October 10, 2006

Drummer girl

Somewhere around midday on Saturday, I stroll down a long corridor to the Music Club. I know various people have been practicing for a music show that evening, and I have been stopping by every now and then to listen. On earlier visits, the band from our time, reunited for this event, belts out "Radar Love" and "Coming into Los Angeles" ("Coming into BITS Pilani"); the Music Club guys play some other rocking tune.

This time too, there's some serious drumming I can hear behind the closed door.

So I knock. Drums drown it out. Knock again, louder. Drowned out still. Bang with my fist. Kick the door. Rat-tat-tat with a set of keys. Yell through a tiny hole in the door. Pound again with my fists.

People in the cafeteria, just next door, are starting to turn their heads in wonder at the sight. It could hardly be every day that an aging alumnus turns up and starts screaming and pounding at a random door on campus. What's with these 25th-year reunion nutcases, I can see it written all over their faces.

Just as I think of giving up, just as the cafeteria people seem ready to call the dreaded Institute Authorities, the door opens. It's a slender young lady in her fourth year at BITS, Ambily Sivadas, who's standing there. She smiles radiantly up at me and goes right back to her seat at the drums. Picks up the sticks and resumes where she left off. Here by herself, nobody else in the Music Club, she's practicing the drums with energy and verve. Hours later, she will be on stage in the Auditorium, performing with a panache I would not have believed had I not seen it. Right now, she's practicing on her own for that splendid performance.

All through the trip back to this campus we love, we've been talking of, marvelling at, the changes here. Right here in the Music Club is one of those changes, young Ambily. A woman drummer? No disrespect to the lovely ladies of our class, but really, what a thought! And I tell you, she beats out one mean rhythm.

Helllll-ooooo BITS Pilani! I swear, you look better than you ever did.


(One of possibly a few vignettes about a trip about a hundred of us made back to our college, 25 years after we graduated).


Anonymous said...

I remember all-female rock bands when I was in college (1991). That's guitar, bass, drums.

It's a good question though, why women aren't commonly found playing some instruments. In jazz, there have been some great pianists (Marian McPartland, Diana Krall) and violinists (Regina Carter), but hardly any horn players, bassists or drummers of significance. (I have seen lots of amateur women playing these instruments though.) In carnatic music, female violin, veena or flute players are common, mridangam or ghatam players are almost unknown. It can't just be a question of physical strength or ability.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dilip,
Am sure it does feel amazing to be back at the place where we all love to be... happens to me everytime I visit Xavier's (I am the guy whom you 'encountered' on the road)...
Btw, If time allows you, do visit my blog for my latest post. Need your opinion. My friend wants to publish it in Mumbai Mirror as a news report!
Your writing rocks as always and am a frequent visitor to your blog although I do not comment!

Anonymous said...

ah bits pilani! that great storehouse of iit rejects.

Dilip D'Souza said...

> that great storehouse of iit rejects.

And proud of it! Grateful too. I assure you.

Anonymous said...

i dont know man...i couldnt afford to go to bits pilani. so i had to slog my balls off in my 12th and go to iit. bits pilani is for rich kids.

Dilip D'Souza said...

i had to slog my balls off in my 12th...

Don't feel bad. I hear there are modern reconstructive surgery methods becoming available to address this situation.

Besides, when you do this again, do start slogging a wee bit before your 12th.

Anonymous said...

not expensive? perhaps not for you, oh sons and daughters born in the lap of luxury.

sorry for reminding you i made it through life through my own efforts, not to mention 'merit', while you didnt have to work especially hard thanks to wealthy pops.

Anonymous said...

As one anonymous to another: rich pops are desirable. Don't be upset if yours was not, I am sure he is a good man who does his best. If you do even better than your pop, La Graduate IIT Sans Testes, you will be a rich pop and you can send your children to BITS. There is hope, do not despair.

Anonymous said...

you can get educational loans these days. in my time, fees at iit was rs 100 or thereabouts per semester. fees at pilani was in thousands, by far beyond our ability to pay. consequently, only wealthy kids went to pilani. did dsouza have any poor classmates? i had many in iit. i was relatively well-off compared to some of my batchmates. i do not know what their castes were because iit was a 'merit'ocracy and nobody gave a rat's ass about caste or class.

sorry to remind you of your privileged background. it must be hard to live with the fact that you got a free ride all your life and now put up a facade of social consciousness.

Merrin said...

Alright, since the drummer girl is no more in discussion, may be I can help. Ambily was my roomie in the first 2 years and now my wingie.

She has this undying enthusiasm when it comes to music. She joined the club as a vocalist and now is the 'lead drummer'. Sad, because 'the drumming' restricts her sweet voice(calling it just voice wouldn't do her justice) to a couple of songs every Music Nite.

Ok then.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the discussion has moved from Drummer Girl to BITS Beat ............... East or west North or South BITS is one of the Best.

Anonymous said...

BITS Music club has got another female drummer, Prerana Manvi, who happens to be the current secretary. She, too, joined the club as a vocalist and picked up drums.

Saby John said...

Ah, the lovely Ambily! She seems to have managed to brew a storm in the tea cup by simply being the subject of Dilip's musings! I witnessed that performance, Dilip, and many others by the little lady before and after that :)
Ambily is this awesome (and rare) combo of beauty, brains and multi-faceted talent. I had the privilege of being her teacher and am proud to inform you that our little drummer girl is now pursuing doctoral studies in Bioinformatics in a premier US University with a full scholarship, purely on the power of her merit. I hope she still plays the drums though, it was so much part of her persona, that I think I wouldn't recognize her if she stopped playing... somehow.