Till I finished my undergrad education, I was an Indian Classical music aficionado. This state of affairs stemmed due to non-exposure to the divine form of Western Classical Music (WCM), having been brought up and educated in the laid back little town of Bhilai and the not-so-sleepy-but-definitely-non-urban milieu of Raipur. My induction to the Navy changed that forever. The naval band, brass, percussion and all, playing their mellifluous tunes, was the only saving grace during an otherwise rigourous training phase at NAVAC (the Academy), that tested ones physical (not to mention, psychological) endurance to its limits.
For the uninitiated, a short treatise, on the canvas of action viz. the revered parade ground, is in order. The landscape was terrorising to say the least! Here, many a sorry soul, had bitten the dust literally, forced as they were, to run around the perimeter - often 5 to 20 times - carrying the (~6.10 kg) rifle up in the air. This, for misdemeanours that would, in the civilised world, have at most, earned a questionable look! Then there were the much dreaded Drill Masters, wizened (through an overdose of imbibing, and "not-so-diplomatic" visits to foreign ports, if one were to hazard a guess!), with their stentorian boom and a homicidal demeanour. Hushed whispers in the corridors of NAVAC had it that under the penetrating gaze of these hoary gentlemen (?!), doughty devils had been known to soggy their derriere; as for the state of lesser mortals, the less said the better!
Despite their imperfections, the bi-weekly parade, with the naval band in full regalia, was an event that I used to enjoy, much to the chagrin of my beloved course-mates. I think, I had this thing for music. With the band in full flow, the drudgery of the dreary parade used to be transformed into a voyage of nirvana. To the extent that, I used to look forward in anticipation to the fortnightly affair, with the zeal and expectation, much as would a beggar, famished and starving for days, await a full meal. Don't think masochism has any limits!
Enough of digressions. Let me get back to the story of my tryst with WCM, that had all the elements of a classic love affair. It began with a crush, meandered through courtship and love, and culminated in a life-long relationship of loyalty and worship. Once, during the parade practice, the band played a haunting but unknown melody. Promptly, I stole some time from the busy (and tightly monitored) schedule, to meet up with the Band Master, with a view to investigate the matter. Mind you, there were life-threatening situations galore in this exercise! for instance, the place where the band used to practice, was out of bound for us (as were most other places in the Academy). This meant that one had to sneak stealthily during this enterprise, lest one be accosted by one of the dreaded Divisional Officers (Divos) or his henchmen, for punishments for infringements could be brutal and gruesome, bordering on the grave. But, fortune favours the brave! So, without any untoward incident, I kept my date with the Band Master, and, the rest, as they say, is history.
The venerable Master Chief (Musician) Petty Officer Class II, SM Lawrence (if I remember the name correctly), opened up an enchanting vista for me that had hitherto been unexplored. There was no looking back thereafter. I was besotted to the creations of Bach and Beethoven. And, as if that were not enough, you had the pieces from Haydn, Brahms, Mozart, Strauss, Bizet, and a host of other equally consummate composers to contend with. Later, once the infatuation ebbed (to be replaced with a more maturer phase of love) I had occasions to debate the superiority/ inferiority of WCM vis-a-vis classical Indian music with some veterans and maestros in the respective fields, without any clear answers forthcoming. But, that's another story. In any case, why bother, as long as both forms of music contribute to unalloyed listening pleasure!