Not so long ago, a friend of mine asked me if I still “do” music. I get asked this question a lot these days because it used to be – before the kids – that me and my music were very public. We were all about shouting from every street corner and dark, sweat-drenched stage just how much we loved to play and sing music. And then I decided to become a mother and in more ways than I can explain, everything I knew about life and truth changed. And so did my music. And so did my expression of it.
Suddenly, without warning, me and music retreated and became very quiet. Reflective, almost. As if we had to have a very long, meditative conversation about what actually mattered. I mean, what was the point of singing from every rooftop if in the end…? First we fought about not having enough time for each other. Then we got silent and hardly spoke. And then slowly we started toying with the idea of bringing each other back around for another, more mature go. And finally, we decided that maybe we could find a new way to co-exist. I’m sure that dance seems very familiar to most.
When you become a mother, you have to steal moments for yourself and any relationship that does not involve your children. I mean, stealth-like deftness to grab 5 minutes to be a selfish adult. The only day you get a by to be as selfish as you want to do whatever you want is on Mother’s Day (followed closely by your birthday). And so this Mother’s Day, I decided to have a date with my sarode. And we decided to take a masterclass with Pandit Rajeev Taranath.
Imagine getting schooled and blessed by an 82 1/2 year old Maestro just feet away from you. Now imagine that after you apologized for not having memorized a 5-page composition of the 50 you’ve been taught over the years, you got him to say “bravo” (or in this case “Kya Baat Hai!”) to your teacher for some small thing you did on your instrument. A Maestro’s praise is hard-earned and something a musician takes with her forever, even if all that rings in her ears are the mistakes she made in class because after 12 years on the instrument she still considers herself a beginner. And after the class was over and after the other students shook your hand and introduced themselves to you but in a way that makes you feel like you managed to do something right with your instrument, imagine you went to sit beside the Maestro to shyly thank him for his time and teaching.
And then the most remarkable moment of all. He speaks to you in your mother tongue and empathizes with your plight of being a South Indian playing North Indian music, because he too is a South Indian playing North Indian music, and tells you in the kindest, most grandfatherly way, that if you practice, it is all in your reach. And you’re not necessarily sure if he’s talking about the sarode anymore or music for that matter. Maybe he’s talking about life in general because by the time you’ve walked 82 1/2 years on this planet, maybe you think everything is connected and playing the sarode is one and the same as playing life.
As I sat there in front of him, listening him speak Tamil to me, I made myself hold back my tears. What would this funny, sharp, strong man do with tears from a strange(r) student? I knew when I listened to him speak that something much larger was happening for me than just a master class with a Maestro. I had the glorious experience, on Mother’s Day, to have selfishness be a life-long gift.