The most imposing piece of furniture in my room was a red drum kit. For no reason in particular, it was handed down by a senior from school, who I later dated for a short while. The set was a strong deep red, like that on the Arsenal crest. The package looked rather extrinsic in my room — with platitude pink walls — that I shared with my sister.
Apart from a favourite Chelsea poster that I was allowed to put up after much imploring, and a Power Puff Girls poster on my sister’s side of the wall, my room was bald. It housed a big bed, a dressing table and a study, all of which the two of us shared, and a cupboard and a side table each. The furniture matched the colour of the wall, and to bring the red drum kit and let it take charge, was an aesthetic sin in my father’s opinion.
Convincing him to let me keep the drum kit was colossal, but I managed to cut a deal with him, topped my class in the exams and he couldn’t refuse. He had failed to gauge the full impact of our agreement at that instant. My sister’s side table was conveniently thrown out to the living room, and that left me with a very dismal father. The set was humongous compared to the table that it replaced, but it somehow squeezed itself in and stayed, almost as if it belonged there.
Banik Sir would come over every Sunday morning. We began with learning how to hold the sticks firmly, correctly and with authority. Then we moved on to understanding the parts of the drum set and what each piece did. The snare quickly became my favourite. I loved the intermittent rhythmic staccato it produced — so powerful and deliberate. Finally, I was acquainted with the elementary 4/4 beat that made my hands shake the first time I tried, and my right foot wobble on the peddle like it had no strength, and instead of just kicking the bass with my foot on the peddle, I thrust all of my body weight onto the entire instrument. I was the epitome of klutz the first few weeks but I never felt the fear that generally fosters every time I think of picking the acoustic guitar.
I’d practice for two hours with Banik Sir, and the rest of the day by myself. He would supply me with Pantera DVDs to watch and learn from, and others with John Frusciante blazing his electric guitar, though only for the passionate purpose of influencing me with what he considered “good music”, which, for the record, I did too. “Emulate”, he’d say. I was average, just learning the basics, not with the intent of being the greatest drummer, but for the sheer joy of melody. Drumming became the teenage wasteland for the angsty rebel in me, particularly on Sundays. Banik Sir was a good teacher. I could see he loved the instrument. And Pantera. But I — I hated Pantera. I still do.
Spring came and left, as did summer. While I was pouring my soul into perfecting the Bossa Nova beat, my sister’s lonely side table lay outside — solemn, refused and spurn. My father looked at it every single morning, disappointed. He had neglected to foresee the longevity of my interest in the instrument. My mother chose to stay out of the matter, and my sister was surprisingly unaffected. I think she secretly preferred the drums to the side table too, but she’s a girl of few words. My father hadn’t expressed his objection vocally, only in contained scowls and forced frowns. And sometimes I could see the regret on his face for getting conned into that agreement. Slowly, it had started to feel like that’s where the table really belonged. Besides, my drums were definitely cooler. I was 17 or so.
One sultry monsoon afternoon, when I was busily trying to perfect my rolls, a barrage of complaints, in the form of letters, were filed to my father about the sound wrecking the sanity of my neighbours. He asked me to move it out. Bereft of any emotion, not even remorse, he summoned me and announced. My heart crushed, quivered and disintegrated like a burnt love letter. All in vain, I bickered and begged. And with hopeful eyes, I even took a shot at asking him to soundproof my room.
I gave the trap set away to the music society of my school, along with a chunk of my soul. I never saw Banik Sir again. And the side table was brought back into my room. It still sits there, proud and guiltless.
I often like to remind myself of the rather fading memory of my enticing love affair with the drums — imposing and loud. I like it. I like the energy, the drama, the chaos, the romance. Hell, I even like the disruption. I like it all.
As I type away, politely, gently, without any physical force, reliving the fleeting memories of the red drum kit, I feel a sudden urge to hold the sticks. And someday, maybe I will. But for now, I know that that magnificent red thing will be just a piece from my past.