My turn was five minutes away. Clutching the sheet music in hand, I could feel my fingers trembling. Once again I tried to reassure myself. It was only an exam after all, why this tension?
Piano music. I'd experienced the feel of floating fingers on the keys, I'd melted with the melody of the tones, and I'd blended in with the music itself. If listening to music was like magic, I'd say playing it was the zenith of it. When I first laid my fingers on a harmonium, I knew nothing of my journey ahead. I hadn't known that I'd shift my home so soon. I hadn't known that I'd go on to study a synthesiser from the new place, and end up being upgraded to the piano classes.
From Fleur Elise to Rondo Alla Turca, I loved every single piece I learnt. I enjoyed it thoroughly, until one day I was called in school to perform for a group song. I agreed, provided that I had enough time to practice. But it was a last minute call, and I was pressurised to play.
Forget the feel or emotion, I merely jammed a few keys as instructed from the stage and made a fool of our own team. It couldn't have been more embarrassing. Of three teams, ours was the third. I hid the certificate I got that day...because I didn't want something I was ashamed of.
I knew then that I had no sense of music. People could compose songs in just a few months of learning, while 2 years had gotten me nowhere. All I knew was that I enjoyed playing the piano, but I decided to never go onstage again.
Then one fine day, my tutor introduced me to the Trinity Guildhall exam, one that grades our professional musical talent. And so half a year was spent in preparations. Playing on the spot, identifying particular tones, and beating time to the music...it was all too theoretical and confusing to me. But playing was primary, in that lay my love and excellence. And so came the certificate of 'Distinction'.
The girl who barely listens to music, who is too embarrassed to sing with her own voice, who can't make out the seven basic tones...got a distinction in music? Was that even possible? Surprised as I was, I wasn't ready to go to the next level. I was afraid luck wouldn't favour me a second time, I was afraid people will know how bad I am. But I was compelled and brainwashed into it. I believed my tutor when he told me I'd do fine. Only, this time he was terribly wrong.
For another half year I learnt nothing more than three pieces that I needed for the exam. I was worried about my lack of progress, scared of failing, and unhappy with what I was learning. I missed learning new pieces, and struggled to stay focused with the exam.
There I sat with the sheet music, waiting for the call. I tried to keep my head calm, but ended up making it blank. "Darshana Suresh" they called. I walked over to the room, and was pleasantly greeted by the examiner. Sitting before the piano, I began my first piece. Blank. Never before had I been so completely blank. I let my hands do the work, not caring about the staccatos or connecting tones or highs or lows as given in the sheets. Even worse, my fingers managed to trip over the keys twice. A bead of sweat ran down my cheek and all I knew was that I'd lost it.
I don't recall what happened for theory, what with having little to no hope left. I was ashamed as I came out the door, ashamed to face my tutor, ashamed to say that I'd learnt any music at all. I ran home before anyone could spot my tears. In a month the results came. I had failed.
The girl with a distinction had failed. My tutor was wrong, his disappointment was immense. But he told me to try again nevertheless, this time with extra preparation. I knew it was time to put my foot down. Yes, I enjoyed music and can play a piece with practise...but that doesn't make me a musician. I'd accepted that, and I didn't want to see him disappointed again. You'd say we could develop the skill with time and practise. But all I wanted was to enjoy the small music I can play. There were things I'd rather do otherwise. But my tutor simply wasn't ready to hear it.
I never showed up in his class again. To this date, I feel guilty of abandoning it midway.
I do wish that some day I'd get to play a little more with the piano in my home, for I am still fond of it and the little music that I do know. Failure did not snatch away my love for it. But as of now, my piano days remain a road of the past that I may or may not revisit some day.