Aida was four when she started taking piano lessons. She sat on the piano stool in her teacher, Tina Navaratnam’s house, and swung her legs. They were several feet above the floor. The piano keys dwarfed her little fingers. She looked tiny and the piano gigantic.
I drove her once a week to Tina’s house for her lessons. Tina made her laugh and soon a bond developed between them. Gradually she was able to move her little fingers over the keys and produce music.
Encouraged by Aida’s progress I started taking lessons myself. Jeyam Rajaratnam, that most patient of piano teachers, came over to the house to teach me. I got her to teach Aida too, and eventually, Aris, when he turned seven.
Miss Jeyam, as Aida and Aris called her, started preparing them for the examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, the Patron of which is the Queen of England. They diligently practiced their scales and classical music pieces. Although I refrained from taking any exams, the three of us would fight for piano time.
Aida obtained a Distinction in Grade 3 and a Merit in Grades 4, 5 and 7 and went on to take the Grade 8 or final exams of the Board. After his Grade 6 exam Aris decided he’d had quite enough and gave up his lessons, much to my dismay.
I struggled painfully on and after several years reached the level when I could play, not a Beethoven Sonata, but a Kuhlau Sonatina. I derived great pleasure in the Sonatinas of Kuhlau and Clementi.
Beethoven Sonatas were the realm of Amir, the most talented pianist in our family. Highly motivated, he displayed very early in his life a fervent desire to achieve whatever he set out to do. After completing High School, he spent ten years at Boston University in the US and returned home with a PhD degree in Computer Science. Amir had no Tinas or Jeyams or other piano teachers to guide him. He taught himself to play and today he continues to impress, amaze and delight us by performing his favourite pieces by Chopin and Beethoven, completely from memo
I bought my Petrof soon after Aida started her piano lessons, close to 35 years ago. Although I have had it maintained and tuned regularly, it has seen a lot of wear and tear, as my illustrious cousin Dr. Mahmood Merican, the Orthopedic surgeon, would be inclined to say when describing the sorry state of my knees.
I would depict Samad as a frustrated student of the piano. He tried hard but when, after going through a succession of teachers, he couldn’t make any headway, he gave it up in a huff and turned with a vengeance to the electronic keyboard. Today he is an ardent keyboard player.
One day Samad and I paid a visit to the nearby Yamaha shop as he wanted to check out some new keyboards. I wandered into the large hall where all the best grand pianos were displayed and tried out the most expensive one. It had a lustrous, silky touch such as I’d never felt before. My fingers moved swiftly and smoothly over the keys, as if there were some force that radiated from them to my fingers. Never had I played so flawlessly. Never had my Kuhlau Sonatina Op 20, No1 in C major sounded so good. Never had I wanted a new piano like that so badly.
When I reached home I went to my old Petrof and looked at it fondly. We had lived with it for so many years. It had become a beloved member of our family. How could I ever think of replacing it. There and then I decided that, wear and tear notwithstanding, I would continue to waddle my ever-stiffening fingers on its dear old keys.