Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What makes the world go round?

My father and my son, Big N, love hanging out together and spend all their time talking. Neither my husband nor I can figure out what they find to talk to each other about or how they can sustain each other's attention, patience and interest for as long as they do, but from the sporadic reports we get from each of them, at least two things are obvious: one, they cover a wide range of topics; two, Big N feeds off of my father's immense store of general knowledge and my father revels in Big N's energy and natural curiosity.

On one of his recent visits, my father taught Big N a lullaby that I grew up listening to. It's simple and lovely, but the meaning is profound. It asks (in loose translation),

Who makes the sun come up?
Who makes the moon turn?
What are those that our eyes see twinkling in the dark sky?
If you think about all these things, you realize there is something [bigger, more powerful than us]

Over the past few years, whenever I've remembered the lullaby, my mind has immediately recalled that heartbreaking Bee Gees song, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," and that one particular line in it, "What makes the world go around?" Even the tunes of the two songs, with their plaintive strains, are very similar.

After two days of falling asleep to the lullaby, one evening Big N sat down at his piano and plucked out the song on the keys. I was puttering around in kitchen preparing dinner and my father was busy with the newspaper and Little N. My father, who is generally happy that Big N can play the piano but has no clue about any of the songs he plays (they're all Western folk and classical songs), burst into applause when he heard it. That he was thrilled does not even begin to describe his reaction on hearing one of his favorite songs played on the piano.

We immediately called my aunt who sang this song to her siblings (my father being the youngest of the lot) when they were growing up. She has never seen Big N and Big N has not really spoken to her much on the phone given the language gap.

But there we were that evening, Big N excitedly telling his grand-aunt on the phone what he had done and was about to do again for her, my father and I taking turns to translate each of them for the other, Big N playing the lullaby on the piano, me holding the phone close to the keys, each of us trying to grab the phone to find out first hand what my aunt's reaction was, my aunt listening to the song over the phone and saying she couldn't believe what she had just heard (and I imagine, shaking her head), that she couldn't believe that Big N actually liked the song, her wanting to find out how it had all happened, and her declaring, "After all, he's my grandson, right?"

When we had finally hung up the phone, Big N said that was the happiest day of his life, my father had a big grin on his face, my aunt also probably had an equally big grin on her face many miles away, and I was just happy looking at the delight on the two faces on either side of me.

What makes the world go round? This comes mighty close to it.


gawker said...

Hey Sujatha
How old is big N? And does he take piano lessons?

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi G,

Big N is almost 7 and he started taking the kiddie piano lessons in the US around 4 years ago. His lessons were interrupted when we moved here; we struggled to find a piano instructor and the teaching system here is different - Do Re Mi (for the kids) vs ABCDE - but he's now moved on to the latter and he's continuing.

Sujatha Bagal said...

G, to clarify - Do Re Mi (for the kids) in the US vs ABCDE (for everyone) in India. In the US, they move to ABCDE as well when the kids are a little older.

Anonymous said...

Feel sad that Indian kids miss out on this, growing up in the US...the interaction with an older generation and the easy camaraderie.

nuh ibn zbigniew gondek said...

Big N? Is that N for Nuh.

Come on by when you'd like to do some reading. I write poems, articles etc...

Wa salaama,

nuh ibn

Anonymous said...

that is so sweet. :) easily one of the reasons why one would want to live close to the grandparents..

gawker said...

Yes, I was kinda surprised about Do re mi, I haven't heard that notation being used since "Sound of Music". I think it is awesome big N is getting piano lessons and developing a love for music (and its theory) at a young age. I have never thanked my parents enough for (forcibly) getting me to take Indian classical music lessons and then synth and guitar lessons later on. By the way when he's done learning the piano and has written a couple of overtures, send him to guitar school. Cause you can't headbang while playing the piano.

Sujatha Bagal said...

G, Anjali, Nuh, TGFI, thank you for your comments.

Anjali and TGFI, that's what is great about this time in India right now. Very grateful for it.

G, the children learned the Do Re Mi method because they were also being taught to sing (solfaging) along with playing the piano. ABCDE is tougher because it's counter-intuitive somewhat and therefore better for the older kids.

About the guitar, hmmm, he's hoping for drums! He dreams of being in rock band and playing the drums. :)

gawker said...

I was the drummer for my college band and yes, it is a position of much respect (especially among the afficionados of the fairer sex). But to be honest (and lets keep this a secret), it is also the easiest to learn and master and like what happened in my case, the instrument one ultimately resigns oneself to once they find a better player for every other instrument you can play.

Sorry about the comment overload, music and musical instruments are a topic close to my heart.

Sujatha Bagal said...

No worries, G, about the comments.

Thanks for the insight into a drummer's life.:) Didn't know it was relatively easy to master. For right now, noise is a big factor in staying away from the drums. Plus, he absolutely loves School of Rock and was thrilled to see the piano player in the band on the key board. So all is not lost yet with his rock band dream. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sujatha,
Glad your family has these Precious moments! BTW is that a lullaby in Kannada...if so what are the words in kannada?

Anonymous said...

What a lovely story! Can you make a podcast of the piano playing?

Sujatha Bagal said...

Kusuma, I'm glad too. It's a Tamil song. If anyone knows the song or has a link to it, please let me know.

MG, I tried making a podcast about a year ago when he was getting ready for a small recital here and was playing Turkey In The Straw, but the sound came out very tinny and I gave up the idea. When I do figure it out, I'll definitely put up some snippets.

Terri the terrific said...

Sujatha, you're just rubbing it in for all us poor grandparents-deprived sods out here. No fair! :)

swami said...

Wow! :)

swami said...

Can you pls post the tamil version?

Anonymous said...


Could you elaborate on what the DoReMi method is please? My kids started piano at 3.5 as well, and learnt the ABCDE method from day 1 - and weren't confused either - the piano teacher told us that this is the only method of teaching that she knows - in her defence, she is quite old, though a very good teacher and player, so we'reOK with the method, I just wonder if the DoReMi would be better for adults, as I want to learn as well - only my brain now refuses to process the ABCDE method and simultaneously translate that to my fingers!



Scribbit said...

My parents just found out they're being sent to Bangalore for the next three years and I saw your profile and where you're at and was wondering what kind of things there are to see there. I've Googled it and found basic info but not much in the way of things to see. My husband and I would like to take our four kids to go and visit sometime during that three year period.

Sujatha Bagal said...

@Terri, sorry! Here's hoping you get to spend a lot more time with your family soon!

@Swami, I don't know the words to the entire song. Will try to find out.

@M, I believe the DoReMi method is easier for the kids because they learn to sing the songs as well so it's easier for them to find the keys, i.e., they are not just reading the music while playing, they are singing the notes and finding them on the keys. If you are in the US, Jordan Kitts (the piano shop) offers lessons for kids in that method. Basically the note Do is C and it goes up from there. I hope you are able to find what you are looking for. Good luck.

@Scribbit, what a great idea! I'll pull up as much info as I can and I'll post a comment here.

But right off the top of my head, there are lovely places you can go see over a weekend (by road) if you make Bangalore your base - Coorg, Mysore, Wyanad (in Kerala). By very short flights, Chennai, Hyderabad, Goa, Mumbai are accessible. There's a book called 50 Weekend trips from Bangalore that you should try to get.

Anonymous said...

Very touching !
We CHOSE to have our child in India and returned when I was pregnant for this joy ! Every time my three year old lisps the Bhagavad Gita, my parents and p-i-l go into raptures !

Piscean Angel said...

Hi Sujatha,
I came upon your blog while searching for schools which teach the Piano in Bangalore. Your story was very touching, indeed !!!
I would like to take Piano lessons. Could you pls let me know if there are any schools here that teach Piano, preferably in the sanjaynagar area ?

Sujatha Bagal said...

Lakshmi, thanks. :) Grandparents are like that, aren't they?

Chandra, the Bangalore School of Music teaches piano as well as St. Mark's Church near MG Road. Don't know exactly where Sanjaynagar is, but you could try these two places.

Also, there is a lady called Nalini Suryavanshi who teaches in her home in Cox Town. I can give you her tel no. if you e-mail me - blogpourri AT gmail DOT com.