Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mind Speaks - Importance of Learning the Basics - story of Raghu and Appu

I hope you all read what is posted here periodically. Today, I am posting an earlier write-up of mine (done in 2008). Thought of submitting here as the content may be of interest to some of you.

Look forward to your comments.

Importance of Learning the Basics - story of Raghu and Appu

Eid Al Fitr is over and the holy week of Navaratri is on. As I wrote here earlier, I was really enjoying each moment of this year’s Eid break. Traveling with the minds of a group of creative children, I was literally following the management mantra for happiness - enjoy each moment of what you are doing and find happiness in whatever you do.

This is a week dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi and let me come to you with a true life story happened.

It was not very long ago. And as usual, it happened in my home state Kerala. There was a master who taught Tayambaka (a percussion form of performing arts using chenda – the traditional Keralite drums). He was a legend and had many students. It is not very easy to learn this instrument and students have to practice first, on a stone with wooden sticks before they were given an opportunity to play on the real drum. At one stage he had two students who came to him to learn this art. One boy, let us call him Raghu, who had a flare for percussion instruments, joined our master to learn this art along with his friend Appu.

Day’s passed, weeks passed, the master made both of them play only the basics steps on the stone, repeatedly as the students came for their class each day. Those were the days which students have to come every day to learn and practice an art or a subject of knowledge from their Gurus residence. It was not like now, when you find an hour per week for an art at one institute or one master’s place and sit and then rush to the other class the same day or the next day and try to seek a different subject or art from a different master. It is all capsule form of learning arts now.

After a couple of months continuing with the basic steps, and not happy with the way he was being denied of an opportunity to switch to the real drums to play, Raghu asked his master, why he was being sidelined?

Whereas, Appu was quite and totally followed whatever his master taught him daily and practiced it home too.

One day, impatient as ever he is, Raghu argued with his master, Sir, I feel I am proficient enough to play in real times. Why don't you give me an opportunity to prove it?.

The master smiled and said, ok, both you and Appu started together. So both of you come with your drums on Sunday to the temple with me for a performance. Only one condition, you should show the confidence and concentration to play without missing even a single beat for the entire duration of the performance.

Accepting the challenge, the students came with their drums to join the master and his team. For traditional way of performing a Tayambaka, the lead player will be accompanied by a group of others, who plays accompanying beats in rhythm and they follow several routines. The master before the performance began, announced that today he is going to introduce his two students to perform for the first time. While carrying on his praise for his students, the intelligent and observant master also announced that for the first time he will introduce a new method of performance where the students will switch in between their performance and not play throughout.

With lots of enthusiasm both Raghu and Appu started playing with the group and Raghu was smiling in full glee looking at the master and the others how he was managing. The performance started well and as the stage progressed along with it, Raghu started getting cramps on his hands and legs. The Chenda he was carrying was very huge for his age and he was getting to realize the feel of performing live with focus and concentration. Sweat particles started coming in and body was itching here and there. However, he had to hold on to his master’s words of guidance to never miss even a beat while performing. It was significant too, as a second delay in any of the beat will be realized by all and he will be exposed.

The master too, as ever watching his student’s each movements, noticing the twists and twirls of his student. All the instructions and communications between the performers on stage happened through eye contacts, master told Raghu to switch over with Appu, who was playing in the second line that time, concentrating on his rhythmic beats rather than the lead beats.

Appu, bowing his master, came forward and continued from there on. The master gave him opportunity to transfer from one stage to another in tempo and beats while performing. Alt throughout the leraning time, he had been concentrating on the basic notes, and during those precious time he was with his master, Appu was listening to various types of beats and rhythms his master was practicing and was playing and visualizing them all in his mind during his free times. When the time came to perform live, and when he finished the initial stage phobia, Appu was slowly transforming into his creative elements automatically. Constant practice had given him focus, strength for his hands and stamina to play longer and in higher tempo and everyone who watched him perform thoroughly enjoyed.

What to tell, by the time, the performance was completed, all present realized who the real student was and also the value of learning thoroughly the basics before putting it into practice. Both Raghu and Appu prostrated in front of their master and Raghu apologized to him profusely for his over enthusiasm.

In real life, we get to see many students like this. Some are over enthusiastic and try to forget to learn the basics thoroughly. Some, of them, even if they know the basics, get carried away from it, due to other obstructions. As I wrote here earlier, this is the time when many children get to learn a new art, craft or talent. Dear Children, and Dear Parents, do not rush to get to see your children perform in the real life and real scenes. Give them time and favorable environment to learn the basics. There will be many instances when you will be tempted by influences to enroll your child to perform without learning and mastering the basics. It will kill the creativity and in-born artistic talents in your child to improvise on their own at a later stage.

Wishing every child and every parent who reads this article a Happy Navarathri, blessed Vijaya Dashmi, Vidhyarambam and a successful saga of continuous and sustained learning.

Ramesh Menon


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