh lines.
The longer I looked, and my look was love, I saw the stops bubble with blood, the bamboo oozing heme-tinged honey. The flute, floating past my grasp, played its song for pleasure in spite of the wounds drilled deep in its wood. I sought to solace the song that solaced me, this flute that breathed without a flautist, but wondered whether touch would quench that timeless flute like a tuning fork’s shiver of sound. I bowed before it and clasped my hands in a humble namaste. Somehow the music its hollow housed took on the contour of a living voice.
“I came of age among clacking stalks. I was one of them, too, green and naive, empty of suffering, empty of sense, none of us hollowed out, as I am now, by the breath of being, primrose-sweet prana. A boy broke me, fashioned a flute of me, just for the joy of making music. Easy for him. My hollowing hurt me worse than when he snapped my spine. He burrowed, blasted, tunneled through me, the shaft of me shucked, my marrow, air, bone-biopsy pain, spirit-deep.
Then he breathed through me, and that breath bathed me within with incense and balm, soothed the scrape my body had become. These stops opened up all over me like pupils dilating to sip the light, my rawness lined with one long retina. My holes were holy, every single singing one a blowhole on a whale born drowning. I needed that gutting to be good enough. Condemned and dynamited and redeemed, I became the charm of the dark avatar who sported a peacock-feather for panache.
I traveled with him, tucked at his waist, no matter the risk to Krishna or me. Swan-diving in a venom-swollen river, we wrestled the river’s hundred-hooded king cobra. I, too, faced the fangs. When we won, we did a jig barefoot on those hundred crumpled umbrellas. Together we tooted a roguish raga to mock evil by making music. Pattern is superior to patter— the only way to know the good is good is knowing worse is worse than better. Dance harder was the order of the day. No matter how fast my midnight-fingered partner played me, his breath’s blue breeze blew through me, endlessly as wind. Infinity is never not beginning.
I made the music I was meant to make, funneling a gale force God through a boy’s bansuri, regaling gopis and calming cows. His music made me more than myself, miracle bamboo, my pith his breath. Gokula’s girls followed his flute’s figure-eights, eyelids aflutter as if with seizures. I was less instrument than instinct, the most natural mode of his immanence, music outmaking its own lyrics, like the poem he preached at Kurukshetra. Scriptures speckle my inner surface like so much dust in a plastic straw. One note clears me, Sanskrit blown away, the words of sutras so much soot where music is flame and the match is the flute. Gods and Goddesses swirl apart in my wind tunnel like trees turning in autumn, but the heat and moisture of his heart music make a tropics immune to time with its own latitude and its own longing, its own rains and its own orchids.
Empty your ego to form a flute fit to accept his almost-kiss. Spin with worlds and pinwheels sitting still in a yogic pose, meditation molded into melody. You may think that you can’t carry a tune, that you’re laughably leaden-footed, no good at dancing, definitely not with the good time gopis of Gokula— but your guru knows how good you are. Caught up in the lila, you come alive. Flute of bamboo, flute of bone, he’ll thread the music through your mouth. Laughter has no choreography. A flute has no voice but devotion.”
Blood dripped and dotted my brow and burned, like acid, a third eye. A sudden monsoon steamed off the agony, but a diamond mineshaft sank itself into the mountain of my inwardness. Filled to the mouth with flute music like a miner flailing in a flooded mine, I saw the forest I had seen in stories, neem trees, dream trees of Vrindavan. I saw the Yamuna swirl with yearning.
None of my physician friends know the way that woodwind wills me to write and read in a fool’s frenzy, in a rabid religious bother. Maybe I’m the empty one, while they are full, thoughtless, free. The pretty pond behind the house overlooking the golf course in their eyes lacks no lotuses. Lavender sprigs in late spring are enough to make them kneel and marvel. Not an ambition they can imagine: to be sculpted, shaped, a soundscape where adoring gopis orbit a God.
We devoted few, we fans of the flute will meet in a mystical clearing. No birth or death for the breath-bodied jugalbandi of abundant joy. The boy will bring us to his lips, no loftier exaltation than his exhalation. I am lighter. I am so light light is slipping through my lattice. Craving for Krishna carves out my core. It has left his breath a perfect path. My nipples, navel, eyes and ears burrow straight to the holy hollow of my new form, a newborn flute recreated for his recreation, no longer a captive of lingering karma. Breathe through me, I beg as I sense my senses are abysses that lead down to the one Musician. Extemporize me out of time. Separate pleasure and sin with simple syncopation. Riff me seamlessly out of samsara.
Amit Majmudar is a novelist and poet based in Ohio. He is the author of The Map and the Scissors. His forthcoming books include the first volume of his Mahabharata retelling, The Book of Vows, as well as an original cycle of mythological stories, The Later Adventures of Hanuman