Taylor Swift was here
Eleven years ago, my saintly mother brought back a fully old and bad sounding guitar from my cousin brother Chandru, during her yearly Bombay visit. She had decided that it was time I learnt something cool.
Up until then, I was rejected from a number of extra-curricular classes. In Class 5, my dance teacher told my classical dance-trained mother that I “couldn’t even blink both my eyes together in a coordinated manner. Imagine hands and legs”. The teacher often made me stand in the last row of the class. That was where the nose-picking idiots stood. I didn’t learn to dance but I did pick up the nose-picking habit from them. When Amma once saw me furiously digging and holding out nose dirt against the light, she said “porum kutty, class lam”.
I could not sing even though I tried it at paatu class. Amma knew this too because whenever I sang ‘Kannathil Muthamittal’, she gently asked me to “give it a rest, Sanju kutty. Your throat needs rest”.
Since dance did not happen, sports could not too. I want to say ‘Lol’ to art but serious writers do not use such abbreviations in their work.
Ma’s last attempt at checking if I have any talent whatsoever was to put me in guitar class mostly because there was a sir in a building nearby who regularly played the song ‘Leaving on a jet plane’. This was a song Amma knew well so she thought the sir was really good. Going to class at a building nearby also meant no travel cost so it was an added bonus. It was only once a week on Saturday afternoons and he charged Amma ₹200 a month. This was much cheaper than all the other classes I had ever gone to so Amma was thrilled.
I too saw it fit. I was in class 9 and was just about beginning to watch SS Music. On TV, Taylor Swift was 16 and was singing to her lover about being ugly but still somehow kissing mouth to mouth in the end. I felt that. I was enamored by the world of kissing and thought it was a magical thing to do. As an exceptionally horny teenager, I thought I had no choice but to try being cool in order to eventually make out with boys so I said “Ma, this time, I’m going to make it happen”.
All my life, I thought everyone who played the guitar was supposed to be cool. I really did. On my first class, amma lugged my seven-year-old dusty Granada guitar to the sir’s house and said “He’s also apparently teaching for the first time, Sanju”. This gave me hope. As his first student, I was allowed to set the bar disgustingly low. He would have no choice but to train me because he would blame my fallacies on himself. It was all going to work out.
But it didn’t and it was not only because I was bad.
“You can call me Kay”, said Kailasham to my mother who was attempting to make general conversation before my first ever class.
Kay was as tall as Amma and Amma is 5’2. He was a bald-squeaky-voiced- rimless glass wearing- stock broker. He was 29 and unmarried based on fights between him and his mother that we could hear out of our window. Kay did not have any posters on his wall or a personality. He also did not know how to teach.
“Which song do you want to learn” he asked and I told him ‘You Belong With Me’ by Taylor Swift. He said okay and played a YouTube tutorial. We both followed the instructions on the tutorial. He learnt quickly and corrected me in the process. He told me to watch it again at home and practice before the next class.
Through the week, I could sometimes hear him play Taylor Swift through my window. I’m sure he could hear me practicing too. I tried hard. Even though I thought of him as uninteresting, I could still tell friends at school and tuition that I was going to guitar class.
At the end of the third class, he said he needed a contact number in case he needed to communicate about changes in class timing. I gave him the house landline and then he asked for Amma’s mobile number because he could communicate better through texts.
I stopped going to class. Amma told me “Class lam onnum vendam. Guitar eh kuppai la poi thooki podu”. I tried learning by myself but I was fucking terrible, my sister told me.
I heard the guitar sir playing ‘You Belong With Me’ many more times, particularly near the window closest to our house. Taylor Swift was here with him. In spirit.
In present day, Kay does not meet our eyes while walking on the road.
I kissed a boy in Class 12. It was absolutely terrible. Unlike singing, dancing or playing the guitar though, I turned out to be really good at this. Looks like I had at least some skills.
Kay apparently texted my mother last year once asking if she knew anyone he could marry. Amma literally wrote back “Do I look like a broker to you?”. He did not respond.
He’s playing the guitar much better now though. Here’s a video I shot. Strain a bit and listen. Or give it a miss. It is okay.
Disclaimer: This is all fictionalised.