(Published today in Business Standard)
Doesn’t it seem like we’re having an overdose of disaster? Drought in Maharashtra, temple fire in Kerala, flyover collapse in Kolkata, earthquake in Myanmar, tax evasion in Panama, the Congress nowhere, the BJP and the RSS everywhere—it’s all too depressing. It often feels like the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
In times of trouble, they say, make art. Beauty makes things better.
So, a few weeks ago, I started taking singing lessons. Why not, right? It’s not like I’m a middle-aged, squeaky-voiced smoker or anything. It’s not like that ship has sailed, in the fleet of ships that would have made me a zoologist, or an astronaut, or taller. It’s not like I need to save money for when all my teeth have fallen out, along with my nieces and nephews after they figure out how many columns I got out of their childhoods. Why save to pay someone to change my nappies then, when I can spend it now trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?
That is how we liberal arts majors think about financial priorities, and let that be a lesson to you.
But it can’t be helped. I’m a singing junkie. I sing all the time, as long as nobody can hear me—that is to say, in my head, in the shower, while driving, and out loud. Yes, out loud. If I think anyone can hear me, my voice curls up into a foetal position in the back of my throat and pulls the blankets up over its eyes. Only when inebriated do I really let it rip and sing at the top of my lungs for my friends, who start out with supportive anticipation, then discreetly begin to lean in, and end up with ears cocked and eyes narrowed, as if they’re trying to detect gamma rays using nothing but goodwill. At the end they say, “That was lovely! Couldn’t hear you, but woohoo.” So I decided that it’s really not on to be so shamefully inaudible when there are alternatives, like getting the old farts hearing aids.
That was Plan A at any rate, but it turned out to be much more expensive than getting lessons. (I’m not factoring in a one-time expense versus the years of lessons it’s going to take me, on account of being so financially canny). So now I have this dead cool, super-talented, and seriously inspiring singing teacher who makes me do voice exercises and practice songs. The idea is to open up your voice and increase your range, and breathe at the right place, and control your diaphragm, and learn to project. It’s like juggling five balls at once, which is frustrating but insanely fun for me; and the fact that she gets through an hour of my braying, barking, and squeaking without ripping my throat out, is a testament to her extraordinary forbearance. Or maybe she just turns her hearing aid off.
Singing seems like the simplest thing in the world, right? It is! But singing well, believe me, is not. So I siphon off a portion of my booze budget towards weekly lessons, which is a counterintuitive move if you think about it, since booze is a foolproof shortcut to sounding like Tina Turner. Some killjoy type people claim that alcohol impairs one’s judgement, but if nobody can hear you anyway, who cares?
Just kidding. It’s a public service to learn to sing better. One will never be Mark Knopfler (sob) but one hopes, in the future, to sing beautifully as one changes one’s own nappies.