ast December, I got a message from my close friend from college, Viji, asking me to join a music group. This group was formed for preparing a music medley as part of our college alumni annual meet. Viji and another friend of ours, Ajay, were already in that group. At first, I thought she had sent the message, intended for someone else, to me by mistake. Though I am an ardent lover of Carnatic music, I wasn’t sure that would make me eligible for such a venture!
When I called her for clarification she said they wanted a short piece of Veena recital in malaya-marutham raga and it had to be completed within two weeks. This was a bolt from the blue for me!
Though the Veena has been an all-time passion for me, my first thought was to somehow flee from the scene. I gave her all the reasons I could think of for why it wasn’t a good idea: I had not touched the Veena for more than seven years. I wouldn’t be able to sit on the floor due to the backache episode from the previous year. Last but not least, I had never heard of the raga, malaya-marutham! But she offered all help in getting to know the raga and asked me to give it a try. Though I wasn’t convinced, I agreed.
I used to adore the Veena right from my childhood. In those days, almost every Malayalam movie had at least one music scene by the heroine with a Veena. The epic movies used to have a Veena recital by Goddess Saraswathi herself or one of the Apsaras! My father had told me that the Veena, the Flute, and the Mridanga are the three principal musical instruments mentioned in Vedic literature. Maybe this was why I had developed a close affinity to the Veena in my childhood.
The Veena is often compared to the human body. Its big bowl (kudam) is like the head. The fingerboard is the spinal column, with the 24 frets being the vertebrae, and is connected to the curved end with the dragon head. The dragon symbolizes courage and the triumph of good over evil.
I started learning the Veena in 2003. With the help of my teacher, I acquired my own Veena from Thanjavur, the birthplace of the unique Saraswathi Veena (Thanjavur Veena). Those were the busiest years of my life as both my kids were small and needed my attention and help for almost all of their tasks. I was struggling to balance work and life, being in the IT industry. There were weeks/months when I couldn’t attend the Veena class. I had major obstacles on the path to following my passion. Eventually, I had to discontinue my Veena class after 6 months!
At times, I used to feel bad for dropping my Veena class and guilty about not playing the Veena. Then I used to pick up my Veena and try to practice basic lessons. But those attempts often ended in frustration due to my waning skills.
Fast forward to the present time and the task of rendering malaya-marutham in two weeks. I decided to give myself another chance (‘now or never’ being my motivating factor) to revive my Veena-playing skills. I decided to start learning again. I first replaced the broken strings on my Veena and got it serviced. Also, I found an online Veena teacher.
In the second class itself, I told my teacher about playing a short bit in malaya-marutham. She was shocked and told me that it wasn’t possible at this stage. Somehow, I managed to convince her saying that my reputation was at stake, and so on. Finally, she agreed to give me a short piece of aalapanam (improvisation that introduces and develops a raga). I practiced it for more than 5 hours daily. As a consequence, I had to order lunch and dinner from outside during these days. Thankfully I had the blessings of my family and they supported me wholeheartedly 🙂
After a week of practice, I gained some confidence. I sent audio recordings of the recital to my teacher and my two friends for suggestions for improvement. My teacher’s prompt corrections and my friends’ encouragement motivated me. (I have to say that my teacher is really a wonderful person as, I am sure, no other teacher would have helped me to this extent after one class!)
On the final shoot day, it was very difficult to take her out of the frame. Who knows, Kurinji may have been a great Veena player in her past life or will become one in the lives yet to come!
Anyway, the alumni program happened last week. It all went well and our medley got a lot of appreciation too! Life is unpredictable and things happen in unexpected ways. If Viji hadn’t messaged me that day, I wouldn’t have started playing my Veena again! Thanks to all the members of our music group for giving me the chance, even after knowing I hadn’t touched the Veena for many years!
My biweekly online Veena classes are continuing. I have been able to pick up from where I left off, and I am able to practice it on a regular basis now. Life is full of surprises! I am really happy and consider it as a precious New Year gift from my alma mater!
If you are like me and have spent years away from your passion/hobby, please do consider starting all over again! Having a passion/hobby helps you to take a break from other mundane things in life. It also increases confidence and self-esteem. Surround yourself with people who motivate you and believe in you more than you do yourself!
What are your thoughts and experience on this? Please share your passion/hobbies!
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!
Happy empty nesting! 🙂
Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.