Friday, January 21, 2011

Mirth and Music

In my heydays, when I was still a young and pretty college girl, I had a group of friends that I could fairly only call a 'gaggle of girls'. We would get together and whenever we did, all we created was a lot of noise in the form of swears, guffaws, shouts and shrieks, but mostly peals and peals of  laughter.

So last week, when I met Ro, it went as predictably as it could have. We laughed until tears rolled down our faces and then we laughed some more. But this time was different in one respect. Unlike our usual gatherings at various parts of the country, this time, we meet for a 3 day break at her grandmother's place in rural Kerala. Now her grandma is the sweetest thing. She is like cotton candy - wispy and pink and so frail that you can almost see right through her. And she is really very old and hence very hard of hearing. (Consequently, this time around, while propriety demanded that we keep our voices down and act civilly, her grandma's compromised auditory capabilities ensured that we could scream and shout and laugh loudly all day long!)

Being a religious and traditional Christian family, there was a prayer session every night, and on the first night, we had all settled in around Granny's bed when Ro's mother solemnly declared that we needed to start the prayer meeting with a song of praise.

Uh oh!

This spelt trouble for the many reasons detailed below

1. I don't sing; I croak. And when I croak, I giggle. And then someone else giggles. And someone else glares. And someone else screams at whoever is giggling! (All three happen inevitably every single time. It's a Christian miracle!)

2. I am not an avid church goer and I don't know too many Christian songs. Religiously bent 90 year olds are not usually very tolerant of this fact and feel obligated to lecture me about the importance of going to church and partaking in the worship. (Sigh!)

3. The songs are usually in Malayalam which Ro is not usually familiar with, which means that I would be one of the two female singing leads, along with her mother, croaking out an unfamiliar song!

Not pretty and hardly religiousness inducing!

So anyways, that night, I was pleasantly pleased with Ro's mother chose a song that I knew. And so did Ro, surprisingly.  So we all started singing. And of course there was a lot of giggling and glaring (Refer to point no.1) but at least we were singing coherently.

Now at the end of the 1st stanza, granny, in a very indignant tone matched by a grimace, said, "What are you waiting for? Why haven't you started singing yet? You are all just laughing!" She had not heard a word we sang and thought we were just sitting and laughing! And that set Ro, her mom and me into peals of uncontrollable laughter, leaving granny even more perplexed.

Two minutes of pandemonium passed and Ro's mom settled down and screamed out to granny that we had started singing a while ago and it is because we were singing softly that she couldn't hear. And we resumed singing!

You can imagine how the rest of the prayer session went.

The next day, it was the memory of the previous night that was the cause of Ro's and my mirth. To avoid unnecessary complications, Ro's mom had chosen a simple English song for us to sing, but even that didn't stop our giggles. Now it's my guess that granny was resolute that she wouldn't be left behind that day. Therefore, it was most unfortunate that when granny started to sing the chosen song, we had already completed 2 stanzas. Here we were, doing a second round of 'Count your blessings', when granny proceeded to sing, 'When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed...'

And that was the end of the pretense of sobriety and piety, as you can imagine.

I think it took us about fifteen minutes to finish the 2 minute song that day.

But I think when we finally finished praying and left the room that night, we were all many worries lighter and full of thanksgiving - for family and friends and for the joy of a laugh. And for that day, that was all my prayers answered.

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