Mission Delhi – Pavan Bir Anand, Sector 44, Noida
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
On 22 March, at 5 pm, quarantined people all across India started to clap and bang their dinner thalis from their windows and balconies to salute the doctors, nurses and other professionals with essential jobs, risking their health to counter the coronavirus epidemic.
This was also the moment when Pavan Bir Anand made his public debut as a saxophone player. It happened from his terrace garden, in Noida’s Sector 44, with a balcony audience of neighbors.
“My only other performance in public was as part of an orchestra in a school in Gurgaon,” he says.
Indeed, the gentleman got hold of his first saxophone only three years ago. “I received it from my wife and children as a surprise gift on my 60th birthday,” he says, talking on WhatsApp video from the isolation of his bungalow— the picture is taken through the phone screen that connects him to The Delhi Walla.
The family knew that saxophone had been haunting the man since his childhood days, in distant Meghalaya. Mr Anand vividly recalls the orchestra he wished to join in Shillong’s St Edmund’s School. Amid the trumpet, the clarinet, the violin, it was the saxophone that truly spoke to the sixth standard student. “Something about its sound fascinated me.”
But then the music teacher left, the orchestra disbanded and Mr Anand “lost track of music” amid the chores of “routine life.” Which roughly translates to arriving in Delhi, earning a college degree, staring a business, getting married, becoming father to two children, and decades later giving up active work for a semi-retired life. But still. That young boy with a longing for saxophone never left him in peace.
Besides treating him to the music instrument of his dreams, the family also helped him find a music teacher. “Suresh Sir is much younger than me… gradually I learned to read music and was able to pick up techniques used in saxophones.”
One of the first things he learned was to play the score of the chartbuster “My heart will go on” in Titanic movie. The story of that doomed ship does feel strangely relevant in these times of global lockdown. Mr Anand smiles reassuringly, saying in his soothing voice that “we’ll get out of this crisis.” Anyways, each time he feels stressed, he climbs the stairs to his study on the first floor, walks up to the music stand and plays a tune or two.
Just last week he downloaded the tunes of “We shall overcome” and learned it in two days flat — in time to play it on his terrace garden this eventful Sunday. “But other people in the area were loudly banging their plates.” He, however, followed it up with the national anthem. “And I could see many emotional faces in the neighbourhood balconies.”
And now Mr Anand picks up his beloved saxophone and starts playing that same Titanic number.
[This is the 286th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Coming of age