“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”— Plato
The Greek philosopher and thinker Plato poured his views on music eras back, which are relevant even today. Music has a power to overpower all that is good as well as bad. Music adds to more happiness when you’re cheerful, similarly it melts the solidity of grief with its warmth and healing powers. Music has always been an inseparable part of my life whether I sing or listen to it.
I was 10 when I started learning Hindustani classical music, and while going through those Ragas and Raginis, I came across some strange facts about them, as they have a strong impact on human life as well as having some miraculous healing properties. It seemed quite illogical to believe, that by singing Raag Deepak, oil lamps could be lit automatically, or by singing Raag Malhaar, it starts raining without any indication of clouds prior to that. For an intelligent kid of 10, all those were mere old sayings, which were simply told to prove those theories about the power of music. I didn’t know then, that time would make me experience such things which seem paranormal even today.
It was a February morning and a 15 year old me, was busy with my Riyaz (music practice) with Raag Bageshri. My Guru Jee was continuously scolding me for not putting up the right swaras (notes) of Madhyam ‘Ma’. Irritated and agitated, my Guru Jee left my room murmuring— “I can’t teach this girl the difference between Madhyam and Teevra ‘Ma’.” It was quite embarrassing for me being insulted by him as I was being praised by people for my beautiful voice. The poor me, didn’t know what he was expecting from me, nothing but knowledge.
An offended me, wanted to show him that I was not that imbecile what he was thinking of me. So I thought of doing a riyaz of Raag Bageshri in a theoretical manner. Since I had read somewhere in my music theory books that Bageshri is a midnight raga so I started practicing it exactly at the midnight 12. Those were the much disciplined times (1983-84) when there was neither cable T.V. nor internet was existent, so midnight 12 was absolute peaceful with pin-drop silence.
I was learning bada khayal which used to take quite long to finish. I started singing and got so involved in it that I forgot about the time, about the people around, about the neighborhood getting disturbed and all other external factors. While singing ‘Manmohan Shyam Sundar Roop’, the Bandish which was my Guru’s expertise, I entered into a complete ‘trans’ state-of-mind. Alaap… bol… taan… tarana……. the raga was going on and on and I forgot myself. My room, my taanpura, walls, furniture, everything got disappeared, it felt, and I was not even able to recognize myself.
Nadir… dir… ta…nita… dani… dheem… tana…dir…na…
And it seemed that I had encountered some mystical powers. I am an atheist and I don’t believe in worshiping and performing rituals . Neither I believe in any super natural powers, but that feeling was indeed enigmatic. I can’t express that enigma in words, as it seemed music was either infused in my soul or was incarnated in front of me. ‘Twas a sublime experience, I’d never had before nor did I experience ever after. Music became a celestial body that day!
I didn’t remember about how long did I sing that day, but when I opened my eyes up, my room was filled with broad daylight and my Guru Jee was sitting in our living room with my father. I saw an old man besides him, who said to my Guru Jee— “You fool! How could she be your shishya (pupil) ?” My Guru, Pdt. S.N. Pathak smiled softly yet kept quiet.
Later, I came to know that the old man was none other than my Guru’s Guru, Pdt. Aditya Narayan Jha from Banaras Gharana, a noted khayal singer and renowned Hindustani classical music teacher. He himself wished to teach me and my father got simply elated as Jha Ji Sir was infamous for insulting and refusing students for teaching music even without listening to them. But I was the most fortunate of them all for having learnt music from a great teacher like him for the next four years.
Later, I had to bid adieu to classical music being entangled in the crude realities of life, like early marriage, study pressure, family, kids, responsibilities and what not! I couldn’t even discuss my trance experience during riyaz with my Gurus, reason, their being too effervescent (or rather say arrogant) and me, being too shy and introvert.
But four years later while doing my graduation, I asked my philosophy teacher about that ‘trans’ feeling during music practice. She said— “Girl, you know what it was? You were quite close to Moksha. Saints and sages spent years of learning, self discovering and sacrificing worldly pleasures to achieve that very moment. And you were about to attain that ‘salvation of your soul’ !”
It’s been almost 32 years since that incident occurred, my tanpura and harmonium have been left like skeletons (eaten away by mice) in the store room of my maiden home. I am no longer a practicing classical singer (I feel myself ‘besuri ’ if I try to), but music still resides in my soul. I hum Bollywood numbers, am addicted towards old classics, sing songs of Lata, Asha, Mubarak Begum, Anuradha Paudwal and almost all female singers.
I even try hard to touch Shreya Ghoshal’s effortless high notes and harder to meet my daughter’s high pitch falsettos. But, I was, am and will always be a music lover. Music, for me, is proved to be a silk route from Moksha to mania. Old classic movie songs make me weak and give me goose-bumps even in my late 40’s. Today, music is an irresistible temptation for me and I still sing my heart out despite losing my pakad on sur.
सुर ना सजे, क्या गाउँ मैं?
सुर के बिना जीवन सूना |
And I have penned down a free-verse for how I feel about music— it’s my obsession, my compulsion, so I lead a path from Moksha to mania with music.
Sensuousness wraps me
Yet I’m revealed in its folds.
Drapes the myriad moods of me
And I look at its many incarnations.
Magnificence paints me
Yet I’m intrigued by its fads
Covers the dauntless spirit of me
And I adhere to its hasty emotions.
But, music resides in my soul. 😇
— Sangeeta Mishra