Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Music and Me

When I returned from Mumbai in January, a volunteer named Balaji, student at MIT, came to MS for two weeks through Project Ahimsa with a goal doing music related work. He didn’t join in on a music program at MS, since at current there is a standstill, but that didn’t stop him from sharing the music. At Seva CafĂ© and MS, he strummed away on his guitars, lifting hearts with the notes in his songs. He infused more music into Manav Sadhna, providing Laxmi with additional inspiration, reminded Sandeepbhai of his previous guitar endeavours. His smile and enthusiasm of course made him even more loved. The girls at Safai took a trip to Sarkhej Roza, which Balaji joined us on. In the MS car, he pulls out his guitar and all of sang and listened as we made our way across town. The ripple effect of Balaji’s presence still persist. Laxmi and him pushed me towards taking up Kathak or tabla, tabla winning out. Sunilbhai considered the violin and has decided on the flute, under Ankur’s influence. Sandeepbhai and Sikhander are learning guitar. The ripples continue.

For me, music has taken on a whole new dimension in life. Bharatbhai left Manav Sadhna for a teaching post at Gurukul, so prathna was empty without his singing. Soon after he left, Laura came to MS and that day, Virenmama asked if anyone wanted to sing. Be the influence of Balaji, the presence and love emitted by Laura or this bhajan being remembered from the time Akanksha students came for the retreat, the desire to sing emerged. I didn’t sing that day, but the next day at Saturday prathna. The response was powerful. During college, when I would talk and listen to Shalin and Trent with their singing pursuits, the desire to sing would come up. Some point along the way, I stopped singing because of my deep voice, but that began to get replaced with an appreciation for its “uniqueness”.

So singing began. Every week, a bunch of the MS staff always encourages me to sing a bhajan. From there, remembering old ones and learning the words of new bhajans has been spurned. I now sing randomly to myself and yes, listen to songs and practice while listening to the song. Having Jagatbhai to play the tablas as accompaniment makes singing so enjoyable and I look forward to singing at prathna. I got sick while in Benaras, which has left my voice hoarse or inaudible for a week or so, my first thought when I got sick was that I wouldn’t be able to sing.

Tablas. It’s been two months since I have begun tabla and I haven’t looked back. I love it. Tablas keep me grounded and is something that is just for me. I am so blessed to have the Guruji I have – Pandit Divyang Vakil. Guruji not only is an accomplished musician, but more importantly he is extremely personable. He is a philosopher and I love the conversations I have with him. Music is intricately linked to spirituality and Guruji has a strong understanding of both. Classes are a lot of fun. The teachers are very cool people. Music is their grounding. It’s an outlet for me to interact with other people beside those I work with, which is very nice and they are really talented. I always look forward to going to class, well maybe not so much on the days that I haven’t practiced enough… =)

Music is really important to people I work with, particularly Jagatbhai, Krupa, Laxmi and Sonia. When I started tabla, I was practicing on the Manav Sadhna tabla before prathna. Jagatbhai would arrive early in general and just sit while I struggled with the most basic tabla bols. His presence and support have been huge. If I ever think of quitting (knock on wood), the first words that are going to come to mind are jagatbhai saying, “Heenaben, tabla chalu karya che, uve ene chhodata nahi” (Heena, you have started tabla, never leave them). His skills always are an inspiration. One fond memory of Narmada weekend for Holi is hanging out with him and Raju as Rajubhai sang bhajans and Jagatbhai played the tabla. Laxmi, especially has been so encouraging. As I banged away trying to make some noise from the tabla, she’d always listening with a smile and ask how practices are going. Many of the volunteers especially love good music, ghazals, soft music you name it. Their love for music and the contentment they get from listening to music has only pushed me further to bring music more and more into my life.

When we went to Narmada, several people brought music players. From them, I remembered the ipod mom had given me months ago, tucked away in a bag and pulled it out when I got back. Now the ipod, loaded with some great songs, of course Kailasa Kher and the hanuman chaleesa, goes with me everywhere and before bed, its all about listening to soft Indian fusion music.

How dance fits into all of this I am trying to figure out. A wonderful girl (I say girl for people similar in age to me) named Malavika, who is a friend of Ankur’s stopped over in Ahmedabad. She does wonderful pieces of dance theatre that are moving to watch. Seeing her work was very inspirational.

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