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Music is Forever Episode 1: Music is forever.

When Sangeetha was three, she supposedly knew all the words to about 20 different songs. She could tell you which ragas they were in and sing them at a moment's notice. Her younger sister Rasika (then two) would dance bharatanatyam to these songs and create her own movements. Her elder brother Ram (seven) mispronounced the words but was never off pitch, and sat up straight as his Daddy taught him new songs. He was already learning complicated varnams at that age.

Once, they all stood around while their Daddy videotaped them. They sang saaa....paaa....saaa in long, solemn notes, their tiny hands propped on knobby knees. They were out of sync and ended in gasps. They began vara veena, only Ram getting roopaka thalam in steady series of three beats. Rasika (wobbling as she sat propped against a chair) just alternated between the front and backs of her hands, and Sangeetha corrected herself repeatedly to match her brother's movements.

Ram sang, "Vara veena mridupaani vanaruha lochanaraaNi"
Sangeetha sang, "Vara veena midu paani vanaluha lo chanaraaneee"
Rasika sang, "Vaya veena mudu paani (cough) lochina yaani"

They made Daddy smile proudly.

Today, Ram sings on the stage. Sangeetha watches him with pride. The days of geethams like vara veena are long gone. Now he sings another song in mohanam, the lofty nanu paalimpa of Tyagaraja. He sings with majesty, his voice no longer at the awkward high unisex pitch of childhood but at a deep, resonant masculine tone that echoes through the hall.

Sangeetha reaches over and squeezes Anil's hand. They are sitting in the very first row. Another hundred people are scattered behind them in an auditorium that probably holds 300. Anil is Sangeetha's boyfriend of 6 months. They are living together, to the astonishment of both their parents. Anil likes listening to music, and he isn't too particular about what kind. After a slew of guys who insisted on listening only to film songs or pop and found Carnatic music either boring or only marginally interesting, Sangeetha finds Anil refreshing. He's just as comfortable with rap as with a detailed alapanai, as long as both are good. His hair is swept casually across his forehead, and his bottomless black eyes gaze at the stage, while he strokes the back of her clasped hand with his thumb.

Sangeetha feels like a child slipping out of one childhood into another. She oozes away from Ram and those baby years, finding comfort in a new relationship where she is a wide-eyed child again.

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updated on 01/13/2013