I don’t know how it is with others; but any venture I undertake, I give up halfway. In fact, blessed is the occasion when I even get that far.

Years ago, I lived not far from the famous Mrdigangam player, the late Palghat Mani Iyer. This aroused my interest in that percussion instrument. My father promptly arranged with an old hand to teach me. This man believed in ‘Slow and steady wins the race’, and I, a dashing young lad, had harboured ideas of making it to the No.2 position in six months. After six months I was still doing rudimentary lessons. “Not my cup of tea,” I said as I laid down the instrument before my Guru.

I renewed my association with music two decades later, in Delhi. This time with the guitar. Donning a silk kurta and pyjama, specially stitched for the music class, with a guitar in hand, I felt on top of the world as I walked down my street in Karol Bagh. A few months later, the patience-incarnate teacher led me to a corner and said: “You have the making of a music director. You must try to become one. Because, at each attempt, you produce effortlessly a new tune.” He was willing to refund my fees if I gave up the lessons.

Unable to make any dent in the field of music, I went in for body-building, beginning with weight-lifting. The onset of winter arrested my pursuit, but I vowed to start again in summer. This was thirteen years ago. Anyway, what I could not achieve through weight-lifting, I tried through yoga, early morning walks and jogging, in that order.

The last (or, better still, the present last) venture was when I bought one of those mail-order gadgets which promised to make a Mohammed Ali out of me. The gymnastic feats at the recent Asian games rekindled my enthusiasm. I unearthed that instrument and renewed my body-building activity. But having enjoyed a long holiday, the springs in it just did not oblige; and my wife firmly disallowed a fresh investment on the gadget as, she said, the attic could accommodate any more articles. And there remains in suspense my body-building enterprise.

If things had gone well, I would have been hailed as Colonel Sundaram by now. During the foreign invasion in the early sixties, the country drafted college students for the army. I volunteered. One day it fell to my lot to be at the top of the line. The drill started, and the Gurkha Subedar shouted, ‘Daai”, and “Baai’ at will. My association with Hindi was still in its infancy. Obeying his command to the best of my poor ability, I found myself a few minutes later marching all alone in one direction. The Gurkha gave me a dressing down and awarded ten rounds of the ground. And that laid to rest my aspiration for an army career.

A few other stints include frequent decisions to start daily prayers (often after hearing religious discourses), half a dozen abortive attempts on the French language, resolve to talk less, and a few purely personal ones. But none of these has been able to survive my essentially easygoing self.

Circumstances also conspire to render the halfway concept possible. Since our children are grown up, I decided the other day to get rid of the letters my wife and I had exchanged during the intervening period of our engagement and marriage. Instead of getting rid of them, I was in the midst of enjoying reading them when suddenly my sons barged in from nowhere bringing the operation to a hurried halt.

Yes, the forces at work might be absent-mindedness, circumstances, or a raw deal, but things do manage to stick halfway with me. The only exception is that I have not stopped this halfway practice at halfway, but have carried it all the way.

P.S: This is my first post here. Thank you, editors and members for this wonderful forum. It’s a dream for writers like me.

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Sundaram Venkatesh

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