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When my father was a boy in India, he loved playing the drums.
He began to take lessons from the bandmaster at his school in Madras (now Chennai). Soon he was playing for the National Cadet Corps marching band.
But in his family, artistic ambitions were viewed as impractical for boys. His parents discouraged his dreams of a musical life. He was an obedient son. Upon entering college, he abandoned his musical aspirations to focus on his studies. Eventually he went to medical school, then got married and started a family.

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My parents paid for music lessons for me from the time I was 8. They bought me excellent instruments to play. They made sure I practiced regularly. Sometimes I was angry with them for not letting me quit.

By the time I reached high school, I was an excellent pianist and a competent guitarist and singer.

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It is 2 a.m. I am returning home from a rehearsal of a hard-rock cover band I am in. We’ve just spent a long night working on the latest songs by Cinderella, Dokken, and Poison, plus some older ones by AC/DC. After pulling into the garage, I begin to unload my synthesizer, electric guitar, amplifiers, and accessories from the car.

Suddenly my dad enters the garage from the inside of the house. He squeezes past, zombie-like, in a rumpled suit. Both exhausted, we barely acknowledge each other. He slumps into the other car and drives off into the night to attend to somebody’s emergency.

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In his mid 40s, my dad decided to reconnect with his musical skills. He began taking guitar and piano lessons. Then he bought a set of tablas: a large one and a small one.

When I would come home from college, my parents would throw parties. My family and our guests would gather in the room where the piano and guitars and tablas were kept, and we would all play the instruments and sing together. My dad would sit pretzel-legged on the carpet, with his two tablas in front of him, and do what he’d been dreaming of doing for the last 25 years. I could see the joy on his face as he would play his beloved drums.

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My dad had shipped me the larger tabla. I had asked for the larger one since it would be easier for the audience to see.

As I lifted his tabla from its nest of crumpled newspapers, a thought occurred to me. And this thought was just as true as if this were the only instrument he owned:
Decades after he had first done so, my father was once again giving up his music for me.

Ranjit Souri (rjsouri@yahoo.com) manages a theater school in Chicago.

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