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) vio; 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, 17 January 2014

Arjun's violin

I absolutely adore my new student. I think this boy is amazing and I love him precisely because he is nothing like most Indian males. He is so sensitive and feminine; he always pays attention to what I wear; if my hair is wet he asks me if I have washed it; he asks me if I put henna in my hair, where I bought my earrings etc. And he is just so curious! He adores learning, and I thought he was mature for 13-14 but the other day he told me he was actually 12. After two violin lessons he had already asked me more questions about the violin than Akhilesh has asked me in a year and a half. Arjun's father used to earn a decent salary but since he's been an alcoholic he's stopped working and so his family struggles. I'm told the boy has to eat at an aunt's from time to time because his mother doesn't have enough food to cook. From what I understand he spends as much time as he possibly can outside of his house to avoid his alcoholic father, and he also works a bit for one of his cousin's shop as well as trying to make money from henna tattooing.

Arjun didn't wait a single day to come for his classes this time round. Just after New Year he came to see me and he hasn't missed a class since. He told me that while I was in Banaras he had been practising "violin" on a wooden stick, and actually when he picked my instrument again it wasn't like last time's mess - I found he had actually made some progress! He surprises me at every class, with his initiative, with his relevant questions, with his concentration, with his dedication, with how quickly he does grab things. I was wondering how he would do with singing this time, but suddenly he's got the hang of it and if he listens carefully the note does come out in tune. It will take time, but he's getting it right! He doesn't have a violin so last week I recorded myself playing and singing his exercises so he could put the files into his phone, regularly listen to them and at least practise singing in his own time. While I was transferring the files from my computer I showed him some western (independent) music; he loved it and wanted those files, too. Really this kid is a miracle and a ray of joy for me. I adore spending time with him and look forward to every class I give him.

Up until last week I was obsessed with the idea of getting him a violin the next time I will be in Varanasi, not wanting to wait until he has the money. I knew I had to be cautious though because I don't want to be over-generous - I'm in India where people can be very jealous and gossipy, and I wouldn't want his family to think I'm doing too much. So first I asked him how long he thought it would get him to find 4000 rupees. It sounded way more difficult than I had initially understood. When I asked Vijay's family what they thought they told me that I would probably not get my money back for a long time if at all. I kept on pondering...

One morning I was meditating when an interesting thought came to me - not one of those silly or non-sensical thoughts from the monkey mind but one of those ideas that seemed to come from a clear mind or from the heart: Why don't I simply buy Akhilesh's first violin, now that he has a violin from Banaras and his first violin is kept useless in its dusty bag?! I knew his father bought it from Bhopal for only 1500 rupees so I could just ask him to get it for 1000 rupees - for all the free classes I give to Akhilesh his father couldn't possibly refuse!? That way Arjun would more chances to find the money back and if he can't, 1000 rupees is just over £10! So in the evening at music school I asked Akhilesh's father if I could buy his first violin for 1000 rupees... Puzzled, he agreed for 1500 rupees but there was no way for me. "This is not a business matter, it is a matter of the heart" I said to him, "to give a poor kid a chance." Eventually he said he would ask his son what he thought, since he was the violin player and the only one concerned. Akhilesh immediately accepted and so I bought him the violin... Amazing! I had found a violin for 1000 rupees, and I didn't have to bother bringing one from Varanasi!!!

The violin is pretty crappy and it looks very cheap but it's so much better than nothing, and especially I think its lower strings are impossible to play mainly because the bridge is of really terrible quality. I might just try and find a new bridge the next time I'm in Banaras. The violin's bag is completely ripped and its zip is ruined, but I haven't thrown the old cover of my violin case because I feel desperately uncomfortable throwing things away in this litter-covered country, so I'm happy to find it some new use: to be a double crappy-case for Arjun's violin...

I was over-excited. I had told Trivedi that Arjun had already given me 500 rupees for the violin because I didn't want to tell him it was a gift, but it was a lie. Arjun knew nothing of my plans... Today I had just finished my own practice when I heard Arjun call "Vio!" He was going to climb upstairs to say hello to the family but I called him inside. "Hey, look at this!" I said. There was a powercut so the room was pitch-black, and I took the crappy bag outside to show him. "Aaaaawwww!" he exclamed with his brightest smile. This rubbish violin was gold for a poor kid in the heart of India! I didn't want to be over-generous so I told him that the violin was mine until he could give me the money, but he could take it home to practise. He was really happy. If he manages to pay me back after a while it will be great, if not it doesn't matter...

Before starting the class I explained to Arjun that the lowest two strings of "his" new violin were a bit difficult to play, but taking a closer look I realised that the problem was that the two strings were too close together on the bridge. With a knife I made a new indent for the G string, and when I tried the violin again it was actually fine! The rubbish violin didn't sound that rubbish anymore! We played violin together for the first time and Arjun was really happy with "his" new instrument...

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