A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Friday, 23 August 2013

More on my music routine in Khajuraho

I don't know what I would do without my music routine in Khajuraho. I love it so, so much!

I have learnt a bit about accepting "doing nothing" in India and I have learnt a lot about patience, but there is just no way I can sit for too long doing nothing, and in Khajuraho I have to keep myself busy. I just could never live like a typical Indian woman, with my only work being domestic chores, my only "hobby" wearing sarees and combinations of shiny bracelets, and when I have free time just to sit, gossip about family or the past, or lie down and take naps. I need creative and artistic fulfillment, constant learning and personal growth! In the house I still don't have free access in the kitchen so I still don't cook. That's at least three hours of free time in the morning. I help a bit with domestic chores now, but mainly just filling the bathroom's buckets with water, mopping the floor in the afternoon (not my favourite!), and a few things like putting dry clothes away or tidying beds. So most of the day, if I don't keep myself busy I just get mad. When I'm idle for too long, like when there's family visiting and I feel I need to spend time with them but they speak far too quickly in Bundelkhandi and I get tired listening and I have nothing to say so I just sit there, eventually my energy level dramatically drops and my mind clutters up with crap like worries about the future or judgement about traditional Indian life.

Most mornings I get up at 7:30 and upon wakening I do 1 to 1 1/2 hours of yoga. It took me a long time to feel comfortable doing yoga around the family, like I described in this post, but I have no problem now, and the family have got used to it and they respect my space. After yoga I usually check my emails on Vijay's phone whilst sipping the chai Sister or Mother have made for me, and I also have fruits with or without leftover chapatis.

After my shower, I then go to practise my violin in the downstairs room. At the moment I also write a lot on my computer, so I devote most of my days to writing or practising violin. Even more than with yoga, for a long time I was too shy to practise violin within the family and in front of visiting neighbours or relatives, but now it has become normal to me. I think family and friends still think I should practise Bollywood songs rather than boring alankars (exercises; alankar means "ornament") and obscure ragas, but that's OK. Violin is my best friend in Khajuraho after Vijay. If I feel crap and lonely and misunderstood, after half-an-hour of violin I forget everything and my mood lifts. I actually think I'm a bit autistic in many ways: I don't like looking at people in the eyes when I speak to them and look at their mouth instead; I feel uncomfortable with small talk; I take things seriously and miss out on some jokes because I take things literally; I'm geeky and passionate about things like grammar and languages and writing geeky violin posts. And I absolutely love repetitive violin exercises and can practise the same scale with its variations for a whole hour. When they are distressed, autistic people use repetitive movements or sounds to make themselves feel better, and I recently realised how comforting these repetitive scales feel to me... All about getting back to focus on the present moment, of course.

But it's not always easy for me, because the family doesn't understand music. All they listen to is Bollywood music, and whenever they sing along it's so out of tune that it makes my stomach turn. Actually, I think 95% of the Indian population just listens to Bollywood songs, because that's the only pop music they have access to, and especially it's the only music they appreciate. For most people in rural India learning music has no value. "What would you learn music for? - Earn money to buy your food and survive." So I regularly feel lonely because they don't appreciate Indian classical music (or generally what I would call quality music as opposed to entertainment), and I also feel uncomfortable being anti-social or practising for too long while the women of the house spend time on domestic chores. I know the discomfort is only a product of my own mind, but I need to get out and breathe, breathe the fresh air of my freedom and independence. Women don't go out much, and there's not much to do outside of the house here, so I don't go outside much either, but I sometimes feel trapped like an Indian woman, especially if I'm idle for too long.

In the beginning I felt uncomfortable every day telling Vijay's mother I was going out for something useless like music class, but when some obvious payoffs manifested like being invited to play devotional songs in temples or national folk music for Independence day and even winning two articles in the local newspaper, the family praised me and my going out for music class has now become a daily part of life. So everyday, usually in the evening, I go out for 3-4 hours, and it's pure bliss to have a meaningful reason to get outside the house, and especially to spend time with people who understand the meaning and value of musical practice. I guess it's the first time I have my social sphere in tiny Khajuraho, thanks to the only man who teaches music here, a good-hearted and honest man not obsessed with earning money! Trivedi works his arse off to survive from his poorly-paid teaching, but he does it with love and humility. I go to his house everyday; a house in which each child learns music. I teach violin to his son of 18, who used to be the only one of three children who didn't sing or play an instrument, and who I think used to feel a little ashamed for it. His sister sings and plays harmonium, while his younger brother plays tabla, but Akhilesh tried tabla for 2 years and "his hands didn't work right", says his father, so he stopped, and he never managed to sing in tune either. But with me he learns a very difficult instrument and very fast, and his hands and arms are definitely working for the violin! Thanks to his life-long exposition to music he also has a much better ear than he thinks. He is a motivated and dedicated young man, too; every time before practice he touches his violin and takes his hand to his heart like he would touch the feet of a saint in respect. A shy model boy and the perfect student.

Recently I gave my pupil his first sliding alankar. That's playing the scale on one single string sliding from note to note, which demands a very good ear and a lot of practice. So I decided it was time to get him to sing also, because you need to have the tune in your head so your fingers will reach the notes right, to strengthen the connection between your ear and your fingers. I guess he had probably been too shy to sing in front of his authoritative father, and God knows I used to be shy singing myself. So I figured I would get him to sing only 5-10 minutes before taking the violin, only 5-10 minutes but everyday, and when his father was away to start with. And I would not show any sign of judgement or scolding, only repetition, patience and love. I began with getting him to catch the SA (base note) of the tanpura (drone) machine, then to sing the straight scale up and down, which he managed quite quickly. Just a few days later I started teaching him jumping between different sets of notes - from SA (do) to PA (sol) and up to upper SA, then back down to PA and SA, and then going back down and up the scales, and jumping from SA to GA to PA and down etc. In just two weeks he has made massive progress! I absolutely love teaching my pupil, because it is the first time I teach with such regularity, and I know I can achieve a lot because I will be here for many years so we have time to get somewhere together. The most beautiful of all is that I am absolutely free to teach in the way I want, just using my intuition, my spontaneity, my love. There is no money involved, since I receive classes from his father in return, so everyday I feel like my classes and my time, are a gift; a present I offer him with my heart, and I know he is a very lucky boy to get so much attention from a teacher! Obviously I too am lucky, because I learn a lot in the process, and teaching is very gratifying, especially seeing how fast he progresses! Today for the first time he sang an alankar that we play on the violin; something he had never managed to do before...

After my class at Trivedi's home I walk to the music school to accompany the children during their class. I don't interfere in the class; I don't talk much; I just play, and I certainly don't want to just appear like a "serious adult" to the children. Teachers in rural India are very old-fashioned, and education doesn't seem to imply much more than learning things by heart. Children have to repeat what they are told; if they make a mistake they get a slap, and the weakest ones seem to just learn from fear. I feel dedicated to (subtly) show the children that you can be studious and childish at the same time, and that learning can be fun. I often pull funny faces in class (I can't help it!) which makes the children laugh and thus feel more comfortable, especially if the teacher has scolded them for their lack of practice. In the children's class I am learning two main things - the first, to accompany the singing girls by ear. It's easy yet very good practice and wonderful meditation, and it gives me an insight into new ragas. Secondly, when it's the boys' turn to show what they've practiced at home on tabla, I give them the lahara (a simple melody repeated in cycles) that accompanies their theka (rhythm cycle) or I play traditional songs with them. I sometimes used to wonder if what I did in that school was not too easy for me (that Western judging mind...), but the immersion and the company of the children made me happy so of course I kept going. Recently though, I have started something new: with the tunes I know best, some new harmonies have been coming to me. Harmony is what I miss most from European music in Indian music; here, two musicians or a singer and his/her accompanist will always play the same tune without any variations whatsoever. I always thought Indian music would be even more amazing if sometimes harmonies were involved - though of course I have no ambition to challenge century-old tradition, just to sprinkle a few harmonies in simple folk songs to bring some light into them...

And every evening when I go back home from music school I feel joy in my heart, a wonderful sense of peace and achievement, and renewed energy which makes me want to hug the whole world.

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