RUMMAGING THROUGH OLD BOOKS
As you continue rummaging through old books, I would like you to know who I am.
I am the cremated one, sleeping with the rest, in peace, as you had hoped.
But one amongst you has been singing a soft song in the innermost layers of my ears. She’s been serenading me into a trance. Because I love her voice, I have been sharpening my ears to listen. Perhaps I can sing along with her.
A sweet bird singing at a high octave, her voice is waking up my neighborhood too. Rising, we are beginning to respond.
My name is Surjeet Kaur. Born in Punjab, India in 1840, I have ten brothers and three sisters. All thirteen of us are homeschooled. Our Pa teaches us to read texts. Rig Veda, Upanishad, Bhagvad Gita, Kuran, Guru Granth Sahib, to name a few. I can speak, read and write in Sanskrit, Latin, Brij, Urdu and Gurmukhi. My younger sister Suhanee once struggled with pronouncing some Sanskrit verses. I recall how she argued with Pa, asking him why she needed to learn such difficult words. What Pa said to her then, rings in my ears to date, even in 1857. “Girls must be the educated ones. If one girl learns, the whole village learns.”
We spend mornings learning lessons from various texts. Evenings are for recitations, recitals and discourses. At sunset, neighbors assemble in our verandah. Some read aloud poems, others sing songs of heroes. But in these past few days, our songs are hushed by the sound of trots and gallops of English troops. Coming for our ‘Qaidas’, our books of learning, they say they want to cleanse us. But why? Am I not clean?
My Qaida is everything to me. In all its pages, I have recorded Pa’s teachings from the day I could write. I have written out in detail, several Ragas. Bhairav, Bhairavi, Bilawal, Malkosh, Yaman, Kafi, Kalyan, Khamaj and Marwa Ragas, as to how they sound, their beats and taal. My Pa says that once I learn at least thirty two ragas, he will introduce me to Gianiji of Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab and I could be his mentee. Nothing in the world will make me happier than improving my knowledge of ragas under the tutelage of a master teacher. I will reach a higher level in my singing.