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A Shishya's Journal


An ordinary day of the annual spring cleaning was in session when I caught myself aimlessly dusting an old, tattered notebook. It was wrapped in a familiar school brown, the thin layer of sheen, almost dull at this point. My name and class was written in blue ink, with a visible uncertainty in handling a new writing device. It was my first music notebook. 


Inside the pages I saw the first seven years of my musical journey. The clean, neat notes and lyrics written by my first Guru; the memory conjured the smell of her garage where we would sit to sing. The sound of a pai unfurling, incense lit in the corner of the room and a rotating fan staying on tala more than us. A few more pages down, I remember the evenings, guilting my grandfather into getting coconut water before we headed back home for good. As the saralivarsai (beginner) turned to alankarams and geetams (intermediate), I recalled my first stage performance in 2007. My Guru still remembers me by it. 


We moved to Delhi. The notebook turned from brown to mauve and the songs turned from geetams to keertanams (intermediate to advanced). This book needed no introduction. It was with me during all the afternoon metro runs, changing lines at DMRC and running across Connaught Place in the sultry heat of May. It was also with me during the evenings at Keventers, one milkshake away from a sore throat.


My new Guru challenged me like the metro doors waiting to close at any moment. All I had to do was run. To trust myself and my abilities and never falter, lest the doors sense it and close before I enter. 


We moved back to Bangalore. The notebook remained mauve, but had matured along with me. The letter "M S" that were written five years ago with a sharp marker ink now looked like cataracts; cloudy and muddy. Little did I know then that my notebook would soon turn into the white screen, with my Guru on the other side. 


As my music advanced to aalapanai and kalpanaswaram (nuances in advanced stage), my notes and lyrics were on my screen. Battling differences in internet speeds and powercuts, I managed to reach the first milestone of a 14 year long journey- my arangetram.  


It's these teachers, who teach you your first in-tune cackle, your first graceful stomp or your first perfect squiggle. These teachers of the arts are authors of your muscle memory; they stay with you for longer, their teachings stay with you forever. The ethereal connection between a guru and a sishya is most pronounced here, the unspoken conversations between the two, like a seed in the soil. With the right amount of water and sunlight, it grows to become a strong tree.


Every teacher, every Guru that has taught me from my brown notebook to my laptop, I have been a vessel to them all. Within me now resides a part of their music, their ways of teaching and their artistic expression. Right from my very posture, to the way I emote a song through my gestures, I see a reflection of the brown, the mauve and the white. 

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