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How not to sell a piano
A dream, which is too personal to be mentioned on a public blog, finally prompted me to take up the piano. I’ve been straddling for last two years or so – either my attempts at finding a teacher had been half-hearted or I hadn’t been sure about being able to pursue piano with due diligence – given the rigorous, at times unpredictable, travel regime at work. That one dream strengthened my resolve and everything else followed – almost magically. I was introduced to my teacher at a concert and was taking classes within a month of our first rendezvous.

My next problem was finding a piano. A real piano was (and still is) way past my fiscal reach - it could cost anything from 80,000 to 300,000 Rupees. I also had to ensure that this was not just another passing fad (I’ve had more than my fair share of ephemeral whims), before doling out such a considerable sum of money (which I am sure would not have been without the aid of a bank loan). So I made a little compromise and settled for a touch sensitive, five octave Casio synthesizer that came at just little over 10% the cost of the real thing.

I’ve been at it for 3 months now and though I am years away from playing anything respectable (say a Beethoven sonata), I am at peace with myself. The elation I experience while working out those simple (at times puerile) rhymes from my piano verse book, cannot be expressed in words. Few authors, particularly Milind Kundera, sometimes introduce a bar or two of a famous musical composition in the course of their main story to convey their point more effectively. To be able to flip back to those well read pages to play those bars out on the keyboard, brings you closer than ever - to the author, to the text’s essence and to the composer of the work.

I am now reasonably certain (and confident) that the piano will be my constant companion for years to come, and that certitude has caused me to be on the lookout for a real piano once again, albeit passively. I take my lessons on a real upright pianoforte. The rich tonality of its sound and the range of expression that you can introduce even when playing a trivial piece cannot be reproduced on a synthesizer. My neighborhood has a small shop that deals in antiques of all shapes, sizes and types. I’ve seen that shop sell everything from tattered chairs to old paintings to broken guitars. A recent arrival at that shop had been a black upright piano – and it was obvious to me, from the very day I noticed it, that the proprietor of the shop had little clue about what he was dealing with. Not only would the piano be moved in and out of the shop daily (in this rainy Bangalore weather!), it would also be, as if to add insult to injury, used as a glorified mantelpiece for displaying sodden, garish, old lampshades.

At last today, out of curiosity and concern, I decided to enquire about this much neglected antique:

“Is this paino for sale?”
“Yes”, “It is 80 years old”, the shopkeeper added as an afterthought
“How much?”
“80,000 Rs”
(In the mind of an antique dealer the mathematics was simple; each decade would cost me 10,000 Rs.)
“Hmmm.. would you mind if I take a closer look?”
“Please…one minute”, he fetched a key and opened the keyboard’s lid.

I leaned over the wooden keys and struck a few random notes. What I heard made me flee! Not only were some of the strings inside the piano broken, the hammers too were badly worn out, making it sound like an out of tune harpsichord. And while I am not sure of the instrument’s purported age – I am certain that the shopkeeper knew little about musical instruments. While the age of bowed instruments (violin et. al) is an asset, a piano’s age is its liability, its bane! A piano is a complicated instrument with complex arrangement of tens of strings, hammers, levers and keys. It goes out of tune with very little neglect and the unthinkable tortures meted out at this shop were bound to do what years probably could not. Unlike age of antiques, the age of a piano therefore, is like age of a lady – it is a fact meant to be concealed or speculated and should not be exaggerated or uttered proudly.

I am sure that the smart black ebony case would fetch its owner a handsome price but I am skeptical of that elephantine contraption’s utility as a musical instrument, unless it is resurrected at the hands of a skilled piano tuner.
posted: 6.9.04


Maybe you should gift him a copy of "The Paino Tuner" - educate him!

By Blogger Geetanjali, at 7.9.04  

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