Radio Pakistan, Rawalpindi

I have often visited the radio station over the past few years. Every time I gaze at the unusually tall eucalyptuses in its huge courtyard, where kites take their afternoon rest and silence reigns, I am transported to quite another world.

Inside the single-story building, there is a musty smell of old wooden paneling, seeping walls, and the fumes and hiss of the gas heaters in winter. The path leading to the studio is dimly lit, and inside the one recording room that I have visited the most, there are corpses of several instruments played by musicians who hold two things in common: they were masters and they died in destitute. Coming back to the instruments, the first thing that strikes the eye is a row of majestic, dust-laden tanpuras with broken strings. The swan-shaped fine tuners are still sticking next to the bridges. Along three of the walls, there is a broken piano on one side, and several wooden cases housing three sarangis, a sarod, a mandolin, two sitars, a guitar, a violin, and a clarinet. The instruments also have one thing in common – they are all miserably out-of-tune. Some of them lack tuning pegs because they were stolen [found, I now realize] by musicians for their own instruments.

If it were for the pegs and strings, they could have easily been replaced, but the artists that needed them have also died. And yet, I am repulsed each time I hear someone calling classical music a dying art. When I visit that place, I am reminded of my masters, the poplars and eucalyptuses in front of my first home, the gas heaters and the musty smell at my father’s office, and finally, my immense love of music. There, I cannot help having only beautiful thoughts, and becoming a child again.

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