Thursday, 4 October 2012

Music, maths, and my guru

By MV Swaroop

“When did I play this korvai?”

“Can’t remember, Sir. Two-three years ago, I think.”

“Sing it again.”

And so I sing, on our way to Central Station.

“Bhale, bhale,” he says, “We forget stuff we played. So often mridangists play something in my concert and tell me it’s my korvai! And I do one, ‘Oh, apdiya,’ and re-learn my own korvai from them!”

Then he goes silent for a while, and asks, when we are on the bridge and waiting for the signal to turn into Central, “Can you change it to 5-7-9? 5-6-7 is nice, but 5-7-9 will be nicer.”

I try. It fails - the numbers don’t add up. I try many combinations, as we park, buy a platform ticket (those things cost ` 5 now!), and settle down on two chairs as we wait for the platform announcement. I can see that he’s also calculating.

The platform is announced, the train arrives. We walk down to the compartment. It’s a long walk -- the AC compartment is right at the end. At one point, an idea strikes me. I tell him, “It can be done!”

“Hmmm. Tell me on the train.”

We reach the train, he has a side lower berth right by the door. He’s not happy, but he can’t help it. We find resting places for his luggage, he makes me elaborately chain all the luggage to the hoops under the seat, “We have to be very careful, pa. He’s too smart for us!” I am not sure who the “he” exactly is, but I just smile.

Then I tell him my solution. He responds with a, “Hmmm. It’s nice - nothing wrong with it. But I want the gaps to be 3 only - that will be more beautiful.” I can see where he’s coming from, but there is no solution where the gaps are 3. I nod, and say, “I’ll think.”

He says, “Seri, pa. I’m coming back by the Shatabdi on Monday night.”

“I’ll come pick you up.”

“Thanks, pa. Run along, now. Paavam, it’s 11 o clock. You should sleep.”

Little does he know that I’ll only waste time on Facebook if I go back home.

I trek back up the platform, when an idea strikes me. I stop just near the start of the platform and go over it in my head. A solution! I check and double check it. There’s no doubt, it is correct. I glance at the time. I have five minutes before the train leaves. The compartment is quite some distance away. I wonder if I should go back. I decide to, and then I decide against. Then, I decide to again, and then, I dither again. I realise that my indecision will only waste more time.

I run back to the compartment—right at the end of the platform, a two minute run that makes me proud. Three minutes to departure. I get inside only to find him fast asleep. I consider waking him up, but I decide against it. I get off the train, and sit on a bench by the platform till it leaves. I send a message to my guru in Bangalore, also Sir’s student, who will pick him up at the station, “When you see him in the morning, tell Sir I have an idea for the korvai we were discussing.”

My phone rings at 5.30 am, and I hear Sir’s excited voice at the other end, “Sollu, pa!”

It takes me a couple of seconds to register what is happening, “Oh. Sir! Korvai! Solren.”

Groggily, I sing it. It comes out all wrong the first time. I say, “Sorry, Sir. Will say it again.” This time, it fits perfectly. He listens to it, considers it for a couple of seconds, and laughs, “Bhale! Seriya poch, po!” He goes over it again, muttering the sollu-s partly loudly and partly under his breath, and says, “Ah, bhale bhale.” Then, he tells me that he will call my Periamma about some directions he wants to someone’s house, reminds me that he’s coming back on the Shatabdi, tells me to “ozhunga” practise on Sunday, and says with an air of finality, “Okkbye, pa.”

“Okkbye, Sir.”


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