Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Piano Teacher

My piano teacher in Calcutta was a little old lady called Mrs. Beresford-Scott. She was one of the ‘Staying On’ (like the book by Paul Scott) Britishers. She lived in a small flat in an old apartment block on Park Street, very close to Flury’s the bakery of the time. It was a tiny flat. Her sitting room—where she held her music classes, had the piano, and a couple of sofas and a lovely bay window with some seating in the window. She gave piano lessons as well as voice lessons. I only went to her for piano lessons. But I remember a lady built along operatic lines, coming to her for voice training.
She was a strict, but good teacher. She really taught me to express the feeling in a piece of music. Though I got rapped on my knuckles occasionally, I was very fond of her. Sometimes, she played a piece for us, and she played with feeling, although her hands were old and gnarled.
Once a month, Mrs. Scott would go to the hairdresser (as I can recall). There she would be with her white hair freshly blued and set in determined waves. Those were the days of big rollers, large hair drying hoods and plenty of hair-spray. The day after the visit to the hairdresser, she would occasionally use a little rouge too, apart from her usual lipstick.
Occasionally, if she was pleased with her students, she would send one of us down to Flury’s to buy a pastry for each for us, as a special treat. I knew she was fond of me, because I practised regularly, even scales. I just loved playing and she knew that. So I was a recipient of the pastries quite a few times.
I went to music class with her for at least 4 years. But we never went into any other part of her flat. I don’t ever remember even using the bathroom there. Just the one time, she sent me into her bedroom to get something. It was a tiny bedroom, crammed with furniture. There were a few photographs around and I was dying to look at them closely, but was scared that she might come looking for me, if I took too much time. I remember seeing these pictures on a dresser, of a young man in uniform. I couldn’t resist looking at that photograph closely, as it was at eye level. I wondered whether it was her son. She never spoke of family—husband or children. Never once in those 4 years, did I ever see any visitors in her flat.
Many years later, my sister was living in Calcutta, on Park Street, not far from where Mrs. Beresford-Scott had lived and my sister found out that she had passed away quite a few years before. May she have found music aplenty on the other side.