Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Music Lesson

15 weeks in the US.
Mouth-watering butter. Cheese in every kind of food.
Even Caesar salad which was mostly grass and leaf came with shredded cheese.
And then there was Cheese Cake factory. Also Taco Bell and its cheesy potatoes.

It made no difference that I was vegetarian.
It made no difference that I went to the gym almost every day.

I put on weight. Though it was not perceptible to others.

When I returned, I took to my fruit juices and salads and one meal a day.

After almost 3 months of this discipline, I became slimmer, though I have way to go before I get back to the ‘before US trip’ shape.

The only fault in my discipline seemed to be waking up very late in the morning and going to office by 12 and heading to lunch before turning on the computer. Work began only post lunch and went on till late in the evening.

But there was another fault and I was to learn it from the most unexpected quarter.

A month or so ago, I resumed my music classes which had come to a pause once I began touring Manhattan.

My new music teacher is so different from the old one.
While the old one enjoyed withholding until you begged, my new guru insists on giving even after your cup has overflowed.

I was in raptures when I found her. I had not finished singing my first line when she exclaimed, what a lovely voice I had.
That’s when I realized that my old teacher had not, in the 2 years of her tutelage, said one word in praise of my singing. Not one.

She too was happy to have me as her student. So she said.

The lessons came pouring. One Varna in just 3 classes. One devotional song in every class. She was set to offer her all.
Only, my cup had shrunk.

I would sing just four lines and already feel tired. I had to begin clearing my throat within minutes of starting the lessons.
She would make me tea at the beginning of every class to soothe my throat. But it didn’t help.
Practising at home was the same experience.

The result was that she taught me lesson after lesson and I could not master even one and reproduce it to her satisfaction in the subsequent classes.
My pending lessons started piling up.

I had never faced this problem ever. I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make much progress.
What saddened me most was the shadow of disappointment on my teacher’s face.

I thought of one means after another is search of a solution.

I went hunting for a suitable bottle for the bottle warmer I had bought from the US. I would heat water, dip into it one of my Tazo tea bags, add some honey and have the concoction before singing. Some warm liquid was what my throat needed. Moreover, honey improved voice quality, they said.

My father said, give up citrus. Citrus was part of my everyday diet. A glass of Mosambi juice was something I had every evening. Hmmm...

I called up my playback singer friend and told him my worry.
He said he had faced exactly the same problem – having to clear throat very often; and he had consulted Dr. Rudrappa, a renowned ENT specialist. The doctor had solved his problem with his prescription. Sometimes, you could have throat infections or allergies you were not even aware of. But Dr. Rudrappa would know for sure.
As for tiring soon, he would teach me some exercises when we met next.

That weekend, I attended two music concerts that were part of an annual music festival. The second day, I ran up to the artist and asked her a few questions, almost in desperation. Did she keep away from citrus? No, she had citrus, but avoided oily food, though not completely. What about clearing one’s throat? That was very harmful and must never be done; continue singing, wait for ‘it’ to go away on its own; drink warm water and do salt water gargling.

I came home somewhat consoled but not wholly at rest.

And then, in a flash it occurred to me.

For almost three months, I had not had breakfast.
Skipping breakfast is bad, very bad for the heart. And when you don’t have a strong heart, you cannot sing continuously, for more than a few minutes.

That’s why......!!!

But that was just my speculation. I wasn't sure I had found the right cause. I hoped it was the right cause because the solution was a simple one.
The very next day on, soon after brushing, I walked to the near by Adigas for breakfast.

It has been two weeks now.
Only two weeks, but I can say, my speculation was right.
I no longer feel tired as I sing, though I know it will be a few more weeks before I can sing effortlessly.

Looking back, I think, Oh God! What had I done.
For three months I had gone without breakfast, knowing that it wasn’t good for the heart, but believing that it would take years for it to have any real effect upon the heart, that a few months wouldn’t make a difference.
This was something I had never done before. Waking up late in the morning was an excuse but I had seen the brighter side of it and felt happy it would help me in shedding that extra fat.
And what a telling effect it had had. It had made my heart so weak that I could sing no more than 4 lines without feeling tired, without feeling an ache in the chest region. Every line after the first four was an effort.

And if it hadn’t been for my singing, I would never have perceived the effect and would have gone for months and years without breakfast and to think now of what it would have done to my heart!

Hence I thought it very apt to call this lesson, ‘a music lesson’.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Bigger Tragedy

I have not known fear in all my life.
My parents fear for me for just the same reason.

9:30, 10, 10:30, 11. In the night.
They didn’t mean much to me.

Lost in reading a book, I would suddenly realise it was 10 and I hadn’t had dinner yet. I would put down the book unwillingly, lock my house and amble to the Adigas restaurant nearby, humming a tune on the way, like there was no hurry, have my Dosa or Roti Curry and walk back thinking how much more easier it was to cross the road at that time with a just few vehicles passing now and then.

When I had finished calling all friends and known no one would be free to watch this movie that would be taken off the screens any time now, I would step out alone, take a bus to Forum mall to watch the 8 PM show. I had gotten used to watching movies alone by now, though I had company many a time.
I would come out of the mall at 10:30, my mind still on the roller coaster ride of songs, drama, dialogues and dances...a movie review already taking shape in my mind.
I would reject most of the autos for asking for double fare and finally take one to silk board. I would hop on to any bus that came, for all of them went straight to my home. When I got off, the movie review was almost ready in my head.
I enjoyed the stroll home, thinking how quiet it was at that time and how nice the houses looked when washed in the orange of sodium vapour lamps. I would look up at the half moon through the silhouette of the swaying coconut fronds, climb the stairs to my house never bothering to turn on the stairway lights, my feet knew the stairs by now. The key too went into the keyhole without a falter.

Once, only once, while walking back from the juice and salad place after dinner, I had noticed a man on a scooter pass me by, turn to look at me, and stop where he probably knew I would turn the corner. He waited for me there turning back to make sure I was walking towards him. Should I take another route? I had a better idea. I walked on, approaching him and when he was five steps ahead of me, I began running full speed, noisily, past him and stopped running when I knew he was far behind.
I still amuse myself with the idea of how I must have startled him! Ha ha... and how simple it is to outsmart these fellas...

Come summer, I would pack my bags, go to Himalayas, a different part of it every year. It never bothered me to be a lone traveller. The Pahadi’s were safe and extra helpful when you were a single woman.

And then Delhi happened. That girl. And the monsters with an iron rod.

I had been impervious to all news of crime. But not this one. Don’t know why.

I didn’t even know I was shaken until one day, when I was walking to Adigas and found myself turning behind every now and then at the sound of footsteps. Was I being followed? No, it was an innocent woman, it was a boy, it was even a dog. But I kept looking behind anyway.

It’s been a long time since I went to Adigas. Because I don’t like to walk that way.
There is only one way I want to walk. Without fear.

I do go to movies alone. But not for the 8 PM shows, only the shows that close before 8.

I don’t mind if it takes longer to cross the road. But I like the company of traffic in the night.

My feet know the stairs; the key, the keyhole. And my hand knows the light switch.

When I think of the man on the scooter lying in wait at the corner, I see an iron rod in his hand though I know he never had one.

If I am shaken, I know the other hundred crore in this country are.

And that, is the bigger tragedy.

The brutal killing of the girl was very tragic.
But the tragedy of all of us who survive her is bigger. A hundred crore people will live in fear, suspicion and mistrust every day.

The night and its silence which once contained moonlight, stars, silhouettes and poetry will now contain dark corners, footsteps, lurking monsters with iron rods.
A hundred crore people entitled to peaceful, free, fearless living will go through life carrying the burden of perpetual fear in their heart.
And that is the bigger tragedy. For there is only one way to live.
And that is to live without fear.