I started learning Indian classical music when I was a child. Every time the doorbell rang at 2 o clock on a Saturday afternoon, which was the time for music lessons, I’d lock myself up in the bathroom and would kick up a row when I was forced out. I hated it. My growing interest in pop music combined with my disinterest in aarohs and avrohs and ragas and thaats sealed my determination to quit, and my parents desire for me to develop a musical talent was no match for teenage defiance. They caved, and the lessons stopped.
But this didn’t diminish my love for music, which kept growing. I spent all my meagre allowance on cassettes, and when CDs first marked their foray into Indian territory, I was ecstatic. The clarity and the sound was something else altogether, and although I’d initially balked at the prices, I saved up to buy CDs of my favourite singers. I’d write down lyrics, sing every song line by line, stopping, pausing and restarting, until I got the tune right – perfecting songs I loved to the best of my ability.
Time passed. Over thirty years later when I found myself looking for piano lessons for my daughter, I tried hard to locate a class she would enjoy and wouldn’t want to quit. After some trial and error I found the perfect institute, and when, a few months later, I heard they were starting an adult batch at the same time, I signed up. I was tired of killing an hour outside her classroom – I may as well be inside. Although I was doubtful I would continue, I knew my determination that my daughter should not miss a single class would ensure my own regularity. And I was right. I stuck with it, and no matter what, our piano lessons trumped all other plans on a Saturday afternoon.
Some time later the institute introduced a new vocal batch, and when I heard the teacher sing, I was mesmerised. A sudden longing to restart my vocal training overcame me. But it just wasn’t feasible, was it?
I was busy! I had two children! I wrote – with some irregularity – but it still took up a chunk of my time. I jogged, I spent a lot of time cooking and baking. In addition, I had to practice piano everyday – which wasn’t as much as a time issue as a disciplinary one. I had errands to run, chores that required completing, a never-ending to-do list. Sure, I could take out time for the one hour lesson – but the practice that every activity requires was a commitment I wasn’t sure I could make. With piano testing the limits of my discipline, was I ready to commit to a second challenge? At this age?
“Try it,” my husband said. “You can always leave it if you don’t like it. Anyway you sing all day long, at least you’ll sound better with training, and we’ll suffer less!”
So I decided to try it. I do like to sing after all. I decided I would see myself through one term, satisfy my urge, perhaps learn a couple of songs, and leave.
After my first few classes I was required to select a stream. Would I like to learn classical or music theatre pieces? I figured it would be fun to opt for music theatre considering I loved theatre, and I was right. I was having so much fun singing, I didn’t even realised when the term got over and I signed up for another one. Soon it was exam time and I was informed I would have to act out my pieces for the exam.
I was horrified. Singing was fine, but I couldn’t act to save my life! The very thought!
“I want to switch to classical!” I declared, breaking into a cold sweat.
“Not a chance.” My vocal teacher was firm. She wanted me to ‘get out of my shell’, and my insistence that I liked it in there for my shell was comfortable indeed, fell on deaf ears.
And so it was that I found myself enter the examination room, where an examiner from the London School of Music was waiting for me. I had worn a long dress with an apron around my waist, my hair was tucked into a cap, and I had a bucket and broom in my hand.
“I am too old for this,” was the last thought that entered my mind, before I started to sing.
Two weeks later, I received my certificate. At the age of 45, I passed Grade 2 Music Theatre Exam with distinction, and a few weeks later, my Grade 3 piano exam.
Now when my daughters and I practice our pieces and our home is filled with the sound of music, I realise that sometimes too late is just in time.