Last year when I heard the sudden news that Mr. Gautam, our only music teacher had succumbed to a heart attack I was a little shocked but it is only now about a year later that I really paid much attention to his sad passing. It is truly said that we do not realize the importance of a person or thing until they are no longer in our reach this is what I realized when I was talking to a few friends at school.
Mr. Gautam didn’t have much of a striking appearance. He was a retired army officer, wore glasses with photo-chromatic lenses, had rough skin which somehow told us that he had actually been in the army. The appearance wasn’t striking enough but his personality sure was. He was friendly to children and to adults though there have been episodes of arguments and me having a little hate for him but then, they aren’t worth it. Not anymore. He was always good to be around and for a few years in Middle School, I had actually started to like the mandatory music class.
The class itself was a mixed bag. Sometimes he would just tell us stories and legends he had heard during his days of service, sometimes he would joke around for the 45 minutes and most of the time he made us sing new anthems and prayers in a monotonous chorus of maybe 40 people. He was a man of strict principles too, once we had begun singing he entertained no pranks or funny business, if spotted not singing or talking he would ask his friend to punish us. This friend was basically a stick which he used to smash on our knuckles if we acted like naughty kids. This was a very peculiar thing but whatever it was, I miss it.
I remember that we had to take off our shoes outside the music room. I was really upset with this particular rule and out of courage and anger I finally asked him, “Is this necessary? What’s the point of taking our shoes off, there is only so much carpet spread on the floor?”
To this quick question he calmly replied, “It does not matter if there are carpets or if the floor gets dirty, the floor is already earth. What this act signifies is that you are changing the course of your day and while you take these shoes off, you prepare your mind that you are going to enter a music class.”
I never understood his answer up until recently and though, I am a man of my code, I somehow find his answer justified. He was a peculiar man, with peculiar habits. Last that I recall he had started calling me a Muni (Hermit) because of me always grabbing the role of a hermit in the theatre festivals at our school.
I never had much of a conversation or interaction with him after I came to the senior side, though I always got to see glimpses of him during Independence, Republic, Sports and Founders Day practices which were actually enough to say that he was still somewhere in that mix of different people who surrounded my life.
I still remember the prayer we used to recite before any activity began… Though I was never a believer of God, I found doing this at the start of every music class somehow, calming.
“Oh God, help me to be good today, better than I was yesterday. God bless mother, father too. God bless me and God bless you. God bless everyone. Amen!”
“Tvameva Mata cha Pita Tvameva, Tvameva Bandhu cha Sakha Tvameva, Tvameva Vidya Dravinam Tvameva, Tvameva Sarvam Mama Deva Deva. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.” (A Hindu Chanting)
“Oh God, we don’t know how to pray. We need your guidance. We need your help. We need your blessings. We thank you God, for our parents and our teachers who show us the right way. Amen!” (I may have forgotten a few lines from this one as it was introduced when I was in 8th standard and I never recited it as much as the earlier two.)
He passed away last year and now the thought that I won’t ever see or listen to him again depresses me somewhere within. He was an important part of my childhood and pre-teenage actually and now he is just a memory. He, his harmonium and his friend…