20 February 2007

Enthusiasm?? Dedication?? What does it?

Every musical endeavour starts with an psychomaniac enthusiasm for the new found love. I still remember going through this phase when I started off with the tabla in 1993. I used to have my fingers dancing on whatever came to my hand- be it the table, a vessel or still funny, my own cheeks and stomach!
And more! The same story replayed itself when I started with the flute. I used to carry it with me wherever I went. Such was the fancy for this instrument at that time that I even slept holding a flute in my hand! To my surprise, such a thing happened yet another time when I started off with the sitar.
In my personal opinion, sitar is the most beautifully ornamented instrument in India. The look of the instrument itself gives a feeling of importance and mesmerizing beauty. I used to simply love sitting with the instrument and still more, the half-lotus posture, which I was slowly mastering.
So far so good. The enthusiasm has its own role to play when it comes to the matter of experiences for a beginner. But then, every musical instrument then gives a real test, failing which, one can never carry on with his musical endeavour. The test is that of "physical endurance".
Every musical instrument typically hurts or rather strains one or more parts of the body in the first few days. The tabla has its own set of effects on the finger joints, which might even swell for some time. The way a flute is manipulated puts a lot of strain on the thumb. I still remember having my muscles getting pulled right from the base of the left thumb extending upto the wrist.
And to my experience, sitar is gives you the biggest challenge in this respect. The main string (called "baaja") is quite a ductile stuff with lot of elasticity. But at the same time, it is extremely sharp. Those really soft "darling" looking index and middle fingers of the left hand face most of the wrath of this string. The skin on the fingers repeatedly cuts and rips off in the first few days. Boils with shooting pain form right at the place where the string cuts! Many people tend to use oil to lubricate their fingers at this stage, just to ease themselves. But the tradition of my teacher strictly forbids one from using oil at any stage of the career, the simple reason being the oil has a terrible effect on the performance of the instruments. So, there it was, I had these terrible boils on my fingers right in the second week. I sometimes used to try placing the string on a different location on the finger. But somehow, my teacher always discovered it in the first two minutes! "No cheating!!" he used to say. "If you are not going to work out on exactly one location on the finger, take my word, you will have boils everywhere!" I used to play on the same location as my fingers withered and my face winced in pain. And on a few occasions, tears used to flow down my eyes, unable to take up the pain. "No pain, no gain" was one thing my teacher imbibed deep in my mind at this stage. This phase of strings cutting through the skin and boils bursting out continued for nearly three weeks before I grew callus on my fingers.
This was the true testing time when my enthusiasm was weighed against dedication. The enthusiasm seemed to die off every time the pain reappeared. But it was the constant motivation and inspiring words of my teacher and my own bit of dedication that carried me through this phase.
It was not long before the callus grew hard and boils disappeared. As time proceeded, the skin got used to the string and now, I feel no difference as my fingers dance around on the string. But the memories of the first few weeks are something I can never really forget. No harm if I say, I am proud of myself that I passed through the phase successfully. Truly enough, music is 1% enthusiasm and 99% dedication.

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