Meeting the Maestro
We started on a rainy Saturday to Stratford and had to take two trains, as renovation works were happening in few lanes, to get there from Birmingham. Stratford, in the Warwickshire County was a drowsy tiny town, much smaller than what I expected and it took two hours from the Midlands area (where I stay) to reach there. Stratford upon Avon, as the town is called, is a little but well kept train station; no sooner did we reach there than showers started pouring outside. Town seemed like a shaky portrait with a hue of light colours in the back ground, almost empty streets and limited traffic and a nervous breath of chilly breeze in the air; December for no reason is a good choice to voyage in Britain, length of day time is awfully less with recurring mist and uneasy snow fall.
My high school class, now I’m sitting in one of the middle rows and Krishnan Nair (the Principal of our school) narrating the legend of Julius Caesar; panicking Brutus, their patriotism, friendship and tribute to each other and the grace of all other characters. The total class is silent and now I listen to Mark Antony’s speech, Krishnan Master shouting at the peak of his pitch:
”Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him; The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones, So let it be with Caesar … The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault.”
It was appearing in front of me, my eyes following the artistic moves of Krishnan Master, his imposing acting skills flaunted, and I’m marvelled to glimpse the celebrated characters right in front. Our respected teacher, a famed ‘Kathakali’ artist and a strict disciplinarian, is an English scholar and a Shakespeare enthusiast. He used to memorise major plots of Shakespeare’s plays and perform them for us in the class. In those ‘one-act’ plays we gleefully watched Macbeth and King Lear, Viola and Orsino and all the major figures from Shakespeare.
He was a blessed actor. In the class room, he was able to shower on us the essence of those plays, the very essence which was fresh and alive within me when I stood inside the house, yes only a hand’s breadth from my eyes the birth bed of his dearest poet. The old guide there, dressed in the traditional British robes of olden times, in her charming voice explained to us the history of bard’s family in the most interesting tone and I deeply wished my passionate master (now an octogenarian) were with me. We roamed around the house for few great hours, captured the scent and scene of that historic home with few stills and started wandering outside in search of other major Shakespeare attractions in the town.
Stratford was hazily snowing outside.
We walked down the town to the Holy Trinity cathedral where the poet was buried. England’s most visited parish church, under that roof the wizard of Stratford called William Shakespeare was baptised and there he does his final sleep. Dimly lit candles from the side stands were quiet as if they were frozen in time, blended with an incense like fragrance there seems to be a deep smell from the past that filled the air, very less visitors braved the chilly December day to the church in fact less than twenty. We sat there on the carved wooden seats of the big altar, few empty minutes withered by. On our top giant glass patterns of windows portrayed resurrection from Holy Bible and the threads of silken rays oozing out from them coloured the shades inside the chapel.
Again, under one of those shades, I could sense Krishnan Master there, I felt like watching him, without myself being watched – this time as Othello (and Desdemona as a far back ground voice). His eyes were sparking wild.
”Yet she must die, else she’ll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light:”
”Who’s there, Othello?”
“Will you come to bed, my lord?”
“Have you pray’d to-night, Desdemona?”
“Ay, my lord.”
“If you bethink yourself of any crime”
“Unreconcil’d as yet to heaven and grace,
Solicit for it straight.”
“Alack, my lord, what may you mean by that?”
“Well, do it, and be brief; I will walk by.
I would not kill thy unprepared spirit;
No, — heaven forfend! — I would not kill thy soul.”
“Talk you of killing?”
“Ay, I do.” *
Love and passion and revenge and obsession, every thing was there in his eyes. It was there in my eyes too. I was awakened by the whispering call of my friend.
Just outside the cathedral, river Avon was flowing; as it would have always been, silent and steady.
(In the photo: Krishnan Master)