July 31, 2017
West Hampstead, London
To the nice musician on Bus 189 toward Brent Cross (between 4 pm and 5.30 pm),
Hello again. You walked in to the bus pretty much like I do when I have more bags than I can handle. With the grace of a skier trying on skis for the first time — mumbling apologies for the inconvenience caused to unknown strangers while jabbing them in all the odd places with your oversized suitcases. Like me, you too were balancing a third bag on your shoulder. And our bags kept sliding down our shoulders, like unruly children mimicking each other. Only yours wasn’t a shoulder bag but a case.
I am glad I asked you what instrument it was. The violin, you beamed. You quickly added, most violin players are known to be nice people. I am excluding myself from the list, of course.
You then winked, eyebrows moving up and down behind your thick glasses, as if you had just discovered a new tune. Again, your jokes, like mine, didn’t need an audience.
I tried playing the violin once upon a time. So I must be a little nice too?
In the ten minutes that I chatted with you on the bus — on the wrong one, I soon realised, as I was actually supposed to take 139 and not the 189 — I felt so much at home in a city that is new, yet familiar, to me. I specially needed that warmth of our conversation after my partner’s previous landlord had outraged at the three hours of delay at handing over the keys and shown much frustration at this one line of dust that wasn’t cleared on the floor. Seriously, how hard wound can one be?
(Images sourced from creativecommons.org)
Anyway, our conversation was a nice epilogue to an otherwise lukewarm day.
Now I know that musicians make money by having side business interests. Because, well, music is food for the soul but not for the tummy. Thank you for showing some sympathy for my lost career as a part-time violinist — the training for which lasted just about three years during my mid-teens. During this time I was told by my dear family that the best sounds I produced with my violin was that of different kind of sirens. Now my violin is rests peacefully under my parents’ bed. But honestly, I know I wasn’t so bad. So what if I played like the tinman with sharp lifeless movements. It was still music in some world.
Then we chatted a bit about me. I am a journalist, I said.
Ah, so you don’t make money either — we laughed.
Your advise was that I pick up the violin again, to play part-time.
I made a mental note about having two poorly paid professions. It could work.
We can never be millionaires, we lamented. We can be famous but with no bank balance.
You’ve been a violinist for half a century, and I’ve been a journalist for half a decade. And the truth of your time and mine is that there’s no money in arrangement of words, notes and chords. We do that for passion. Thus, proving that some labour markets don’t really change overtime.
But our job is the same, you said. Music too tells stories.
Ya, I said. But aren’t the stories music tells different for everyone?
You smiled and nodded, that’s the beauty of it.
And then you spoke of the newspapers you read, asked me about what I did as a journalist, your familiarity with Chennai (I should have asked how you knew about my hometown).
You were kind enough to ask me where you could read my articles. And I wanted to know where you play, so that I could come to one of your performances. But the confused people that we are, we never exchanged names. You didn’t tell me where you were playing, except that there were some nice performances in Crowne Plaza and other places. I told you I used to work at The Hindu.
The bus approached your destination and by then, just about two stops before you got off the 189 to Brent Cross, I had realised I was on the wrong bus. But I didn’t feel like getting off. Anyway the damage was done. I’d have to take another bus where ever I got off. Might as well finish a nice conversation with you.
Yet, the idiot that I can be sometimes, I forgot to ask your name and if you were playing somewhere nearby. We parted our ways.
Anyway, I hope we meet again somewhere.
PS: Please don’t be too hard on your cellist and pianist friends. Just because they aren’t cool like you doesn’t mean you’ve to crack jokes on them.