You have the picture in your head - of south Indian girls in paavadais & jasmine entwined oily braids going off to music class, the bells from their anklets jingling. Well, we did not exactly dress like that, just ensured we wore our longer frocks despite the fact that this interfered with ability to cycle properly. For a long time sis used to take me 'doubles' on her big black bike, not because she liked to, but only because my parents made the rules and we just sort of followed them. I was tiny so not a particular load for her, but I did irritate her immensely. Used to wear hawai chappals and somehow or the other they used to fall off mid-way. Then I had to scream and make her stop and run back and fetch it. She hated that. I used to try and try, curl my toes in to hold the damn things, but I would see a nice squirrel and get distracted and that was that.
Anyway I must have gone for some four years to this music class. Our teacher was a family friend, an old lady with loads of children and grandchildren flitting in and out of the house. We sat in a small crowded room on a mat. Sometimes I fell asleep on the Tamboori when sis was singing, making her even more irritated (I was a constant source of embarrassment to her :-(). Sometimes we would go 'GAAAAAA' and a mosquito would fly in. Much coughing and sputtering would ensue, water would be fetched. This water business is always tricky. Generally you are supposed to not touch the sides of the tumbler, just let the fluid trickle in miraculously. As a child and a klutz this used to be a problem. With the mosquito thing, I always forgot the not sipping steel tumblers rule and got looks all around. Eyes would be made, the room would echo with reproach. Thankfully I was tiny enough that people always thought I was younger and found forgiveness in their hearts.
We found every excuse under the sun to skip class - too much homework, exams, cold, cough, guests. Our teacher had her share of excuses too. Somehow we still managed to fill a notebook with the songs we had supposedly learned. Sis spent several vacation days copying this from one notebook to another (she still does). Betting on this, I once covered (to her horror), all the remaining pages of the previous year's notebook with my attempts at drawing profiles of faces. I was fascinated by noses and eyelashes, so my profiles had a good sprinkling of those things. She was angry enough to complain to mom.
This was several years ago. Today I can sing passably when the mood strikes, and remember something like three songs from the lot. I tried to put in a lot of practice when the monster was just born, keeping the notebook (not the one with the profiles, the next year's one) next to my pillow, and singing singing singing while feeding bathing changing anxiously watching the baby, not to mention of course during those long hours of trying to get her to sleep. Sis does much better, has routinely taken new classes in singing, and keeps it up, although it is not Carnatic Classical music anymore, she has branched off to all sorts of other genres.
I have been reliving these times this week, having decided to inflict these classes on my own child now. We found a couple of teachers around, convinced them to attempt this as a pilot, for the next month. Hopefully it sticks, if not, well it may not matter much, really. She does have the ability to hold a tune and a pitch, as far as I can tell, so perhaps a bit of training will do her good. But then she has to have the right attitude, the time, the right kind of teacher, if it all falls in place, great. If not, hopefully, she will remember the pink mat, the pictures of gods, with some measure of fondness.
Out with the old, in with the new. I made this rule for the child just a few days ago, based on csm's suggestions. She gave away the dresses that were small for her when my mom bought her some new ones. Unfortunately, this now has another connotation in my life. With the arrival of this new music teacher into my life, I hear about the loss of the other one. The grand old lady passed on; sis tells me now. Of course she lives in my heart, she wears a majorly pink sari and flashes her diamonds at me, the turmeric shines from her earlobes and feet, and the mosquito has flown in again and choked me...