Friday, September 11, 2009

Power of One

In a previous post, I wrote about one of the two steps needed to preserve Indian classical music, which was to cultivate an audience. I wanted to share an experience or realization I had last year that reminded me again that one person does have the power to change things.

In Oct 2008, I returned to Canada for the first time in over 2 years.

A lot had changed in those two years. When I had left, I had left with the intention to return in a year or two to start a master/phD program in Environmental Engineering. Alas, life had taken me through twists and turns and I was returning with a new goal in mind, something I could have never fathomed - to become a professional classical tabla player.

Over the previous year, family and friends had gotten pieces of information with regards to my career change and it didn't make a lot of sense to many. The reality was that I come from a community that does not have a large majority of Indian classical music listeners. While cliched, it was true, generally Gujaratis are more enthusiastic about folk music than classical music. In fact, a lot of people in our family friend circle did not even know who Zakir Hussain was, who is considered to be one of the most well-known Indian classical musicians and tabla players of our time. In this scenario, it was understandably difficult to find many who understood what I was doing or why I was doing. But, I must also include here that even though they didn't understand, they were be as supportive as possible.

The trip to Canada was important in many ways. It was a chance to explain firsthand what I was doing and why I was doing it.

A few months before I came to Toronto, I had performed my first solo, after 9 months of training, at Rhythm Riders' annual Guru Purnima function. Of course, I have lots of work to do, but it was nonetheless an important milestone for me. Soon after the performance, my tabla solo video was posted to Youtube as most of the people who wanted to see it were not in Ahmedabad for the performance. The outpouring of support and encouragement was incredible and hugely motivating, but it was only one step.

By the time I came to Canada, most had seen the video or heard of it. For many, watching my solo was the first time they had listened to a classical tabla performance. People were really impressed and asking about when if I would be performing concerts in Toronto during the trip. While the enthusiasm was incredible, it was midguided in the sense many understood what was very much an amateur performance to be one that could be quickly developed into one that could be put on a professional stage.

As I would explain how I had many years to go, I began to realize the wonderful opportunity I had in front of me. The reality was that many who watched my solo, watched it not because it was a tabla performance and they were interested in tabla, but they watched it because of me. They wanted to see what I was doing and were being supportive of my endeavours. Now I have the opportunity to open up the world of Indian classical music or atleast tabla playing to them.

I don't expect that everyone is going to turn into an Indian classical music lover, but I do know that many will grow in their understanding of the music. As they follow my progress, as they watch me grow from solo to solo, they too will begin to discern on some level the differences between amateur and immediate, advanced and professional. Through my personal journey, I have the chance to change the world around me in some small way.

The epitaph on an Anglican bishop's tombstone is very appropriate here:
When I was child, there was no limitation in my mind. I dreamt to change the world.

The more I grew up and tried to wise, I realized impossible to change it. And I decided to reduce my dream even a little and change my own country only but It was still impossible.

When I would an old man, in the last effort , I tried to change my own family. They were close to me. Unfortunately They ignored me.

And when I was dying, I realized (maybe for the first time) if I changed my self long time ago, I influenced my family by my examples and they’re supporting me, maybe could make my country be a better future and who knows, I could change the world.