Recently I had a chance to participate in a Violin program. It was a group event and I was the oldest in the group. Thankfully my teacher is older than me. I had picked up the instrument after close to 30 years. I had tried my hand at the violin when at school. It was mostly to find an avenue to tick mark on SUPW (Socially Useful Productive Work) that was mandatory for high school students. I really had no idea why I picked up the violin except t that someone mentioned it is a very difficult instrument to master. I never gave it a lot of attention then.
So after such a long time, when I started looking at my children, those memories started flooding back. And I started to wonder why is it that only our children should attend music, drawing, karate or any other sports? It’s not that they would make a career out of every one of those vocations. Why should these not apply to us as adults? Was it that we are too old? Or was it just a social thing?
So I decided to take the plunge and start my violin class. It took sometime to make the first move. And to be honest, the first few classes were a little awkward. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a few adults also in the class. As I started taking the classes, I realised I had a fundamental set of challenges to meet. The first challenge was to be able to sit on the ground for the entire duration of the class without having a stiff back. The feet had also started to go numb having been at a spot for way too long. The fingers started to ache as I moved them. Getting the music correct became the last on my priority list.
But my earlier training did come of use. I could go through the basics quite quickly. Once the practice started; a lot of the older memories came back. As I practiced on a regular basis, I started getting stronger. I could sit longer. The numbness in the leg reduced. I even lost the kink in my neck.
But, I also realised that there is paucity of time. I could attend only the weekend class. I never managed to go for the weekday sessions as I would reach home quite late. I used to practice daily in the beginning. But after a few months, the interest seemed to dim a bit. It is easy to move from a basic level to a decent level. But to move from being decent to accomplished is a wholly different story. Attaining mastery is quite difficult. As my assignment at work changed, I found it more difficult to practice. I used to leave in the morning and come back very late at night. Practising at that time of the night may not go very well with the family. More importantly, I did not have the energy to pick it up after a long day.
The good thing is, our teacher handled each of us differently. He was strict with the children. But he gave a lot of leeway for the elders. He would not ask us questions on Ragas and Thalas. He obviously did not want us to cut a sorry figure. But that also meant that I did not feel any pressure. Needless to say the children progressed much faster than me. I found that difficult to swallow initially. But on reflection, I realised that one cannot ace everything. We just need to be comfortable with it. I had to consciously recenter my motivations on why I was learning the instrument. It was purely for the joy of learning. I had to reconcile with the fact that there were many people who were going to be far better at this than me. More importantly, there was no disgrace about that fact.
As I look back eight months ago, I am struck by my own improvements. I never though even for a moment, that I could go on stage and play an instrument. I did have several butterflies in my stomach. But funnily enough it was not the same as earlier. As a child, we are very embarrassed to get on stage and face the potential to be publicly shamed. As an adult, we realise that we have shamed ourselves often enough that one more incident is not going to affect us that much. That being said, it was very unique to have the wife and kids come to watch me perform. After several years, it was a role reversal of sorts.
After I started playing, I feel I have become sharper at work. I tend to remember things better now. I have certainly become stronger. I can feel my core leaner and my posture straighter. I honestly did not expect these outcomes when I picked up the instrument; almost on a whim. It just goes to prove that unexpected things can happen when we follow our heart. I would like to believe that learning a new skill exercises the brain cells. But the biggest learning for me is that it’s never too late to learn. Apart from the joy of picking a new art or craft, it enables us to make new friends and peek into the lives and views of an entirely new set of people. I plan to keep at this for the foreseeable future.