The only reality show, that I am a part of, is one popular music show in Bengal. What tempts me to do this one and not the others is that there is no SMS involved. It also gives me an opportunity to listen to Bengali songs apart from eating great Bengali food.
This time it was a show for children in the age group of six to 12. One small boy caught my attention. This nine-year-old called Rahul was a mind-blowing singer. The other children were talented too but this kid was special — a child prodigy. Looking at him, I thought he was a little ambitious to attempt Manna De’s semi-classical composition. But I was impressed when he started singing.
He had a clear voice which was capable of handling any composition, a clear diction and more importantly, he just seemed to understand what the essence of the song was, almost as if he was singing by instinct. Quite expectedly, none of the songs were children’s songs. They were from Hindi and Bengali films. I started following Rahul with my eyes.
He was a child before and after his performance.. playing with balloons, jumping, shouting, laughing out loud and behaving exactly like an nine-year-old should. Yet when he stepped onto the stage I witnessed a complete transformation.
His eyes became intense, his jaws tightened and he was completely lost in his world of music. He would close his eyes and sing. As the song ended and the applause took over, he became a child once again. One day, during the competition, I was fiddling with my iphone when he came over and sat next to me. He was observing my movements. I casually asked him, “You are too small for mobile phones. But which phone does your father use?”
And he casually replied that they hardly had money to eat a proper meal, so a mobile phone was out of question. I tried to hide my surprise at what I had just heard and continued to play with the phone. But I felt strange with the Rs 32,000 phone in my hand.
I found out later that Rahul’s father was a bag-maker and earned Rs 2500 every month. His tryst with music started because of his parents love for music and their desire to teach the children music at any cost.
Rahul’s sister had a music teacher. Rahul observed them quietly while the lesson was in progress. One day, when his sister was stuck with a particular piece, Rahul sang the tough composition with ease. The teacher was so impressed that he started teaching Rahul too, free of cost.
A difficult economic situation led Rahul’s parents to let go of the music teacher. He stopped teaching his sister.. but continued with Rahul’s lessons.
His parents didn’t know if they could afford their children’s education and continued with their music lesson. During the competition, I heard Rahul singing several times. I gave him some tips. He would soak up all the advice and I could see the improvement in his next performance.
We grew fond of each other. We would spend a lot of time chatting, discussing football, cricket, music and iphones. The day I was returning to Mumbai, he asked me how much an iphone cost. I told it was quite a bit. The competition continues. I don’t have doubts that he will win if only so that he can buy his own iphone some day. And that will be a whole new chapter.
(The writer is a music composer)