As is the norm with any TamBrahm family, especially those hailing from the banks of river Kaveri, and nearer to the musical town of Tiruvaiyaru, I started my music lessons around 5 years of age. I didn’t know if I had any interest in learning music nor did any elders at home wanted to know my interest levels. The music lessons were a must. I and my sister, accompanied by patti, went to Kalyani mami, the expert in conducting music classes and within walk able distance from home. As was the tradition, we went with a tray of fruits, vethalai, pakku, flowers and some token of guru dhakshina. And it all began on the auspicious day of Vijayadasami, when beginnings to new ventures or classes always took place.
Kalyani mami – a face I cannot forget. Her smiling face with the big kumkum bindi in the center, the kondai and malli poo and her neat way of tying the sari…sigh, she was incredibly beautiful. And her music made her all the more lovable. She was not rude to us, but firm in a lovable way. She gave into our uncontrollable laughter over the lyrics that sounded funny many a times. Even among all that laughter, she’ll find that one girl among the group of 10, who missed the sruthi or who missed the taalam. She was that amazing.
We bought the regular first book of music and of course, I and my sister shared one book. We thought that we can always sit together, as we shared the book. But from day one, we never opened the book in class. It always remained closed. Mami would teach us a new lesson, made us practice it many times, made all of us sing individually too and then would send us home. The only instruction was we had to sing it correctly without seeing the book in the next class. Both of us used to sit and practice together the new lesson, till it was etched in memory. In the next class, we used to recite the previous lesson from memory and then Mami would teach us a new lesson after making sure that we had all perfected the previous one. In the next class, she would make us sing from the beginning, all the lessons learnt so far and then only she would go to the new lesson. It was amazing how we learnt the whole book by memory and having so much of fun at the same time.
The swaras, jandai varisai, thattu varisai, mel sthaiyi varisai, geetham, swarajathi, varnam…I still remember them all from memory.
Recently, I happened to get hold of my music books from the loft and that joy was immense. I opened up the book and all the music lessons came to my memory. I just had to flip the pages and the music started ringing in my ears. I started singing even when my throat didn’t agree to that much of voice modulation.
I always try to hum some song while cooking; it was always a movie song. But after the music book came back into my life, I sing some song from the music book, learnt years ago. It may not be in accordance to the sruthi or the taalam – forgive me Kalyani mami! But there is a certain joy to that singing, which cannot be measured.
And today it was “rara venu gopala…” and I felt healed of all the stress ☺