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Accord it priority........

Accord it priority, or else…

I should not be saying this but I am. Because I am hoping I have grown out of it and am now the sweet and shy person I have always yearned to be. Truth is, I was born a show-off.

From a young age, I liked to get the attention on me, and if you were the second youngest among 7 children, you would probably have had to do the same to get a hearing on anything you had to say. I remember once during a bustling, noisy family lunch wherein I could not tell others about it being my best friend’s birthday, I said in a raised voice: “Do you know Yvette had a bath today with 7 cakes of soap because it is her birthday.” Stunned silence, then a small slap on my face from the mother, with the gasp, “You little liar.”

Don’t get the wrong idea. I did not get into music to show-off. In fact, my two sisters and I were forced to go for piano lessons, to learn this and other ornamental skills, perhaps to adorn the palaces of prospective kings my parents wanted to marry us to. I hated those twice a week lessons – they stole from my play time, and the music teacher’s same-age-as-I sons used to tease me because I had fat legs which they called ‘million dollar legs.’

A relative called Fr. Leo Albuquerque came to serve Ajmer as Assistant … and then as Parish Priest of the Immaculate Conception Church, and everything immaculately changed. Fr.-Uncle had brought with him a little accordion, and I was captured for life. I picked it up, and found I could play it immediately, there was nothing to be taught; that is because I had finished II Grade Piano Exams through Trinity College by then.

Point No.1: If you want to learn the accordion, you would need to first learn the basics of notations on the piano. Not just basics of your right treble-clef hand notes, but the left bass clef buttons particularly. C-F-G (along with the augmented seventh), D-G-A- and stuff like that. If you do not have this knowledge before hand, you may be able to play your right hand fine, but end up playing the a C-major (the only indented bass button) chord as accompaniment for any melody your right hand is playing in any key. Ugggh. You just turned it into a discordion!

I loved the accordion because it greatly delighted little miss show off who lived inside of me. Also, it was so loud that it drowned every other instrument in the room and immediately attracted all eyes to you. At that time, Sound of Music had just been released. (Please do not do quick calculations.) At a school function, I played doe-a-deer-a-female-deer and the school hall turned crazy. Even the very French and very strict principal, Mother Damian, smiled lovingly at me.

It went on that way right through school – I was regularly called to play at important functions. I would pretend to demur a little, but naturally gave in eventually, and soon there was a fan club which made me dream of Hollywood and Bollywood or the equivalent of them in those times. By the time I reached College, I was asked to start a college band or group; I did and it was called Cash-Habber-Dashers. (Included a bongo player, a tambourine player, even a sitarist, and someone who played a mouth organ.) Don’t ask me what that meant. It was not my name. I was busy learning “Mere samne wali khidki mein” (‘Padosan’ had just been released), “Ob-la-di” (the just-released Beatles version) to drive the college crowds hysterical. They would make us play these songs again and again. My repertoire included songs for all occasions; like when Cardinal Valerian Gracious visited our college, I played ‘I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold’ for him on the accordion, sang it as well, and it started a friendship for life (especially after I went to Bombay and our office was near the Archbishop’s Palace in Colaba).

Point No.2: It helps to learn to play the latest songs on the accordion for they always increase the number in the crowds that throng to hear you; also to know a list of melodies for different kind of occasions. At some point I abandoned my one-horse native town for two-horse carriage cities … Mumbai, then Bangalore, and though I took my accordion with me, it mostly collected dust and cob-webs. Part of the reason could be that I started a serious relationship with Christ, and one of the first conditions to establish it was “death to self.” I had no choice but to fly little-big misss show off out of the ventilator and I did it willingly. Once in a blue moon the instrument would be dragged out of the dilapidated case that it was buried in; usually this was at Christmas time, when I would wear full red (to match my red accordion) and go around with the carol singers to accompany them as they went from door to door. I was not really concerned about the lack of communication with my favorite instrument believing it to be a swimming or cycling kind of thing – once learnt, forever remembered. How wrong was I!

At the Music Central launch recently, I was asked to play a piece on the accordion. It was grandly taken out of the new case made for it, and then calamity struck! I strapped it on, filled air in the bellows, got ready to play but found I could not. There was no soul connection. Nothing was wrong with the instrument but my mind and fingers were frozen. Not because of shyness but because I could not think of a single appropriate tune to play, and when I did, my fingers could not find the notes and buttons. I played some rubbish tid-bits and almost broke into jingle bells (it was April!), then simply and sadly unstrapped it, and tried to muster up enough dignity to by-pass my embarrassment. Some sweet guests and members of the family tried to say some encouraging things to remove my painful blush, but I know I had been a disaster.

Point No.3. An accordion is like a spouse. Dare you take it for granted. Hell will have no fury like an accordion neglected.

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