Aranya is chaotic.
Ishan is a family person.
Aranya questions the idea of family.
Ishan is spiritual.
Aranya a feminist.
Now I know what you are thinking: that this is just going to be some modern run-of-the-mill opposites attract love story.
Because Music in Solitude by Krishna Sobti, translated from Hindi by Vasudha Dalmia, is not a love story, but rather a loving tale of two elderly individuals, Ishan and Aranya, who are in the autumn of their lives and yes you guessed it, are complete opposites. Yet it is their age and the life that that brings along in it’s wake, which helps them come together. Not to mention that they stay in the same building in Delhi!
Originally titled as Samay Sargam, the novel stitches together episodes from the two protagonists’ lives. Especially the time spent together discussing myriad topics over tea, lunches or dinners!
They clash, they argue, they banter; yet it is playful and teasing rather than aggressive. At the end of the day their support and friendship remains whether they agree or disagree over a number of things such as importance of family or their divergent views on spirituality or even something as routine as eating habits.
This constant banter then implicitly brings out how death looms large over any step they take from bidding a simple, ironic “see you soon,” to going away for a trip.
Music in Solitude is a beautiful portrayal of friendship. It is not a coming of age novel but a coming to terms with age novel where Ishan and Aranya’s friendship blooms through several agreements and disagreements which then culminates in a beautiful musical metaphor at the end of how the ragas encapsulate the cycle of life and death. In a sense, we see how their friendship is like a music that lightens their loneliness; a friendship that is music in solitude.