The Piano Teacher

Earlier this week, I called up Hem, who identifies himself as a creative film maker/ recordist (!!) After discussing my recording requirements, which are mostly classical music based stuff, I was generally talking to him about a few other things.

Hem is a south Indian, and lives near my parents’ home in Delhi, a place called Kalkaji. He is trying to set up a studio of his own, which I think finally he has found a place for. When I was here in December from Goa, he and another person, who we will call as R, came to meet me. R has been known to me for the last nearly two decades or possibly a little less than that. I have known him to be a musician of a small order, who has not learnt music thoroughly from anyone, yet by learning to play by himself and by dabbling with his keyboards.

He has often come to me for learning music, but more with the intention of ‘getting things out’ rather than really learning classical music. Surprisingly enough we have never clicked as a teacher-student. He always came, once in a couple of years, bowed at my feet (whcih I always resisted and told me not to) and talked about musical ideas and compositions. He never had it in him to learn music with anyone- he was always in a hurry to ‘encash’ things- quickly learn a raga and show if off to others. Even when I invited him to play with me, as I sang, I did not find him competent enough to, because he would be too restless to hear and start playing as I would start singing.

There are many I know like him- who keep playing tunes on the keyboards and then they figure out full melodies and they become musicians. Nothing wrong with that. They are doing things which they wanted to, by dint of sheer persistence.


So willy nilly, moving in our conversation, Hem informed me that R is ‘out of the market’. I heard him and did not pay heed. He repeated it for me again. I thought ‘what a strange thing to say’. So I asked him what he meant. He repeated himself and said that R was in jail, for the next ten years at that. Oh! I thought, now what was that about.

And then it struck me that I had read about it in the Hindu paper, that  a piano teacher being caught abusing his student in Kalkaji. I asked Hem if he was talking of that incident. At that moment when I read about it, I thought of R- what a coincidence. I of course was not thinking of him as an abuser, but I just thought that he was the only piano teacher that I knew of in Kalkaji. But then I consoled myself thinking that hopefully there would be others, and it is not him. Now what Hem was telling me confirmed that indeed it was R!

It is sad. The world of Hindustani music is rife with teacher-student abuse, which has stifled many a career and many a relationship. ( There have been instances when teachers have married their students, but that is not an instance of abuse) But a man in his forties abusing or exploiting a child. I do not know how quickly the prosecution worked but they gave him ten years in jail. I thought for a moment, what would happen to him after those ten years and what about his family?

And then what about the child who suffered? What would be the consequences of this on her? And what if there would be more children, who could not raise their voices against him? Would there be someone to support her traumatic experience? I am sure it would have taken a lot for her to express her suffering.

The sad thing is that when people known to you do anything, your faith in humanity is shaken for a moemnt and then the whole anger which each of us has against the systemic abuse- finds a target. I feel no sympathy for R. In fact, I feel more for his wife and family. What a suffering they would have to go through socially. Like we always say, letting go of every abuser only emboldens them further- it is about time some were punished. Even if those some be people of our own associations and families. It is about time.

Here is a related post about the same incident, on another blog.



My problem with the Israeli Palestinian Conflict or Why peace talks fail

If you like what you read, kindly share further – on facebook or twitter, and add your voice to mine, to spread global peace

For years now, somewhere in the back of my mind, I have been anguished by the Israeli atrocities against Palestine and have wondered how a people who have faced so much persecution over the centuries, which reached a pinnacle during Hitler’s reign, become so inured to human suffering? How is it possible? Does suffering of an extreme nature make you inhuman, apathetic or bloodthirsty so that they want to enact the same drama again and again and again- and for how long? 11 millions Jews died in Europe (for more figures/statistics and facts, please check all links in blue, for this is a thoroughly researched piece)

While I am developing my own analysis of the situation in a slow and phased manner, for this attitude is something that I would extend to all conflicts around the world, I always look at any conflict from multiple positions and from different perspectives too- mostly with an attitude to understanding the genesis, the development/escalation of conflict and then to look for a solution that is beneficial for a larger number of people. But one position I am lately beginning to take is that of political economy and sometimes use the social constructionist view for dialogic engagement.

How the new nation of Israel was born– a background

Due to the Nazi holocast, in which millions of Jews were killed in Europe, the flight of the Jews to other regions of the world, when Hitler lost the war, it was time to see whether Jews who had been persecuted for thousands of years before that, should not have the promised homeland.

As far as i am concerned, I personally always had a soft corner for the Jews, more so for I found them so hardworking, honest and committed to everything. Their contributions in the field of knowledge are legion. If we look at some of the greatest among them it is truly inspiring.  I also loved the movies in which we saw them and naturally sympathized with them, whether it was Teyve singing if i were a rich man, in Fiddler on the Roof , or the Von Trapp family running away from the Gestapo in the Sound of Music. The chilling stories in the Boy in the blue, striped pajamas and Schindler’s list, or the Pianist made me see the other side, where people were not really escaping but getting caught and dying premature deaths at any age, or came close to it, as the movies showed. The books that nailed it for me, for I was incapable of seeing it beyond that were Anne Frank’s Diary and Frankl’s writing.

Anyways that was the background and the conditions, as well as the historical antecedents of it all. Now coming over to the birth of the new nation and how it takes roots in Palestine, where the Jews were supposed to have originated from, making Jerusalem, come into the eye of the storm. Now the problem is that the holy land of the Jews, lies in a place which belongs to the Palestinians! So what happens next? I just encountered a simple video, which shares that- this one.

Since the present state of the conflict is very well known and how it impacts even the smallest aspects of life in Palestine, i am simply looking at the larger context of its political economy and who stands to gain, if the region remains in conflict. So here is meaning of what is Political Economy Analysis.

We all know that the biggest industry in the world is the armament industry, followed by the pharmaceutical. So if there are two sides at war ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD these are the two who will gain first of all. So well…what have we. You create a war and sell arms to both the parties, then when they kill and maim one another, you rush in medical aid and then so on and so forth.Each year, the United States gives Israel about $3.1 billion in military assistance, a commitment that stems from the 1978 Camp David accord that led to peace between Israel and Egypt. Those billions are roughly divided into two funding streams. About $800 million underwrites Israeli manufacturing of weaponry and military products.‘ In case you want to read the full details of how the US gains from the conflict, you might want to click this- by an American journalist. Just imagine, if the anyone gave $3 Billion dollars to Palestine to develop- every year at that!

(Actually at this stage, it is proper that I bring in perspectives about the various sides involved in the conflict, including what is HAMAS and how it was created, what purpose it serves and what about the ones who are not part of Hamas- who are/were they, what was the role of Yasser Arafat and why his death has been such a great loss…but this is just  blog post and I cannot write more than what I can, so that whatever I am saying at the moment is not lost or become too much for anyone to digest. In the near future I will write about all these as a separate post- or several of them)


Don’t ask me this…who stands to lose if there is peace? Just probe that. Nobody is going to buy from the arms dealers, and they may have to close shop. There will be no money spent on deployment or maintenance of troops, there would be enough for everyone to eat, study, develop and live a life of sharing simple pleasures and not creating barriers for movement from neighbour turned enemies overnight. So much more, so..much much more for everyone. Who does NOT want that? Do you think the ones who want to sell arms want to sit at home and appreciate the blue sky on a clear winter morning?

This is a very broad way of putting stuff- the political economy analyses has to go down deeper, also bringing in the role of US foreign policy and why it needs to defend its own imaginary or real interests, everywhere in the world. We need to fundamentally understand one thing- there is always two sides in a conflict- the one that wants war and the one that does not. Now if there is one that does, then the second one automatically gets drawn into it, and often have no choice in the matter.

Do you think little children whose charred and stiffened bodies we encounter every other day are there by choice? Or young girls and boys, mothers and fathers, old people and wounded people- did they have a choice in the matter that a grenade came through their window and burst in their homes? Can we choose to stand immune to this human suffering any longer?

But equally significantly, I want to ask the Jews in Israel, hey what happened to you guys? I would have thought you were such gifted people and the ‘chosen ones’ – as you liked to call yourself. So how come, despite having suffered so hugely, you did not develop any compassion to not persecute another? Did you forget your own sufferings, and not want to save the world from it? I never forgot mine, so I want to save the world from it…so why are you and me, not the same? We are the world after all, we are (same) people- of this planet earth.

It is with great deliberation that I write in a simple language so that even someone who does not understand anything about the conflict can understand. Please help others understand.

But just see this before we part-  and never underestimate what you can do, and more than that what YOU and ME can do together