I recently read The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua which stirred a few long buried memories of my own experience of nurturing creative talent in my son. When my son was five years old, I caught him humming a popular Bollywood song–he did not know the lyrics but had caught the tune while watching and listening to the promos on TV and his rendition was quite good considering his age. I dismissed it as a fluke but was forced to recognize that there was some talent here that needed to be nurtured when it happened several times over the next few months. My husband and I spoke to him and introduced him to the concept of music classes and he was excited and appeared eager to start. While we realized that his interest could be short lived and a transitory phase which could wane after the novelty wore off, we nonetheless decided to give it a try.
Some of the teachers I approached were not ready to accept such a young child as a pupil. But I finally found a middle aged gentleman who though reluctant agreed to try him out for a couple of days. The teacher was impressed with his ability to sing in sync with the ‘shruti’ and agreed to teach him. Thus started a three-year period of music lessons and practice sessions supervised by yours truly. At first everything went fine—he enjoyed the classes and loved handling the various musical instruments at the music school and would come home and practice without having to be pushed. However, after the first couple of years, I realized that though my son learnt the songs effortlessly and even played them on the harmonium, he was losing interest and becoming resentful of the practice sessions. His unwillingness to attend music classes was evident but I coaxed and cajoled him to stick with it and hoped he would not quit. To spark his enthusiasm, the music teacher even made him sing and play the harmonium at the annual concert of his students where the other participants were much older. But all to no avail. He slowly and steadily lost interest and his reluctance to practice led to a few arguments at home, so much so that music, which was once a shared interest and a source of great pleasure and enjoyment for both of us, became a contentious topic. In the interest of his happiness, and peace at home, I gave him the choice of discontinuing his lessons and the alacrity with which he accepted the offer convinced me that it was the right way to go. (May be I should write a book called ‘Peace Hymn of the Mouse Mother’!!)