She was my vocals teacher in India. A Bengali woman in her 40s or 50s perhaps who sat down on the floor with her harmonium and her students, teaching us raags to enhance our singing and some light songs to keep us coming back.
I remember particularly that one day when she made us write the lyrics to a Bengali song by the legendary Rabindranath Tagore. I wrote relatively faster than the others so I would look at the texture of her cotton sari of dull colors. She would dictate another line, and I would snap back and write. She sang each line and asked us to repeat right after her trying to teach us the song that none of us had heard before. I sang trying to sing the best, focusing on the tune and trying to match her techniques though I never could. I only superficially liked the flow of the tune but I had never truly understood what it meant.
After 6 years of having been introduced to the song, this morning I suddenly wanted to listen to the song, remembering in fragments what the teacher had told me the song was about. She said that the song reflected nostalgic emotions and its a dedication to old friends and the old times. However, that desire to listen to the song was accompanied with absolutely no knowledge of its name or its tune. I was blank on the search bar. After searching through all Tagore’s songs, one name clicked and that was it.
I played the song and felt like a beautiful energy floated through me. I closed my eyes and I remembered my teacher. Her hair tied in an old woman’s bun and still messy in the front. She had buck teeth and wrinkles to scream out her age. But her vocal cords played so mischievously with the harmonium keys, I can still see her closing her eyes and sing the song. Finally I could realize that she must have felt the song to its core, transporting to the imagery provided by the song and living her old times through the notes and the words.
I probably still don’t truly understand all the Bengali in the song, but I sure do understand Tagore’s emotions because trust me, although I am not old enough to talk of nostalgia, I sure feel the desperation to go back to truly live what I didn’t; like the music class that I took for granted and the music teacher whose beauty I missed.