What's a Few Years Between Friends?
By Anamika Mukherjee
When I was a child, my mother had a friend called Mrs P. For a brief period they were neighbors, but then Mrs P moved away. She was in the same city, though, so every so often my mother would go to meet her. Mrs P was quite a bit older than my mother. She had two grown up daughters (in their 20s, perhaps? I was hardly 5 then) and one was a tall, strapping, short-haired, booming-voiced girl who rode a big motorcycle. I think she was my role model. (!)
One day, Mrs P died. I was still quite young, but I clearly remember that my mother was very upset about it.
As I grew up, I never forgot how dear Mrs P had been to my mother, even though so much older.
While playing sporadically with the BSM orchestra, I became a little friendly with Mrs F. Mrs F was way, way older than me. She was probably even older than Mrs P was when she died. But Mrs F was a freelance violinist like me (that is, she had no affiliation with or loyalty to any musical body) and she was game to play duets. So every Sunday afternoon I would drive down to her spacious, sprawling old bungalow lugging my violin and music stand on my (in those days) small and tattered old bike.
At first, we struggled along, trying to make the music work. Then it got easier. We got to know each other better, and we got to know the music better. We knew just what to do and we knew just how to do it. And when one of us made a mistake, the other one usually knew it. We would cover up for each other and linger a beat or skip a half-beat for each other. Sometimes we couldn’t quite work it out, and then we’d know that too and we’d catch each other’s eye and burst out laughing. Perhaps we weren’t very good, but we had a lot of fun.
Mrs F had a son and a daughter-in-law. Later on, as the Sundays passed, she got a dog and a granddaughter. These latter two became friends of mine. The dog would greet me at the gate and try to entice me away from music and Mrs F, to play with him instead. The granddaughter was usually asleep at this time, so we would try to play extra softly, lest our incessant shrieking wake her up. She usually awoke only at the end of our session, when she would be brought in to our front room on her way out to meet the dog. At times, when there were more formal visitors in the front rooms, I was scuttled into the large, dark old kitchen in the back for our afternoon sessions. Here we would somehow organize our two stands between the gas oven and the cooking range, dodging sundry bits of laundry hanging over our heads. The dog would lie at the back door, waiting impatiently for me to finish and go play with him. We never stopped for tea and cake, or even for water. We usually just played and played till it was time to stop.
Eventually, our idyllic Sunday afternoons came to an end. First, Mrs F went to America, to visit her daughter. Then I got busy with life in general and regretfully declined her repeated invitations to play together. But last Sunday, a month after she had called me and reminded me to at least visit some day, I finally got on to my bike (still the tattered old one, for old time’s sake) and drove the 5-odd km to her house. I didn’t take my violin: I just went to visit, to talk, to catch up. I did feel a little “shy” going without an excuse. But it was great! I played with the dog, said hi to the granddaughter (who was greatly impressed to see the huge big dog put his huge big paws all across my lap as I sat in a chair the front room; sitting in a chair being a highly unusual activity for me as we usually played standing up. The granddaughter had an unusual attribution for the dog’s behaviour. “He doesn’t do that to me because I’m a girl,” she explained. Oh, and that makes me a what???) and talked with Mrs F. But for the music, it was just like the old days.
She may have a mere 40 years on me, but I’m happy to count Mrs F among my friends. I hope she feels the same.