Until 20 years ago, music had been a big part of my life. During my school years, apart from home and school, my music class was the only place I regularly went to, soaking up varnams and kritis. Even in school, I remember spending more time in the music room, in inter-school music competitions and school functions when I'd have to sing the invocation songs. I think I survived my schooling hugely because music was my refuge away from the classroom.
When very young, I learnt from several teachers, whose names I hardly remember now. Brinda Tyagarajan (daughter of the late Maharajapuram Santhanam) was one. Later, I learnt from B.V.Lakshmanan Sir.
For years (I don't remember how many!), when he had stopped teaching because of severe asthma, I was one of his very last students. Lakshmanan Sir would use his inhaler several times during our classes, going breathless from time to time. I suggested to him many times that he stop his teaching, to which he would say “No, you're my only student. I really want to teach you.” Lakshmanan Sir was a very involved guru. He would painstakingly write, with his own hands, every kriti and varnam that he taught. I really enjoyed his classes, and his sense of humor.
I took a short break from singing due to my permanent braces, because of which, I could not pronounce sahityam properly. Briefly after this, disgusted by brahminism, feeling shamed about being part of an oppressive community, I shunned many things that were associated with it. One of them was Carnatic music. I felt very uncool singing it. Thankfully, I didn't take much time to recover from this. But by then, Lakshmanan Sir had passed away and I was already deep into my mission to 'save the world'. I perceived my pursuit of music as selfish. In hindsight, I think this also comes from being praised for good singing and being told that I would “shine” and “become famous”, and I somehow never connected to any of this. The more I came to learn about the world crisis, the more my pursuit of music seemed like nothing but indulgence.
Over time, as my understanding of the kind of healing the world needed, the importance of arts, and the meaning I gave it deepened, I was once again ready to resume my music. During pregnancy, since I anyways withdrew from active work, I created a lot of space in my life for it. I actually started spending a few hours singing every day. For some reason that is still unknown to me, right from when she was a month old, Isha felt distressed whenever I sang. A few years passed, without my even humming a song for months together!
Not singing has clearly blocked my prana at many levels. My being was definitely much lighter when I used to sing regularly. This was so long ago that I only have a vague memory of it. I knew that my healing was closely connected to resuming my singing, among many things I'm slowly making space for in my life.
I was in search of a teacher who won't just teach me compositions, but would also connect to my inner journey; a kindered spirit who I could travel with. My search led me to Prarthana, a mother I know through the homeschooling network.
This Vijayadasami, I spent time invoking the blessings of my earlier Gurus, especially of Lakshmanan Sir, who I learnt the most from. I took out my old music notebook with pages so brown and brittle that they needed to be held very carefully. I sang his most favourite composition in Ananda Bhairavi. And started classes with Prarthana on skype. A wonderful teacher and human being. I love her neat and soulful music, her smile, her teaching style and her questions in life.
Beginning my new music phase with a very bhaava-filled ragam, Harikambodhi. Slowly preparing myself to share my gift for collective healing, embracing the journey ahead.