Revathi's Musical Plants: Andal Ananthanarayanan

Revathi’s Musical Plants: Andal Ananthanarayanan

Revathi’s Musical Plants: Revathi was a student of music. She was happy playing on her violin whenever she was free. There was a small open courtyard in front of her house, with a small cement bench. She would sit on the bench and practice on her violin. There were a few potted plants in the courtyard. While playing on the violin one day, she noted a pot of balsam plants near the wall. The plants were not looking normal. They had pale green leaves and their growth was stunted. She remembered she had learnt in the lower classes that plants need light for normal growth. She shifted the pot to the centre of the courtyard where there was ample sunlight.

Revathi’s Musical Plants:

While shifting the pot, an idea struck Revathi. Why not participate in the ‘Best Plant’ contest which was to be held in her colony a few weeks later! Then and there she decided to participate. Thus making up her mind, she watered the plants and sat down on the bench and started playing her violin. She was very fond of the raga ‘Mohanam*‘. She played the raga for some time and then went in for her studies.

One evening as usual, soon after returning from school, she went to her pot of plants, They looked very healthy but she noted that there was only half of one leaf. It looked as though some insect had chewed the leaf. Revathi felt worried. She did not went to lose her plants now that only a few days were left for the prize distribution. She looked at the plants carefully and saw a small green caterpillar climbing down a stem. She immediately took a small stick, removed caterpillar and applied some insecticide to the plants. She felt sure now that her plants were safe.

Revathi continued to sit on the bench and watch her potted plants. They were growing well and looking healthier then the other plants in the far end of the courtyard. One day as she was playing, she noticed a movement in her potted plants. They were slowly moving their stems, bending slightly towards her. She wondered why they were moving as there was no breeze. It struck her as odd.

The next evening too she played on her violin as usual and watched the potted plants with care. After some time, like the previous day, there was a definite movement in her plants. They all bent forwards her. This astonished and surprised her. That day also, there was no breeze.

Revathi sat on the bench and played a different tune, one with a quick rhythm. She suddenly saw all plants turn away from her as though did not like what she was playing. Then she started playing her favorite tune again and the plants slowly straightened themselves and bent towards her. Her surmise became a certainly. Her plants loved to hear her favorite tune.

She kept the knowledge a secret. She did not tell anyone, not even her mother. There were only a few days left for the prize distribution. To her great surprise, Revathi found her potted plants not only taller and healthier than other balsam plants, but that they had started flowering a few days earlier than the other plants. The flowers were big and brightly colored and one of the plants had an unusual kind of flower. The flowers were mauve with white stripes. That evening she knew, she would definitely get the prize for the best plants. She went to bed dreaming of her plants and the new type of flowers. The next day was the all-important day.

She got up in the morning and went straight to the courtyard to see her plants. Revathi blinked for a few minutes, for there was neither the pot nor the plants. She looked to see if someone had moved the pot. She searched all over. She asked her mother. Her mother said she knew nothing either about the pot or the plants. Some of her neighbors had been to their house the previous afternoon and had remarked at the beautiful flowers and the healthy-looking plants in the pot. But later, she had been busy inside the house and had not been to the courtyard.

Revathi’s grief knew no bounds. She went around asking every one of her neighbors but no one had been anywhere near the pot of plants. She could not lodge a complaint for a pot of plants. She felt as though everything was lost. She did not mind not getting the prize but she really missed her plants. She had grown very fond of them. They were her friends, who enjoyed her music.

That evening all her friends were going to the prize distribution ceremony. She did not went to attend. But her friend forced her to. After reaching the place, she went to the benches where the potted plants were displayed. Revathi was shocked. There was her pot of plants on a bench, with the name of a distant neighbor of hers as the competitor written on a small piece of cardboard and placed in the soil. She knew it was her pot of plants. She went to the organizers of the show and told them about it.

The organizers were not convinced. They said, “How can you prove that the plants are yours? The lady who submitted them is a regular participant. How can we doubt her?”

Revathi wondered how to convince them. She sat there for a few minutes looking at the plants. The sight of the plants bending towards her while she played her violin flashed across her mind. She told the organizers that she could prove the plants were hers and ran home. When she returned a few minutes later with her violin, they started laughing.

But their ridicule did not deter her from her mission. She told them, “I know my plants and I share a secret with them. My plants are music-lovers like me and you could see how they respond when I play to them.”

They all laughed louder saying that they had never heard of plants enjoying music. They asked her, “Do plants have ears like us to enjoy your music?” No one believed her.

She felt very dejected but was determined to win her plants back. She sat near her plants with her violin and slowly started playing her favorite raga. Engrossed in her music, Revathi even forgot her plants for a time, but the others could not. With wonder in their eyes, they watched the plants. Straight at first, they bent slightly. As she played on and on, their stems bent towards Revathi as though they wanted to touch her in their happiness. The organizers were stunned. They had watched a new phenomenon of plants responding to music and Revathi had become a great discover.

They all applauded her and said they were convinced that the plants were hers.

They pulled up her neighbor for cheating them and she accepted, after a long argument, that she had stolen Revathi’s plants. She said while walking past Revathi’s house she had spotted the plants and had removed the pot in the night to her house and submitted it later for the contest. As she was a regular participant, none doubted her.

The authorities decided that Revathi’s plants deserved the first prize as they were best-looking and healthy. Revathi carried home the prize proudly with her pot of plants.

Mohanam is a raga in Carnatic music (musical scale of South Indian classical music). It is an audava raga (or owdava raga, meaning pentatonic scale). It is usually described as a janya raga of Harikamboji (28th Melakartha Raga). However, alternate opinions suggest that Mechakalyani may be a more appropriate classification based on the lakshana of the raga.

~ “Revathi’s Musical Plants” story by “Andal Ananthanarayanan” and Illustrations by “Subir Roy”

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