I have all "A" s in my report card and only one "B", for co-curricular activities. This means I have straight A’s except for a “D” in singing. I have won laurels in elocution and painting, so that was not a problem, but when I enrolled myself for singing in our group song competition for the Green house in school; I was asked to handle the jingle and keep my mouth shut. I held my mouth real shut, so tight that at one time I felt I was turning blue, through out the song, but we went on to win the competition.
This was during the singing classes, At fist we all sang
"aey, merae wathan ke logon.... zara yaad karo kurubani.....".
It sounded very nice, but Lakshmi madam, our singing teacher kept wincing and saying:
“Draw out your 'swaras' louder!"
We started drawing out our 'swaras' real loud, but she clapped for silence and said "You sound like cats yowling! I will go over it with each of you in-di-vi-dually.
That means one at a time.
She called on Bala first. Bala went over to the harmonium and whispered something to her. Lakshmi madam began to humm the harmonium and Bala sang in a piping voice:
kadam kadam milake ja...khushi ke geet gate jha..
yeh zindagi hai kaum ki thum kaum pe lutathe ja...
He was a scream. He sounded just like my neighbors kitten "Poocha" meowing. That was no way to sing. You could hardly hear him. I burst out laughing.
Lakshmi madam gave Bala an "A". Looked at me and said,
"All right, my laughing friend, let's hear you now".
I ran up to the harmonium.
"What will you sing?", she asked me politely.
"A patriotic song, sare jahan se achan...."
Lakshmi madam shook her head and began to humm the harmonium, but I stopped her right away.
"Please play it louder".
"We won’t be able to hear you then".
"Sure you will"
She started playing again. I took a deep breath and began to sing:
sare jahaan se achan...hindu sitaan hamarah ...hamaram
humbul buleh hai isike... yeh gulsithan hamara.. haamarah...
I really like that song. I can feel my blood getting warmer and the see the tri colour flag flapping high on the red fort, enough soldiers marching in their camouflage clothes marching for the battle.
I shut my eyes tight from the glory of it all and shouted at the top of my voice:
parwath se sabse oonchan... humsa ya asman ka....
I was singing so well I'm sure people could hear me across the street.
I pressed my fist into my stomach. This made my voice so loud I nearly burst.
ohoon..ohoooon.. ohooon... sarae jahan se chan...
I stopped because I was all perspired and my knees were trembling.
Lakshmi Madam kept on humming the harmonium, but she was crutched over the piano and her shoulders were shaking.
"Hows that?" I asked.
"Monstrous!" she never said anything like that about anyone before.
"It’s a great song isn’t it?"
"Yes". She dabbed her eyes with the hankie.
"Too bad you played it so quiet. It would have sounded much better if you'd played it much louder". I said
"I'll bear that in mind. Did it strike you, though, that I was playing one song and you were singing something slightly different?".
"No. It doesn’t really matter. But you still should've played it louder".
"Well, then since you have noticed the difference, I’ll give you a "C". For the effort".
She could have knocked me over with a feather. She couldn't mean it! A "C" was no mark for such fine singing. We could barely hear Bala and he got an "A". So I said,
“I’ll rest for a few minutes, Madam Lakshmi, and then I'll sing it even louder. You'll see. It's because I did not eat anything for breakfast. Other wise I could've sung it so loud I'd've made every one deaf. I know another song. Every time I sing this song my dog joins me too".
"and what song is that?"
"a very slow song" I began to sing it:
eh merae watan ke logoon..zara yaaaaad karo kurubani...
But Lakshmi Madam shut me up in a minute.
"All right that is enough, we'll discuss this next time".
The recess bell rang.
When I was going to the wash, I heard Lakshmi Madam telling my class teacher Sujatha Madam that I could become the next PT USha, or maybe the next VC Raman, but that I will never share RD Burman’s fame as a singer.
Sujatha Madam gave a smile and said “you never can tell!"
All the time I wonder whether RD Burman really sang louder than me.