Guitar music
The notes from his guitar have kept my heart healthy Image Credit: Seyyed Llata/Gulf News

At an early age, I had a penchant for music that aroused a strange desire in me to own a guitar or a violin. This rather unusual longing could land me in trouble given the fact that my father was a conservative man who would instantly disregard it as impious.

Moreover, buying an expensive musical instrument was totally out of the question and if my father caught the whiff of it, I’d surely land myself in big trouble.

I’ve been raised on a strict and harsh regimen that would eventually transfigure me into a person deprived of the opportunity to internalise self-discipline and responsibility. More often than not, my father would beat me for apparently no reason at all.

I’d get lashes on my back, arms and butt and the scars would stay for weeks. Though the physical ones have gone, those at the heart remain even today.

Apart from this, I was, however, fond of music from an early age and wanted to learn how to play either violin or guitar. The financial condition in the house was such that buying a two-time meal was a luxury.

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My homemade, basic guitar

Because young children are born creative, they fizz with ideas. With a small pickaxe, handsaw and few other tools, I managed to make my own ‘guitar’ from a wooden plank of a decent length.

Using rubber bands as strings after tying them across a set of nails fixed at two ends on the wood, my guitar was ready. It was funny though and my playmates would jeer at me calling me crazy.

Rubber wouldn’t produce any tunes but it would satiate my ego. My childhood craving took a back seat and I got engrossed in the routine of life without thinking too much about it. Time flew and I became a father myself.

A surprise from my son

My kids have begun to notice I’m a little different from the other dads. Many of my kids’ friends often tell them how lucky they were to have such a “super cool” dad. I was suddenly thrown into the reveries of my childhood when, to my great surprise, my elder son, Mehran, asked for a guitar.

“Could you please buy me a guitar,” his tone was soft. His plea cut through my heart like a knife and I promised to buy him a nice guitar on his next birthday.

It was 2018. I had just landed at the New Delhi airport from a two-month trip to London when Mehran called me up. “Papa, don’t forget my gift,” he reminded me. With an amount of Rs8000 (Dh400) in my wallet and up for a routine heart check-up at a hospital in Delhi, I wasn’t quite sure if I could get his guitar.

I had to catch a flight back to my home state the next morning. I hurried to the hospital. The doctor, who was to conduct a series of tests on me, ushered me to the cash counter. The assistant at the counter told me to deposit Rs7500 (Dh370). I held back.

Coincidentally, the guitar Mehran had asked for was priced exactly the same and now I had to decide between paying for my medical expenses and buying a guitar.

For a father though, the choice wasn’t difficult. I got out of the hospital and hired a cab for Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi and bought a guitar from a music store.

“I’ve just bought a guitar for you,” I told my son over phone. It would have lifted him off his feet, I knew.

The flight announced touchdown at the airport the next afternoon. Mehran was waiting at the gate. A smile flashed across his lips as he took possession of his prized gift. He doesn’t know I skipped a heart check-up for his guitar but I haven’t had a problem at all.

My son picks up his guitar lessons from YouTube and he has learnt it well. The notes from his guitar have kept my heart healthy.

Farooq Shah is a journalist and columnist based in India