Monday, January 11, 2016

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - The Rise and Fall of My Music Career

My relationship with music has been quite a roller-coaster. Not a thrilling roller-coaster so to say, but the kind that reminds you of Appu Ghar rides made for children below the age of ten. The analogy here is with Appu Ghar’s dismal end, and not with how cute ten year olds look sitting on a caterpillar on wheels, waving at their parents.

Like every boy from the age of five and above, I wanted to be quite the music superstar of my lifetime. Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Polo Sport’ t-shirt and ‘Kool’ merchandise aside, I also wanted to adorn an electric guitar hanging by my neck. Playing the drums would’ve been equally cool, I thought. But to be honest, I was even ready to settle for a position at the keyboard, because guys with the keyboard got to play at the time of the morning assembly in junior school.

My happiness knew no bounds when the Maata-Pita decided that their child was doing too much drama, dressing up as a Sardar every few months with the Punjabi Academy theatre group, and was to develop a few more respectable hobbies to count as ‘extra-curriculars’. And so, on one sunny winter afternoon of Circa 1998, the Maatey decided to take me to the local music school in my colony. The music school was a 2BHK on the second floor of a building in Old Rajinder Nagar. The school was more like a 2BHKBT because it also had a separate Bath and another Toilet, with two different doors and a wall in between. I don’t know how giving that information has any relevance to the point at hand, but anyhoo.

As the mother introduced me to the music teacher, who was a lady living on the floor above the one that was ‘school’, I greeted her with a “Good evening, ma’am”, to which she responded with “Namaste” and asked me to go do a Surya Namaskar or some such in front of the Saraswati Maa statue in that room. With no questions asked about the kind of music I wanted to learn, the next two hours were about the ladies discussing which school their respective children went to and how each of them tried to spruce up their children’s tiffin menu to get them to finish off their food. Before I knew it, I was admitted to the music academy and Bread Jam cut into circular shapes with a katori was adjudged the best dish to be served in the school tiffin.

The usual routine of the music class started with the Saraswati Vandana, which I expected to be followed by “Saturday Night” or “I’m a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World”, but realized on the first day itself that if my idea of music was Munde Bhangra Paunde, the Maatey’s idea was Jai Ganesh Jai Ganesh Jai Ganesh Deva, and it was evident that the mother called the shots. Also, do not judge me for wanting to learn how to play the Barbie song by Aqua. In my defense, it was the only English song the chorus of which I could understand and sing-along.

A man of resilience, I had not totally given up on hope. I was still happy about carrying my Casio SA-21 to the class. Proud that it had a hundred sounds that could be chosen to play a song, I was punching in the codes and trying out the various sounds – more specifically, the ones called Ambulance and Typewriter. Soon, the teacher walked in and asked me to keep the keyboard aside and sit behind the harmonium. Following that, I was given my first lesson in music. The Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa. When I learnt it and practiced it enough in the first class to know it by heart, I was told that that was exactly what I had to practice for the next one week because practice makes perfect.

Known for being the easy-goer, I learnt to love the harmonium in that one week. It wasn’t what I had expected when I wanted to learn a musical instrument, but it was something that I liked fiddling with using both my hands, especially pumping air in the front and looking like Anoop Jalota with double the baby fat. The guitar or the keyboard were the loves that I always wanted, but then, I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that the harmonium was my ardhangini and I had to give it my whole-hearted dedication to make the relationship work.

The second week brought with itself a new lesson. Sa-Sa Re-Re Ga-Ga Ma-Ma Pa-Pa Dha-Dha Ni-Ni Sa-Sa. The third week brought another. Sa-Sa-Sa Re-Re-Re Ga-Ga-Ga Ma-Ma-Ma Pa-Pa-Pa Dha-Dha-Dha Ni-Ni-Ni Sa-Sa-Sa.

And right when I thought I knew the lesson for the fourth week, I was told that it wasn’t Sa-Sa-Sa-Sa Re-Re-Re-Re, but Sa-Re-Sa, Re-Ga-Re, Ga-Ma-Ga, Ma-Pa-Ma, Pa-Dha-Pa, Ni-Dha-Ni, Sa-Na-Sa. Guess it wasn’t just Abbas-Mustan who had a reputation for plot twists.

The next six months witnessed me learning various permutations of the Sargam, getting bored and singing Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-La-Te-Do instead and then getting a bewildered look from the teacher because yeh kya ga rahe ho? Also, more than the number of friends I made during this time was the number of people who had joined that place to learn how to play the “Casio”. Truth be told, I was not ready to trade Cricket Cards with anyone who used the word “Casio” for a keyboard.

With an experience of six months as a student of music and still not competent enough to volunteer to play at the morning assembly, I knew I had to take the matter in my own hands and stand up for my right to music education. All attempts to convince my mother to speak to the teacher about a promotion in the kind of lessons I was being taught went in vain as the Bread Pakora won the second season of the reality show that was Get-Together-To-Discuss-Your-Child’s-Progress-In-Music-But-Discuss-Tiffin-Menu-Instead.

The teacher soon realized my frustration and made me move on to more important things with names like the Raga Bhairavi’s and Raga Bhopali’s. I was always a religious believer in God and his miracles even as a young boy, but the fact that we were singing bhajan’s in music class whereas my friends from school could play Kuch Kuch Hota Hai on the keyboard was gnawing me. I finally found the courage to tell my teacher that I wanted her to teach me Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. She looked at me surprised and asked, “yeh kya hota hai”? I said, “Kuch Kuch”, but apparently the explanation wasn’t satisfactory. After a detailed break-down of the semantics and informing her of the origin of the phrase from modern day Bollywood, I was told to suck it up because my next lesson was supposed to be Saraswati Vandana #68274249824, and the pious school wasn’t the place for such lowly things as Bollywood music.

After another four months, during a casual conversation with the teacher, which was slightly swaying away from Krishna-Radha ka prem, I saw a window of an opportunity to execute what I thought was a wonderful game plan and told her that one of my friends from school did not believe that I was learning music as I did not even know how to play the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I further added that I had challenged the so called friend to a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai duel in the following week, so the teacher had to prepare me for the battle which had my music school’s reputation at stake.

As the teacher was unaware of the kind of music she had to prepare me for, I took a recording of the song in an audio tape to class the following day. She played, rewinded and played the song multiple times in class that day to extract the tune that she was supposed to then teach. A week later, I was all set for the fictional “challenge” and could play a Mumbai-local instrumental cover of the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai because there’s only so much you can do with a harmonium and a hand that does an air-pumping workout while you’re at it.

I walked into class the next day and narrated the whole duel to the teacher with as much detail as only a work of fiction can seem to provide. I was obviously the hero of the story and in the excitement of the victory, had declared that I could also learn how to play Ae Kya Bolti Tu, which the teacher had to prepare me for to protect the aan-baan-shaan of the music school. Soon, all the other kids in class also wanted to learn how to play Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Ae Kya Bolti Tu, followed by Soldier Soldier Meethi Baatein Bolkar.

While I got busy with the routine of the St. Columba’s Middle School when I entered the fourth grade and gave up on the music school altogether, the Maatey made my sister join the music class two years later. Excited to know what she thought of it, I flipped through her notebook while she spoke about her first lesson with excitement. I may or may not have revolutionized the curriculum that is now taught in the music schools in Old Rajinder Nagar.

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  1. @@@@ kitab kab aa rahi hai bhai, kuch kuch hota hai sunana hai aapko mohali mein.
    Very mast writing, loved it.

    1. Haha. I have no idea when all of this will be considered print worthy by a publication house, if at all. Thank you. You've been quite inspiring :)

  2. Hahahah! This was soooo good! xP
    "And right when I thought I knew the lesson for the fourth week, I was told that it wasn’t Sa-Sa-Sa-Sa Re-Re-Re-Re, but Sa-Re-Sa, Re-Ga-Re, Ga-Ma-Ga, Ma-Pa-Ma, Pa-Dha-Pa, Ni-Dha-Ni, Sa-Na-Sa. Guess it wasn’t just Abbas-Mustan who had a reputation for plot twists." This made my day! :P
    All of this reminds me of my Carnatic Music Classes. I learnt it for almost 8 years, then finally I got some major throat infection and I had to stop. I can completely to relate to what you wrote because when I joined classes, I thought I'd be singing "cool" Christmas carols in my next very important-angrezi-catholic-christmas-assembly. But Christ didn't approve my Carnatic music I guess. xP

    1. *looks at you with understanding eyes*

      Except, I feel awesome that all the kids at that music school now want to learn Yo Yo Honey Singh songs.

  3. I loved reading about your journey with music, but now Soldier Soldier Meethi Baatein Bolkar is playing on a loop in my head and it is all your fault, man. xD

    I can realte more to your classmates than to you because I was the kind of kid who judged her friend's music potential by his ability to play Kuch Kuch Hota Hai on the keyboard. Because I had parents who had more of a bache-apne-aap-bade-ho-jaate-hain attitude, so they never pushed me to participate in any co-curriculars.

    It wasn't until I turned fourteen and developed a rock-star dream that I took my first ever music lesson ever, in which I learnt how to play drums. And that experience was totally different because teens think they are too cool to show off, except when it's done accidentally-on-purpose.

    It's nice to be able to understand the struggles of a young music student though. Especially when it makes you laugh like a maniac. You can buy some Dilli ki jalebiyan on my behalf coz Mumbai just doesn't have that awesome stuff.

    P.S.: I was reminded of your Banta post today, when I learnt that Banta is actually a Delhi thing. I asked a localite friend "yahan kahi Banta milta hai?" and he looked at me like I'd grown an extra pair of ears.

    1. You know how to play the drums? :O :O
      You don't even look like a drummer! Show me a video?

    2. And what exactly do you think a drummer looks like? XD
      I never made a video playing the drums, and I am not at home right now so I can't make one. But I can send ya a picture of my drum set in my room. Also, just FYI, I took classes for about 6 months when I was fourteen. Since I left the class my drums have been collecting dust.

  4. If there's one person that can make me laugh during my preboards, it's you. The poli shirt and Kool, Abbas Mustan plot twists, and all the fiction you fed her - god, you're hilarious and you know it. Thankyou for them gags, Sarthak, aap nahi hote toh iss andheri zindagi mein ujaala kaun laata :')

    Melodrama ki hadd hun main, I know.

    Also, sorry for not being able to comment on your last few posts, time hi nahi milta! Padhti sab hun though mail pe.

    Here, have your jalebis! @@@@@@

    And Kanika's having a lot of fun here uski baat pe dhyaan mat do lol.

    1. Haha. Padho padho. Yehi toh umar hai padhne ki.

  5. With a few details changed that's exactly what happened to me when I was 10. But my Dad wouldn't let me quit until I finished the entire 7 yr long course. Then he wanted me to learn sitar, that's when I stepped up and said I want to learn guitar instead, and he agreed.

    But I am glad he didn't let me quit because once I understood the technicalities of the Indian Classical music, it was a piece of cake to play all the movie songs on my own, and yes, I did start a band with my friends in high-school. :)

    1. Fact or fiction?

      There's a faux pas though
      I was totally singing the alankar along
      That's how I know
      But here goes

      You wrote
      Sa-Re-Sa, Re-Ga-Re, Ga-Ma-Ga, Ma-Pa-Ma, Pa-Dha-Pa, Ni-Dha-Ni, Sa-Na-Sa

      Right version
      Sa-Re-Sa, Re-Ga-Re, Ga-Ma-Ga, Ma-Pa-Ma, Pa-Dha-Pa, Dha-Ni-Dha, Ni-Sa-Ni, Sa-Re-Sa

    2. Ah, Ashwini! So talented, huh? You were the cool kid in high school then :)

      Also, Laksh, this is a true story. I don't make shit up (as you have figured out from the story too). Thanks for pointing out. It's evident that I did not pay a lot of attention class.

  6. I wish I could play the drum. Its sound is really great. I tried many times but it so hard for me.

    1. Oh, you must try again. I believe now there are apps that help in understanding how the sounds on these instruments work.

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If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D