A Multitude of Drops by Mithila Sarma
Image: Mithila Sarma (far right) with Pandit Ranajit Sengupta and fellow
Tarang members at Music India 2013
It’s a strange feeling re-entering a world where life is not a timetable of strictly music and dance. After two days, sitting here trying to write down my Music/Dance India experience feels somewhat surreal. All I remember is waking up early, savouring music all day in its various forms and then falling asleep within an instant when my head touched my pillow.
I say this with eleven years of experience at Music India: every year, the summer retreat is a humbling experience, each year more humbling than the last. Yes, I’ve been told many times that I should have let go by now, and, sometimes, I do ask myself why I’m still here. But, being surrounded by so much talent, having the privilege of working with such great musicians and gurus, makes this the one time where you really understand who you are.
David Mitchell writes in Cloud Atlas: “What is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” He provides a clear reminder that though music is an art so vast that no single person can master it single-handedly, it still cannot exist without great gurus and artists to spread the knowledge. The Tarang experience entailed Lalgudi GJR Krishnanji teaching us gamakams as they were intended by the great composer and genius Lalgudi Jayaraman, his father; Anil Srinivasan-ji teaching us the theory of both Hindustani and Carnatic music and aiding our improvisation and creativity techniques; Pandit Ranajit Sengupta showing us the beauties and pragmatic realities of composing, and the list goes on…. Every single lesson helped us become better musicians, each guru aiding our individual journeys into the open wide ocean.
In the midst of intense seminars and sessions, we also had our usual fun. All Samyo and Tarang members got together to take part in our annual Team Competition, which just becomes more and more fierce every year. Even your closest friends are not to be trusted, because they’ll pretend that they haven’t done anything, and in the end, come out winning first prize. The drill is the same every year, and this holy tradition is passed on to all newcomers: If anyone walks into your room whilst you’re rehearsing, sing the very traditional Carnatic piece ‘Vathapi Ganapatim‘ and this works as a repellent to all enemies. The fight for rehearsal rooms after concerts (yes our commitment was so much we would go on practicing after 10:30pm) resembled animals marking their territory in the safari; and then, if we lost out on a room we wanted, we went hounding the poor staff at Milapfest! And yet, when it came to the actual competition, the support was immense across teams, and laughs were shared between all of us.
As the week went on, there was no time to even stretch your legs for ten minutes, with food breaks becoming a luxury. We also became family. Sometimes your frustrations made you short tempered, but whenever a member was feeling down, the rest of us were there to help. We developed musically, we developed personally, but we also developed together as one Music India family. In the end, we waved our sad goodbyes, but with new perspective, ready to kick-start the new musical year ahead of us!
Written by Mithila Sarma, Tarang Musician