I am a married woman with three wives and many more to come. These wives of mine give me a very hard time whenever I touch them or even hold them. On pressing their neck for too long, my fingers are blistered. They hurt me. I struggle with them every time I hold them. I press their necks harder and strum their body louder till they finally give in. Then when we become one, we create beauty.
In case you still haven’t understood, my wives are my three guitars in three different cities where I live- Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. It was on a whim, as majority of the things in my life are, that I decided to learn music. I chose the guitar as it was deemed to be cool—not glamourous mind you (that would be the cello or the piano) –just cool. It was the summer of 2008 when my dad took me to a shady looking instrument shop and said, “today I am gifting you your life. Handle it with care.” I did not understand a word of what he had said to me. Nonetheless, I pretended to be wise and thanked him; promised to handle ‘my life’ with the utmost care.
My first love-turned-wife was a wood coloured gb&a with nylon strings and a great gloss finish. I loved the look of her. I had huge plans of taking her to school and flaunting her beauty in front of my peers; carrying her on my back as if I knew everything about her. It would surely make people jealous. My musical education started soon after this and I had high hopes from my first class. I had expected that I would pick up hotel California within days of joining these classes because after all it is supposed to be a classic, is it not? What kind of a guitarist would I be if I didn’t know how to play Hotel California?
This hope was busted in my first class when my teacher gave me something called ‘finger building exercise’. Basically these build strength in ones fingers and ensure that a first timer is actually able to produce a clear note from the guitar. They were excruciatingly painful. The speed, the right amount of pressure on the fret board, the strumming- all had to be mastered. That took time and immense patience. Now I understood what the line ‘played it till my fingers bled’ meant.
Not a very patient person by nature, there were many instances where I almost threw my newlywed wife out of the balcony or smashed her on the floor. But my dad kept urging me to go on. A tabla player, he knew exactly how I was feeling. The thought that he had gone through the same torture, was soothing. On one of my reluctant practice sessions, I managed to get one single note right. I will never forget how I felt that day. I was literally on Cloud 9.
Slowly and not so steadily, I finally mastered those exercises. It took me 4 months. Then came playing nursery rhymes on the guitar which was a little humiliating for a 8th grader. Telling my classmates that I was learning London Bridge was a sure shot ticket to getting raged and being laughed at.
There were six months to go before I got my first chord song—Zombie by cranberries. I can’t explain the joy I felt when I got that sheet of music in my hands. I picked it up within days and played it everywhere— to every family get together, every school function, to my sister, to my maid, to the dog, to reluctant neighbours, even to the milkman—I had it all covered.
By the time I learnt the basic chords, I thought I knew everything that there was to know about my now not-so-newlywed wife. Then, to burst my bubble came my first guitar exam. It was an eye opener. I knew nothing at all. I had not even gone to the stage where I could write the A, B, C’s of music. I still had to perfect writing A. That was surely a disappointment.
Over a period of 5 years of cribbing that I wanted to divorce her and yet for some unknown reason, forcing myself to be with her, I fell in love. Within those 5 years I grew with her. She got to know me and vice versa. Now I knew what she felt like. She got familiar with my touch, my moods, and my every emotion, I could channel through her.
I used to cuddle with her when I was sad, sing with her when I was happy and strum her hard when I was angry. I slowly found myself content with just being with her in my room; holding her and delicately strumming her with no particular tune in mind. We made music together and laughed together when I played a note that was oddly out of place in a scale.
Summer of 2013 I graduated from high school and came to Kolkata for college. Here in this city, I got myself a new wife from one of the most famous music stores in the city—Braganza and Sons. These people knew their music. I got to this shop and asked to buy a guitar. The man across the counter- Braganza uncle, as I would later come to call him, asked me what kind of guitar I wanted.
I had no clue, yet again. I told him what I had back home and confessed that I was feeling guilty of betraying my first wife. He smiled and said, “I know how you feel. First love is special but you have to make room for others or you would never know how special the first one is.” Saying this he handed me a black Granada. She was a looker. She fitted my arms perfectly and our pitch matched beautifully. Over a year and a half, I have come to know her. In the beginning she was difficult; she was different like my environment. But thank god she was consistent. This time the fighting was less, atleast.
My third wife resides in Bangalore. She is a black gb&a with a slightly low pitch. I have a weird relationship with her. We rarely meet but the funny thing is, each time we meet as strangers to each other. Each time I go back home, I am a different person and it takes her time to understand me but when she does, all is well.
Today I sit writing this piece at 1:30 am for just one reason- the reason might seem odd to you- but these three understand me like no other. They are not mere instruments for me; they are entities whom I communicate with. I don’t have to tell them how I feel. They know. It is so true when they say that music heals. I can say it with confidence because I have felt it. I promise to never let them go.