Passing by the busy stadium crossroads of Ahmedabad, on a tiring afternoon, amidst the noise of blaring horns and angry motor engines, one may occasionally hear a beautiful violin note, accompanied by an enchanting baritone. Looking around, on a paan-stained wall of a largely passive complex, a slightly lopsided board saying “melodious tone music classes” comes in sight. Right under the board, a painted arrow leads to a flight of stairs that descend to the source of the soothing music. Yet another board of the same kind greets the visitors, but now, so does a smiling music teacher. The smiling music teacher politely tells the newcomers to remove their footwear before getting in. Once inside, the first thing that catches their attention is the flower laden idol of the veena-holding saraswati, the Indian goddess of music and knowledge. On the walls, hang several shiny guitars and a few violins, most of which are to be sold. A few laminated certificates, displaying the worth of certain old students adorn the rest of the wall. A couple of keyboards and drums lie in the corner along with a table holding a heap load of music books and stationary. The visitors observe the students playing their respective instruments, often stealing glances at the music symbols in their notebooks. ‘Sir , as he is called by all his students, gives them his business card, discusses the fees, timings and sees them off, waiting for their call, later in the evening. A few of the visitors choose to learn an instrument, but most choose to focus only on academics or learn through a YouTube channel after buying the instrument. I chose to begin to learn the violin and after half a year of broken strings and exasperated (but determined) attempts to play a note correctly, my violin still sounds like an old swing creaking. But this persistent and meditative attempt gives me peace and I manage to smile satisfactorily after each tiring violin class.
“Music will always be loved, no matter what time or age it is. The medium of learning may change over the years, but it will still be learned and enjoyed. My students tell me about different music apps and help download songs in my mobile, I learn from them this way.” says a pensive sir.
Sir has taught music for over 30 years now, beginning with teaching in school to establishing his own private class. During this time, he met a large number of students, and adults, some eager, some sharp, and some impatient. Curious 5 year olds, housewives in search of a hobby, middle aged office going men and lucky-go-happy college students, all have found solace in his classes for over the last several years. Ahmedabad, over the last two decades, has seen a radical shift in terms of music choice, especially among the youth.
“Earlier, most students enrolled in classical singing courses, and wished to learn the trending bollywood numbers on guitars. There was almost no interest in western music. Today, most students prefer to learn western song tunes on the guitar, a few prefer the keyboard and the violin, and only a couple of students come to learn the mandolin. Indian music and bollywood songs are only their second choice” he sighs sadly but brightens immediately to say”music has no language!”
The culture of appreciating and reveling in music has always been present in the city. Right from local bhajan sandhayas to Quawalli meets, Ahmedabad has all kinds of musical treasures. From one such programme, began sir’s musical journey. After singing in a few shows, he began to learn the mandolin. Today, he has a ‘sangeet visharath’ in guitar and has successfully taken two grade 5 trinity college exams in electronic keyboard.
“Music is meditation, I find it extremely therapeutic. ” he says. Six batches of an hour each in a day is his daily quota of music. He can be found, at times, curled up with a Gujarati novel or reading up about the Indian freedom struggle with a hard set jaw. Gandhiji’s autobiography ”Satya na prayogo” is amongst his most dear books. Literature is beautiful, yes, but music is his first love. His life is shaped by the little tunes that keep playing in his head, guiding him from one milestone to another. Dedication to work is praise worthy, but dedication to an art form is inspiring. After spending most of his life serving music, he wishes to spend the rest similarly, spreading love through music. Strangers passing by the road of his class sometimes look around curiously for the source of the hidden melody. By this little act, sir creates special moments of joy and inspiration for unknown people, being as generous as perhaps only music can be. Little kids walking stop to listen to a song being played, waiting, while tugging at their mummy’s little finger, for the song to end. On a busy afternoon, when smoking cars shout and the world is at rage , one can almost hear him think of his songs and experience the melody that makes up his thoughts.