Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Learning to hit the right notes.

I was a shy kid in the Third Grade. 
Missing both my front two teeth and too conscious to smile with my mouth open, in front of a camera. So there was a lot of excitement when the shy kid won a school singing competition, singing 'Raindrops on roses.'

But that was it. For a good five years - that was all. There was no more singing or drama or anything else. 
Until I changed schools and my life went topsy turvy.  I could write a book about how that decision changed everything for me. I was nervous and anxious, but Mum and Dad kept telling me I'd be fine. Being all of 12 years old, I was obviously, not the least bit convinced. 

Then, in my new school, I met my first proper music teacher. 
Sharon Tiwari Lobo, this is where you take a bow and we all hoot and whistle for you. *winks*

Each class had a music period, so whether you liked it or not; you sang. And we sang the notes, from the lowest to the highest - even if we sounded like all the neighborhood cats joyously drunk on a single wall at midnight - we sang.  And she would frown, but we'd see that grin and hear the slight lisp in her voice as she scolded us and tried to hide her laughter. 

We would listen as she played each note on the piano and would desperately try to follow the scales. She picked a few of us from each class, to be a part of the school choir. She made us stand right next to her and sing the scales again, just to be sure we were doing it right. She insisted that when we sang the "Ooo's" our mouths had to form perfect circles, in which three fingers could fit; vertically. (Be my guest, try it out.) 
This amused all of us as we tried this 'perfect circle' business.  And when she thought mine wasn't perfect enough, she came over to me and put three of her own fingers in my mouth and I remember giggling uncontrollably after that!

Sharon made the transition to the new school easier. She made me look forward to going to school every morning. And to a little girl, that was a big deal. 
She taught me melodies.  To sing in harmonies, to innovate and make a dreary song fun. To sing with different accents and make a song my own. She made me explore corridors of my voice that I didn't know existed. And she gently pushed me to go further. She had faith in me. 

I found myself participating in inter-school singing competitions. I would look forward to our annual school musicals. The practices, hours spent sitting around the piano getting pitches and tones perfect. Days spent with her - laughing, singing, making this very unexpected friend. 

Over the years, our singing got more serious. I remember one time, where the then President of the United States, was due to visit Dubai and students from all over the Emirates were auditioning to sing in the choir for the event. From our school, I was one of two students selected to audition. I remember being nervous. So very nervous. She chose an Andrew Lloyd Webber song for me, telling me that it suited my voice. 
Of all the songs I sang with Sharon over the years...this one remained my favorite. In the large music room, it was just her, me and the piano. I learnt to tell a story as I sang and to appreciate my own voice, something I had never done before. She gave me confidence. She made me see music as a friend who would always be with me and from her, I learnt how to create a soundtrack to my life. Even when we would all just be chatting, she'd be tinkling away at the piano, humming something or the other and getting us to join in. 

Shaz, now when I look back at those days,  I realize that you were one of the people who shaped my life. You were more than a teacher back then and I'm so glad that you're more than just a friend now. 

I love the pride I feel when I see you on stage even now and I hoot loudly (Seriously.) when you do your thing. 
I love remembering the songs. Grease Lightning, Consider Yourself, Wouldn't it be luverly *big huge grin* Oh Happy Day, Malaika - so many memories that make me smile.
I loved being able to tell Dude all about you and then getting a chance to introduce you to him. 
I love that I respect you, I laugh with you and I could confide in you. I love that I get to say "She was my teacher and we're proper friends now. "
I love that I grew up and I didn't lose you - one of the best parts of those growing years. The teacher and friend who knew what I could be, before I did. 

I don't really sing that much anymore, but singing with you then - was amazing. 
And I want you to know, that I am so glad, that you chose to become a teacher. 

So here it is. My favorite singing memory with you - Webber's, "I don't know how to love him."
And for all the other non singing memories that we have and the ones we continue to make - I love you. 
And yes, I can imagine you saying, "Just shut up ok!" if I had to tell you any of this, to your face. 

You're a cartoon like that. *smiles* 
Big love. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

We call him Dada.

I first met Dada in the summer of 2006. 

It was a chance meeting with the family that I learnt to call my own in the years to come. I remember Dude taking me through a crowded farewell party, for our soon to be best man. He wanted me to meet Dada first, before everyone else. As I struggled to think of an appropriate conversation starter, Dada gave me a huge, wide-eyed grin and shook hands with me. 
"Nice to meet you!" he said, with a sideways smile at Dude. He spoke to me for a while, convinced he had seen me before. I was instantly comfortable, though I initially found it odd to immediately refer to him as 'Dada', as Dude had affectionately introduced him. I tried 'Uncle' for a few weeks. Truth be told, it just sounded wrong. 'Dada' found it's way into my heart sooner than I thought. 

I learnt that Dada was the one who called a spade a spade. But he did it with a humor only he possessed. 

Dada fried fish in the yummiest of ways. We'd be eating it faster than he could fry it. Lemon tinged, slighty spicy - yum. 

He was ready to be a part of any conversation. Dada loved a good chat. 

Cricket. Dada and all the boys, bonded over the cricket. Yelling, cheering, abusing even - but bonding all the same. 

He said he hated the typical hindi drama serials. But Dada watched them all the same. With his wife. And secretly enjoyed them. 

He doted on his grandchildren. The fried fish, was always for the younger one first, before the rest of us. 

He was fiercely proud of the people he loved. He rarely showed it, but when he did - such a lion of a personality shone through. 

Dada took pleasure in seeing us all at home. It brought a funny smile to his face, contentment perhaps. 

He loved to eat bananas. Random? Yes. But still, very 'Dada', if that makes any sense. 

He was one of the happiest people at our wedding. *heart* He bonded with my Dad over a single meeting. Kindred souls. As different as pears and potatoes, the two of them. Yet they found something to chat about, softly, sitting at the dining table, quite oblivious of everyone else. 

He cared about Dude. Genuinely. With love. From the heart. And I know how that big huge barrel of affection tippled over onto me as well. 

His wife was his best friend. He'd never admit to it, but boy, did we all know it. From morning walks, to chats over the morning paper, to teasing each other over random things, to yelling out loudly to her to come have dinner - we all knew. 

Dada defended you. When you least expected, you'd hear this loud voice booming besides you. 

When we announced we were pregnant, I remember Dada's face. He couldn't say all that he wanted to, I think...but his face seemed to have a 100 thoughts on it. All happy ones. Bless. 

Dada enjoyed a good laugh. Even if it was at his own expense, it didn't matter. But a good, from the belly, laugh.

Dada valued the little things. 

We lost Dada in Feb this year. There is little to be said for death. 
But I am thankful that we have memories with him, of him, about him. 

One of the phrases Dada often used,the one that made us laugh the most was this - सब साला गेम है - loosely translated, "It's all a bloody game!" He could use it in relation to an actual game of cricket, politics, parking meters, schools, Diwali decorations - anything. And it always sounded funny and it always seemed apt. Now that I think about it, it was usually his final word on the subject. He'd say it with an amused head shake and either walk away or get distracted with something else. The conversation, had promptly ended. 

So I still choose to think of Dada that way...watching us from his lazy boy in the sky, glass in hand, amused with the lives we live and the choices we make. Dipping his finger in his glass and gently sprinkling drops around. 
"It's all a bloody game." With that same, wide eyed grin. 

That's Dada, right in the center of all of us. With the Amitabh Bachchan black hair and white stubble. *grins* We used to tease him about that too and he would chuckle and change the topic. 

All through writing this, I had a little smile on my face...that's what it's all about though, isn't it?