When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade!

'But we have a joint winner this year and the second child is Jamini Sen. Congratulations to both the children.'

It has been four days. There was pin-drop silence in the house, except for the sound of the toddler, Jamini’s voice.

Her mom Basanti was dutifully doing her household chores and taking care of both her husband Prahlad and Jamini. But Prahlad was in a zombie state, just staring at the big ugly plaster on his lower left leg.

‘How did it come to this!’ he sighed silently.

Till four days back, he was a young and energetic medical sales representative, running from pillar to post and earning handsome incentives with every sale. His mediocre salary was not enough to give quality education and lifestyle to Jamini, the apple of the eyes of both himself and his beloved wife.

Jamini was almost two years old and the couple was already on the lookout for a state-of-art playschool for her. The couple belonged to the lower-middle-class strata of society. But their respective parents had ensured that they had a good education. Now it was their turn and they wanted to provide much more alongside a good education to their daughter.
But now with Prahlad’s six months bed rest due to his lower left leg’s fracture caused by his motorbike accident, rent and medical expenses were bound to eat up all of his savings. The state of no provision for daily expenses and the shattered dream of Jamini’s quality education were eating him up from inside.

“Why not shift to our ancestral home in the suburbs for a year?’ suggested Basanti. “We will save on the rent and can comfortably use our savings to take care of our daily expenses. Also, when did we have any playschool during our times? We both are enough to make our daughter feel busy and complete. As and when required, we will buy her a few more edutainment toys. You will be completely fit to do extensive travel within a year or less and then we can shift back to the main city and also give our daughter the schooling and life that we dreamt of.”

Prahlad was misty-eyed at his wife’s level-headedness and quite relieved to get a solution to his immediate financial problem. Within a week, the couple tidied up their ancestral home and shifted there with all of their belongings.

The pace of life therein was relatively slow, but the people around were kind and caring and filled with ‘desi nuskhas’ to cure Prahlad’s fracture. There were no malls and multiplexes to go to, but that hardly mattered as Prahlad was bedridden and his family was not the kind to go out without him.

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Soon, Jamini’s daily routine became more or less like her earlier one. But Prahlad was left with enough time as the only duties he was shouldering were slicing fruits, chopping vegetables, teaching Jamini, and playing with her.

One day while cleaning a cupboard, Basanti came across an old and dusty harmonium and an old diary of songs and notations. Upon enquiring with Prahlad she realized that both the items belonged to her husband, as he was an Indian classical enthusiast in his school days!

She cleaned both the items and placed them on a small coffee table in the drawing-room. Then she told Prahlad, “Why don’t you use your free time to brush your singing? It will be therapeutic for you and positive for the house.”

Prahlad was a little taken aback to hear this but he liked the idea. He started practicing one raga each day. After around a fortnight, just for a change, he practiced a couple of Rabindra Sangeet.

It was then he realized that Jamini came and stood happily beside him, trying to mouth the words with him. Just out of mirth, he taught her the first four lines of ‘Jodi tor dak shune keu’ song, like the way he used to teach her nursery poems. To his pleasant surprise, she learned them fast and soon sang them in rhythm with clear diction!

“Is she genetically blessed for music?” he asked Basanti who was sitting on the nearby sofa and sipping her late morning tea. But before she could process his question and reply, he replied himself, “Genetically blessed or not, if my daughter is interested in music, then I will teach it to her every day. How happy she was while learning it!” Jamini nodded her head in affirmation and smiled.

That day onwards, Prahlad made it a point to teach Rabindra Sangeet to Jamini for half an hour every day except Sundays. After all, everybody deserves a holiday. Jamini took to music as fish takes to water. She would often sing on her own without any support of the harmonium music while playing with her dolls as if she was teaching them.

Within a couple of months, Prahlad successfully taught her a total of four Rabindra Sangeet. The mere idea of his baby learning full songs and singing them without any flaw in beat and rhythm filled him with immense pride.

At the end of every month, Basanti would hire a rented car and take Prahlad to his orthopaedist in the main city, for his routine check-up and change of bandage. Jamini would also accompany them. She liked the view from the moving car’s window and the mandatory ice cream that her mother would purchase for her on their way back.

It was time again to visit the orthopaedist’s clinic and the whole family reached there an hour before the scheduled time. At the onset of the aforesaid clinic, there was a popular girls’ school called ‘Angels of God’ which had around five branches all over the city. It was one of the top two schools in the couple’s list wherein they had dreamt of admitting their daughter once she was three years old.

While passing the school en route, a bright blue banner with bold white letters on the school gate caught Basanti’s attention. She just managed to read ‘Swar Kokila’ and the car drove off from there and reached the clinic.
Once they were comfortably seated in the waiting room, she excused herself for a few minutes, walked back to the school, and asked the present security guard about the banner.

He informed her that it was an open singing competition for girls, scheduled to start in a couple of hours in all the five branches of ‘Angels of God’. After two weeks, all the winners from all of the aforesaid five schools would be called for the final round.

Hearing this, out of pure mother’s instinct, Basanti went to the school’s reception counter and requested the registration form for the ongoing ‘Swar Kokila’ competition.

Upon reading the form, she got to know that only two criteria required for participation were Indian citizenship and the ability to sing a complete song without any support. She further read that the entire competition was divided into three groups – Infant, Primary and Secondary.

The age group for Infants was 2 to 5 years and the registration fee was Rs. 1,000/-. Also, the choice of song for both the first round and the finals had to be the same. Without thinking twice, she filled and submitted the form and money, registering Jamini in the Infant category.

Then she rushed back to the clinic’s waiting room and narrated the entire incident to Prahlad, who took a couple of minutes to digest it all and started practicing ‘Jodi tor dak shune keu’ with Jamini in a relatively low voice.

After an hour, once his routine check-up was done, he requested the doctor to let him use the waiting room till his daughter’s audition was over, as he did not want to cause unnecessary stir and attention in the school’s auditorium. Like any good old samaritan, the doctor happily obliged and wished them luck.

Then the couple spent the next hour feeding their daughter, taking her to the loo, and tidying her up. Alongside, they explained to her the concept of singing on a mic on the stage of an auditorium, in front of strangers and motivated her by explaining how wonderful it would be when everybody will clap after her singing.

Jamini absorbed it all in her tiny head and eventually accompanied her mother to the school’s waiting room. She was quite fascinated to see so many other children around her and even got friendly with a couple of them.

Her name was called after an hour. Basanti accompanied her to the stage and was asked to stand at a distance. While Basanti’s heartbeat was at its peak with the suddenness of it all, Jamini was quite comfortable in the new ambiance and looked smilingly at the three judges!

After exchanging the pleasantries, the judges asked her to sing and the child sang the entire Rabindra Sangeet without batting an eyelid! Everybody around was pleasantly surprised. Basanti heaved a sigh of relief and said a silent prayer. The mother-daughter duo was asked to wait in the waiting room till the Infant category’s audition was over and the results were announced.

Once they were back in the waiting room, the first thing that Basanti did was take a big swig of water from the small mineral water bottles present therein. Then she called up her husband from her mobile phone. He also breathed easily and asked her to wait in peace without worrying for him.

After around two hours, the Headmistress came with a card bearing the name of the winner. All the present guardians looked at her in great anticipation. Without any further ado, she read out loud, ‘The child selected for the final round of ‘Swar Kokila’ is Tanvi Agarwal.’ Then she paused.
Basanti felt a sharp stab in her heart. ‘Will none of her wishes ever come true?’, she asked her God and then proceeded back to hearing the Headmistress who continued with her speaking, ‘But we have a joint winner this year and the second child is Jamini Sen. Congratulations to both the children. Their parents are requested to bring them for the finals two weeks from now in this school itself. We will also e-mail you all the required details.’

Tears rolled down from Basanti’s eyes. She cuddled her daughter, gave her a couple of kisses, and said a silent sorry to her God. Expectantly, Prahlad was also ecstatic at the news and took his family to a highway Dhaba that fell on their route and celebrated the occasion with a lavish dinner before returning home. Of course, Jamini had her mandatory ice cream post the dinner.

For the next fortnight, he solemnly made his daughter practice the same song for the finals. There was so much required to fine-tune and with each passing day, Jamini bettered her performance.

After one week, Basanti received the e-mail containing the date and time of the finals. The e-mail also stated that all the participating children of all the groups and their parents were required to be seated in the auditorium on a first-come and first-serve basis till the final results were announced. Also, harmonium music support would be provided by the school.

On the day of the finals, the entire family tidied up, dressed well, offered a small puja in a nearby temple, and left for the school. Upon reaching the school, with the help of his crutches and Basanti, Prahlad chose to sit on one of the corner most seats of the back row. Basanti and Jamini sat beside him.

In due time, the new set of judges arrived and after some formalities, the final competition started. The infant group was scheduled to appear first. For some reason, Jamini’s name was last on the participants’ list. Both Prahlad and Basanti were intently hearing all the children that sang before Jamini. Five of them were there. All of them were at least a couple of years elder than her. But all of them performed quite well.

Finally, Jamini’s name was called, and like before Basanti accompanied her to the stage and stood at a distance. Expectantly, she sang sans any fear or nervousness. The harmonium score fitted beautifully with her voice. Her song got over. The audience clapped. Only when her parents’ heartbeats started getting back to normal, did one of the judges ask her to sing another song!

Upon enquiring by other judges, she wanted to confirm if the child was really a music lover and student or just knew one song singularly taught to her for the competition.

A soft murmur went throughout the auditorium and Prahlad and Jamini’s hearts skipped a beat. ‘Only if I had made her practice another song for an emergency!’, Prahlad lamented to himself.

But Jamini seemed to be on a roll. She looked quizzically at her mother for a few seconds as if to ask why she never told her about this and then promptly burst into singing ‘Tomar holo shuru, amar holo shara’ a high-level philosophic song by Rabindranath Tagore, which translates as ‘For you, it is a beginning; for me, it is an ending’!

Jamini merrily sang the entire song, albeit with a few diction errors and missing beats, but she was only a 2.5-year-old kid who was singing a song without any immediate practice.

She finished her song and looked in anticipation towards the auditorium. There was pin-drop silence. ‘Why no one is clapping?’ she turned towards her mother and asked. Basanti had lost all sense of happening by then. The pressure was too much for her to handle.

And then there was a sudden wave of clapping and laughter. The former was for the child’s performance and the latter was for her confident rendition of a song way beyond her age and experience. The lady judge who asked her to sing the second song personally came over and hugged her.

Then she rushed into her mother’s arms who hugged her tight and brought her back to her seat, where Prahlad was crying silently but uncontrollably. Upon seeing his daughter, he immediately wiped his tear-soaked face and blessed her by stroking her head.

The family sat through the finals of the other two categories. Some of the performances stood out making the couple think that soon enough their daughter will also perform likewise or perhaps better.

Soon, the prizes were distributed. Jamini stood first in her category and received a trophy, a cash prize of Rs. 2,000/- and secured admission in ‘Angels of God’ for the next year.

Incapable of understanding it all, Jamini was happy with her trophy and her upcoming treat of ice cream. But Prahlad and Basanti were exuberant as the clouds of misery were now thinning and the beautiful, successful, and good quality life that they dreamt for their daughter now seemed within reach.

In their earlier and normal pace of life, could Prahlad have even recognized and nurtured his daughter’s singing talent? Perhaps, not. So, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade and everything will soon be alright or even better!

Image Source: Nina Majumdar from Studio India, Canva Pro 

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About the Author

Prity Poddar

Prity Poddar is the leading vegetarian Food Blogger of Kolkata. She pens her food posts on her food blog and thirty plus local, national and international food groups and multi social media platforms, like – Facebook, read more...

14 Posts | 26,589 Views

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