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Music is Forever Episode 6: The Concert
"Ram, could you get the phone?" Malini yells from the kitchen. "I have something on the stove!" She wishes Ram's mother had not left so early so dinner would be done earlier.
"Hello Sangeetha, how are you? I guess we'll see you guys at the concert tonight?" Malini hears him say.
"Oh no! what happened?" She pricks up her ears, as he continues, and runs to him, reaching out to the phone in his hand. "What is it?", she whispers to him urgently.
"Anil's down with an injury", he responds in a loud whisper, covering the mouthpiece.
"Uh oh! NOW what did he get himself into? Let me talk to her", she says in a chiding voice, and takes the phone from Ram. Sangeetha continues telling her the story.
Finaly, Malini says, "So, you're sure you're not going then? Hmm, well, don't worry, we'll fill in for you. Hey, do you think you could bear to have Shru with you for a couple of hours? We'll pick her up on the way back, and tell you all about the concert, too."
While Sangeetha is saying "Oh sure, Shru and I can have lots of fun while Anil is stretched out on the couch watching tv....", she can hear Ram shouting in the background, "No way, Malini, Shruti HAS to go with us to the concert! How is she going to learn if she's not exposed from this age?"
Sangeetha laughs. "Okay, you two sort this out yourselves. We'll be home, so you can drop her off. Don't worry, Anil is fine. Wish Priya luck from me."
Malini hangs up and turns to Ram. "Come on, Ram, I don't think she can really sit still. If your mother were here, she could take care of her, but she'll be fine with Sangeetha."
"Chi," he says in disgust. "She's old enough. She needs to learn." He put his foot down.
Malini realizes he won't change his mind and wishes she had sent Shruti earlier with her mother in law to the temple program. She prepares to pick out a couple of books for Shruti to read and a toy to play with.
After dinner, Malini wears her own yellow sari. Then she braids Shruti's hair and puts her in a shiny yellow skirt and top. Shruti smiles up at her, "We're wearing our peelu dresses," she jokes. Then she whispers conspiratorially, "Peelu means yellow, that's why."
When they are all dressed up, they head to the car, where Shruti puts on her seatbelt herself proudly and gathers her doll and books in her lap. She plays, humming to herself, while they drive. While they drive, Ram plays a recent concert they had attended. At the beginning of each song, he asks Shruti to name the raga.
"Kutti, what's this one?"
"Hmm?" she asks, looking up from a book. "Mmm..." she thinks, a finger on her cheek. "Peelu." She grins, knowing she's wrong. "Peelu, peelu, peelu," she sings to herself.
"Tsk. Come on, think," he coaxes.
Absentmindedly, she says, "Bay hawk."
"What?" Ram asks, confused.
"Bay hawk," she repeats.
"You mean to say behaag," he says, slowly.
"Yeah, that's what I said, bay hawk," she says, innocently.
Ram sighs, and pulls into the parking lot. They go in and sit near the front, as usual. Ram and Malini nod at the organizers, whom they know well, and who pat Shruti on the head and smile at her and pinch her cheeks.
The concert begins, and Malini takes out one book for Shruti to read. Ram glares at her, tells Shruti to put away the book, and shows her how to keep tala. She starts doing the tala, and corrects herself according to her father when she goes wrong.
The performer, a local woman named Priya, begins with a rare varnam in vasanta. She then goes on to Vinayaka in hamsadwani, followed by several other fast songs. The main piece is a long, slow poorvi kalyani.
While she sings ragam, Ram enjoys the music. He is impressed with this woman's grasp of ragam, which she expounds so deeply and intricately, but he feels that her swarams, so far, have been simplistic. She isn't doing any fancy combinations and doesn't dare any changes in tempo. But her alapana is excellent. He wishes he could do an alapana like hers.
Malini is also impressed with the depth of Priya's feeling. She likes Priya as a person but is always stunned when she sings. She sings with a lot of emotion and bhakti and doesn't try to do too many fancy things. Malini keeps one eye on Shruti, who is making her doll dance and humming softly.
Shruti's humming grows steadily louder and louder, but not too loud for others to hear, so Malini says nothing. Ram is immersed in the music, his eyes closed.
Suddenly, Shruti jumps up from her seat, and yells loudly, "Daddy, it's meenakshi may!"
Ram is stunned and at first does nothing. Malini shushes her with a finger to her lips and pulls her into her seat.
Ram regains his composure, looking around, apologizing to those around them, and tells Malini, "Take her out, take her out."
Malini is only too glad. She takes Shruti by the hand and they gp out. They take a trip to the bathroom, then sit while Shruti talks about her week at school and Malini tells her the news about Anil.
"Is Anil Uncle okay?" Shruti asks, her brow wrinkled.
Malini smiles, and says, "Yes, he's fine, ma," but can't help but be a little worried herself.
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