Wednesday, 31 January 2007


This was just for me, I thought gleefully. Just what I was looking for. It was a small ad tucked away in the classified corner of the neighbourhood newspaper.
Asking for senior women (a nice euphemism for grannies and old housewives, I thought) who would like to join group singing classes.

It was right up my street, I was delighted. I had all the qualifications, I am senior and I am a woman, and I wanted to do some singing. I had just given up a job which I had enjoyed doing for many years, and had a lot of time to spare. Tra la la, I sang to myself as I called the number in the ad. The lady who answered spoke in a delightfully musical voice and confirmed that she would be taking the classes – her plan was to form a group with women who could do some community singing.
What could be more convivial?

This time, I decided, I would go for it heart and soul. I would put behind me all the times I had started out on this, and go into the project full heartedly. The number of times I had started music lessons, from a recalcitrant teenager, coerced into the course by a hopeful grandmother –(My pethi can sing as well as anyone – she is the future MS, she would gush), to a bashful bride, spending time in her in-laws’ place in a quietish town in Kerala, while my husband worked in Madras (I looked on it as an excuse to get out of the house, and not really cared about the music.)

I agreed at once to meet her, and at the appointed time set off to her place.
I was pleasantly surprised to meet the guru, a cheerful person, with a friendly mien. And present also were other wannabe singers like me, all of them 45 plus, most of them 55 plus. Some had bravely left their hair uncoloured, and some had dyed it jet black defiantly, as though to hold back the ravages of time. It was fun to meet them and I was pleased to see that they were just as determined to sing.

The date was set for the first lesson and we all turned up at the appointed hour, with pocket sized recorders and last year’s diaries and notebooks to note down the lyrics/ sahithya.
Our guru took note that what we all had in common was an earlier grounding in music. All of us had learnt the sarali varisai (scales) and graduated to kirthanams in the approved manner, at some earlier avatar in our lives, before, housewifely and maternal duties took us over. Happy, she decided that we could form a sound group, whose sound would indeed be musical.

And so began the first lesson. We sang the opening notes Sa Pa Sa with great gusto, and then on to the Vinayaka namavali that was to be our first song. Then it happened. Most of us hadn’t sung anything more than Jana Gana Mana at public functions in the last so many years. Our voices croaked and creaked, and slipped from the sruthi, breathlessness set in, and we finished gasping for breath.
Those of us who had bravely sat on the floor in the traditional manner also were beginning to feel the twinges of discomfort in our legs. Some of the creaking wasn’t coming from our voices, I discovered, but from my knees, as I tried to shift my weight to a less painful position.
Our guru has this optimistic streak in her – at the end of the day, she declared we had not done too badly for people who had not sung for so long , and assured us that we would get into the swing of it soon enough.

I brought home the recorded lesson and as I played it to my husband, he predicted that real estate prices were sure to tumble in the area where our teacher lived, with people wanting to move away from there at once!
Four months on, I must say our teacher’s prediction is closer to the truth than my husband’s – we do sing better, we have a good collection of songs under our collective belt, and our voices meld together in a fine group. And I have made a new set of fine friends at my class – even if it is jokingly referred to as ‘Patti class’, and not ‘pattu class’.

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