Within days of enrolling in here, I went to audition for the NSO Vocal classes. They weren’t the biggest deal in the world as I thought they should have been, what with the hype surrounding IITs. All I can remark was that the level of teaching was a trifle enhanced and the music room was better equipped than my earlier school.
I, with my newfound snobbishness and superego, thought what I managed fluidly 3 years ago could still be handled, albeit a sore throat, right now. The ‘Breathless’ sounded a little better than a ferry foghorn. The only thing that could certify me as a singer now was the alankar (sa re ga…to….sa, then back) that the music teacher, Samar Modak (BONG), had asked me to render first.
In the adjoining room, I bit my nails to the last straw as I heard dude singers, felt heartened by the duds. A few blokes came over and said, ‘Breathless, huh?’, which at that moment seemed sinisterly derisive, as if they wanted to say “behnchod gana nahi aata aur breathless ga raha hai.”
In the end, all that mattered was the BONG CONNECTION
(God forgive me for my hypocrisy)!
Classes started from next day for a select few who were to perform for a stint during the Convocation day. We had to sing the Institute motto “Gyanam Parmam Dhyeyam” something that meant “Knowledge is Supreme” (Haven’t we heard that somewhere? Right. Now I remember. In ‘Another brick in the wall’
by Pink Floyd.) The other song was a Rabindra Sangit with lyrics changed to Hindi. Even though I hadn’t heard the song before, Rabindra Sangit could always be foretold by an essence that it contained. Jana Gana Mana was to be the swan song.
We gathered here everyday religiously at 6 pm sharp. Though it was supposed to be the most boring ordeal, I loved it. I loved it that I could finally sing unrestrained after 2 years of getting my ass fucked by Newton’s Third law. There were about 5 boys and 6 girls(which dwindled to 4 until the convocation) with 2 sophie girls also a part of it. Life went smoothly until a particular day.
Mr. Samar Modak was your quintessential Bong, replete with the oiled hair parted at one side with a liberal amount of baldness showing at the other end, a moustache, glasses, and the thick accent. He was a sweet fellow, talked with his voice dripping with honey, and in fact, if I may say so, with saccharine. When we tired ourselves out with the monotony of the songs that we had sung for the past hour, or when we waited for the refreshments to arrive (yeah this was the other cool aspect) Mr. Samar would talk in general. That general went all awry one day when a classmate asked him what he thought of Rahman.
“Hyaah…Rehmann!” He did this as if mentioning some filth he might have encountered someday while dusting the table.
“Paita nehi kaishe ushe Oshkar mil gaye. Ushka koi syshtiem hi nehi hai. Koi bhi gaan ko uthaake pooro borbaad kor deta hai. Paita nehi kaun ushe pairmishon diya…”
The world around me went blank as I felt raw, unbridled adrenaline flow into my insides. My ears throbbed as if I had been insulted. I looked around helplessly as the rest acknowledged his joke and his stately knowledge. I wanted to take that Harmonium and smash that cauliflower nose of his. This guy sitting in front of me, who was not even worth the molecule of a fragment of dust accumulated in the toenail of Rahman, was picking on him as if he performed at the Carnegie Hall three times every year. Who the fuck did he think he was?
We resumed with the practices. I faltered 3 times. I forgot lyrics. I went off tune and offbeat, which thankfully wasn’t discernible amidst the choir. Soon it was time for the refreshments, which bought an end to the day’s practices. I sidled up to Sudipto, another Bong, and the one who had asked the question.
“What do you think about Rahman?”
” What…ohh…I…ummm…he’s terrific.”
“isn’t he? Have you heard Roja?” I raised my voice so that Mr. Samar Modak would have little difficulty in getting hold of the conversation.
“Ohhh yes. Brilliant track. I like another song by him. ‘Kehna hi kya’. Have you?”
“Yeah I have heard that one. The movie was Bombay. Have you…”
We went on like that for another five minutes.
“No wonder he got an Oscar man.” said I.
“Yeah, but Jai Ho is a bit of a drag nowadays.”
“It always was a drag. There are far better soundtracks in Slumdog that people haven’t heard at all, and then they tend to pass derogatory comments. There is ‘Mausam and Escape’, ‘Liquid Dance’, ‘Latika’s Theme’ and a lot more. I bet even you haven’t heard all these.”
“Hmmm…yes I haven’t.”
“That’s the whole fucking problem man. No one goes to hear extra, just the ones that are being spoon fed by the media.”
“Yeah that’s true.”
“That’s fucking true man. Hey wait a sec…you attended that Cultural Orientation 2 days ago?”
“Yes I did.”
“There was one Dance performance that had men in white lungis perform a contemporary dance…you remember?”
“Remember the track that was playing along?”
“Hmmm…yeah. Pleasant track.”
I gave him a matter-of-factly shrug. We had finished with the refreshments, and as I stood up to leave, I chanced a glance at Mr. Samar Modak.
His face had turned ashen. He was gazing introspectively at the Harmonium, his glasses reflecting the tubelight overhead, which hid his eyes. God, I would have liked to see them.
As I stepped over the threshold of the Music room, I felt like the biggest magnanimous smart ass in the whole wide world, and I smile a big, broad, bland smile.