An "infinitely" boring read, taking stock, that’s all.

Perhaps I want to gloat just a little, perhaps I want to shed humility and suspend disbelief for a moment as I tell myself that it is possible for me to learn music, to let it seep into every musical corner of the brain, to know it as well as breathing. I didn’t think it was possible. I never believed I would be able to read sheet music from a stand and play an instrument while reading it.

Two years ago, other than a certain, perhaps misplaced, confidence in being able to carry a tune, I had nothing. Musical notations meant nothing, keys and sharps and flats were alien concepts that I never believed I would be able to grasp. I only wished, desperately wished, I could.

When I participated as a back up singer in a work band, this desire intensified and went beyond a mere wish. It was just a work band that performed once a year, I was just a back up singer, but there were people in the band who had been drumming or playing the bass guitar or guitar or piano or mandolin for years. From the first day of the rehearsal to the day of the annual concert I believed I was witnessing magic before my eyes. The coordination, the collaboration the consonance of various voices affected me like nothing had before. It touched a part of me that I didn’t know I had. So much went into the making of a band and such magic was possible. Words prove inadequate in describing how the experience changed me and made me wonder if I could be audacious enough to bring this desire to fruition.

I started learning how to play the violin. For the last two years I haven’t missed a single day of practice. I have been meticulous, I’ve focused on my sound, my stance and sight reading and I periodically record myself to look for improvements. It is slow going. Sometimes my brain knows what I need to play and the tempo at which I need to play it but its instructions arrive just a few seconds later than they should have.

I can miss the beat and end up beating myself up about it. At other times I feel I am bowing and playing correctly but the sounds are scratchy and I am confused about what could be causing it. But if I look back over the last two years I see how much smoother my playing sounds. And if my teacher tells me that I sound good there’s a warm glow that permeates my entire being.

I started playing Bach Chorales last week. I never thought I would be able to say that. I have to play first violin in a string ensemble that our teacher is planning for our Christmas concert. I will also be playing a song I have loved since I was a child – My Favorite Things. I never thought I would be able to play it on an instrument one day, that I could play with the metronome set at 200! I am in full-fledged gloat mode when I think about this. There isn’t a soul around who would pat me on the back or not wonder why I am doing this, or what I hope to gain from this. If someone were to ask me why I am doing this my answer would probably be a question, “Why not?”

The madness didn’t end there. I started learning Indian classical music around the same time as I picked up western violin. East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet. Be that as it may but music is music. It has been my dream to learn all the raags, what makes them different, the ways in which they color the spirit as they are supposed to. This has been an immensely satisfying quest.

I am learning raag Marwa these days. A raag of amazing complexities, depths and nuances. A raag with a personality so distinct, with its teevra ma, skipped pa and the constant emphasis on komal re and dha that it can transport one to a higher plane of consciousness. So far it has come to me with ease. I can close my eyes and sink into the sea of emotions it generates. I actually feel each note, it is hard to describe how it fills me up, how I feel I am sinking into it as I hear it and as I close my eyes and sing it. My teacher has asked me to perform it at the spring concert for her students in early January.

The last time I was at this concert I had been asked to perform raag Khamaj. I had practiced for days and without an audience and even at the rehearsal I did very well. At the concert I started with tremendous confidence but then I forgot the last few taans. I was unbelievably nervous, my palms were sweating, the faces in the audience were all merging into one blurry mass and I found a way to end the song sooner than I was supposed to. I thought I had done miserably. But the post concert comments and compliments surprised me. No one realized I had forgotten the last few taans, no one saw the beads of perspiration or my nervousness. They liked my performance. That was all very encouraging, but never again do I want to feel as nervous as I did that day.

And now it’s going to be Marwa. It is rarely performed, there isn’t much out there to listen to. There is a composition by Pt Bhimsen Joshi that I’ve been listening to and an Amir Khan performance that I haven’t yet found. But I know I’ll do well this time. This raag has seeped in deep and made an unforgettable impression.

So things are going well musically. I can’t complain. I love the pursuit of things that stretch out endlessly, things that span eternity, things where the strength of ones aspiration is the only thing that counts. Music is that eternity, that infinite blessing that will shelter me like the sky and surround me like the air I breathe, trilling in my ears like the laughter of my daughter and shaking me to the core as her slightest tears often do.

Almost everything else is slowly morphing into something finite, almost all other paths appear to lead to dead ends or a brick walls through which one cannot pass. For two years I have been following the US elections very closely. I didn’t bother myself with the nation’s politics before. I read the headlines, prided myself on being generally aware and sufficiently educated about most issues. But beyond this cursory and often desultory interest I really didn’t care much. I didn’t care until the rhetoric got rancorous, until every issue took on a burning urgency and until the extent to which we were a divided nation sunk in. I found myself addicted to the news, carried away by opinions. I was a part of every analysis and had my own opinion on everything. I wanted to be more than just a little bit educated about everything. My day felt incomplete if I hadn’t read every bit of news there was to read.

Our historic elections are over. The candidate I was supporting has won. There’s euphoria, the celebrations continue even as everyone admits they are aware of the long and hard road ahead. There isn’t as much news to watch anymore. However, the talking heads continue to talk, the op-ed pieces in national papers are still not tired of discussing the historic outcome. They can go on and on about how the Republican party will rebuild itself, heal its wounds, how President Obama will handle the pressing issues of the day, whether taxes will go up or not. The issues are always the same, the emotions, the opinions, the analysis is almost always the same no matter how diverse the pundits are. As far as politics is concerned it is a finite world, a gamut of options and opinions but finite, with boundaries and set choices. Or, at least that is the world to which we are accustomed. Will new things happen, will newer solutions emerge? That remains to be seen.

Work. My work. It gives me pause these days. I do my work well. I have responsibilities and tasks and I have a conscience and a work ethic that keeps me going. I arrive and leave at set hours, I do somethings on Mondays, somethings on Tuesdays, I attend meetings, put little numbers in little boxes and answer questions. Nothing changes, nothing is ever different, there are no signs of infinite possibilities and opportunities. I am ambivalent about routine and structure. But being ambivalent means I don’t hate it or love it. Would I love a job I am not ambivalent about? Absolutely! Anything to erase this notion of things being finite, of there only being so many options from which to choose.

Our new President-elect has shown us that the world is full of possibilities, one can do what one sets ones mind to doing. There have been many moments in my life where I’ve believed this and have been rewarded by this belief. The most rewarding moments have been the ones where I have had to step out of my comfort zone, just a tad. Of late my comfort zones have become a bit too dear to me. I am unwilling to step out of them even as I wile away every twenty four hour period in idle contemplation and idle taking of stock on an obscure blog. This Sunday is over and I have nothing to show for it. The work week is here, the same repetitive tasks are at hand. I am dreaming of making a difference, of making a worthy contribution and I am paralyzed with inaction and have no plans, no ideas, nothing but an idle dream waiting for the impulse that would propel it into reality, into a world of possibilities as infinite as music.

2 Comments

  1. Infinite emotions evoked by your inspiring post 🙂 I guess I can make a couple of dreams come true too!! Thanks, Pragya.

  2. Dare I title this "Barack Obama and the music of change"? Just being facetious- how do you write so well?


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