A prank in middle school changed this musician’s life

Lakshya Bhatnagar

Lakshya was a shy boy in school. But when a girl teased him, he teased her back and landed in the school choir as punishment. This changed his life, as this is where he spent most of his school days later. We caught up with Lakshya over coffee to hear about his passion for music and how it affected his relationship with his strict father, who believed that engineering and medical are the only two acceptable career options. Read on to find out how Lakshya’s relationship with music and with his father has changed over the years…

Lakshya Bhatnagar, Singer, Pune

Interviewed by Vinaya Kurtakoti

Why did you decide to give us an interview on music?
It’s easy for me to talk about music since it’s my career; it’s my comfort zone. I don’t have to think twice about what I say when I’m speaking about music.

How did you get into music?
I was never inclined towards music in my early years. But in fifth standard, I was punished for a prank in school. That was my first introduction to music. Now I’m working with Hindi music, but at the time I was introduced to English music like hymns and carols in our school choir.

Do you remember who the person was who played the prank on you?
It was a girl who was teasing me because I was fat. So I pulled her tunic and I got punished. I don’t remember who the girl was. I would probably have remembered this had something bad happened to me. Because I was pranked, the first song taught to me in the school choir was “Dennis the Menace.” That was the first song I sang for a singing competition in school in fifth standard when I won the first prize. People who never spoke to me before that started appreciating me. That was my first motivation towards doing more in music, because it would probably help me make more friends. But slowly I realized that it was not only a social tool but it was also my talent.

When did you realize that you wanted to take up music as a career?
I felt like I could make a living as a musician in my 12th standard. By then, I had seen a lot of musicians. I had idols by then, who I wanted to live like. But my family didn’t believe in any careers except medical and engineering. Most people in my family are either doctors or engineers or businessmen, and so they believed that only medicine and engineering would help me remain evergreen in terms of money coming in.

Lakshya Bhatnagar

What was their reaction when you told them you wanted to be a musician?
My dad and I had a very strict relationship, so I didn’t tell him that I wanted to be a musician back then. They knew I was inclined towards music because I’d win a lot of singing competitions, but they thought it was like a video-game phase that would pass eventually. I had been enrolled for both medical and engineering entrance classes. I knew if I protested against it, it would probably go against the plan of the universe. So I didn’t really put up a fight.

It’s a good thing that I didn’t score very well in my medical entrance tests, which just left us with engineering. My dad didn’t believe in donations so I had to take the seat that I got through merit, and I didn’t get a seat in Pune. I got admission in Kolhapur which I wasn’t happy about then, but it was the best thing that happened to me. I left home and music really hit me in Kolhapur. A senior of mine played the guitar and I was in awe of this. I’d only seen the piano being played for eight years of my life, because choirs mostly only have a grand piano; they don’t have guitars. So I started learning the guitar and bunking engineering classes to just learn the guitar on my own. I kept practicing and making my own music. My first few songs were written then.

 

music quotes

How did you get into music full time?
After marriage, my wife decided to give me six months to stop working and pursue music and see what came out of it. She said that if it didn’t work out, I’d still have the experience and the payroll, and I could go back to working. My wife was pregnant at the time. So I wondered if I should do it. I knew that this was my last chance to do something so I quit my job the same day.
A week later, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa happened. I was in a do-or-die situation. I was out of a job, with a family to take care of. That is how I gave that audition. I went up to the top 24. That was a life changer, because the entire country saw me. I started getting events on a very big scale after that. My wife never went back to work after her maternity leave.

What do you think was your greatest struggle so far?
Leaving engineering was a sweet struggle. At that time, had my dad allowed me to stay at home, I would not have taken life as seriously. His strictness helped me survive. I would pay rent in my own house. It seemed satanic at the time to me, but now I realize that he was only trying to make me self-sufficient because he knew that I had opted for a career that may not pay me much. I hated it back then but now I feel like it was very sweet of him to do that; he did it for me. Today I am on great terms with my dad.

On music - Interviewing India

How has music shaped you today?
It’s made me more expressive. Most of my school friends didn’t know me because I would not talk, or raise my hand in the class. So my music has helped me communicate with people. Now I’ve started talking and I have a personality and a good sense of humor. Music has helped me open up to people. Now I can go up to anyone and talk to them. I have this confidence only because music came into my life. I don’t think I would have been an extrovert without music.

The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic, but we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
I guess it is making someone comfortable. People keep trying so hard to express and to do things that they’ve seen… what media tells them is love, like giving gifts, taking someone out for parties and proposals on one knee, which is all great. But I think that love is making someone comfortable in their own skin. When you’re very comfortable with someone you don’t need to feel pressured about anything, I think that’s love.

Categories: Arts

Meet the interviewer

Vinaya Kurtkoti

Vinaya Kurtkoti is a Pune-based freelance copyeditor and journalist. She enjoys talking to people and listening to their stories – whether they are about old, lost friendships or why they cannot use prepaid mobile connections anymore. Anything you say can and will be used in your interview. Like her favourite fictional character Dirk Gently, Vinaya believes that everything is interconnected (some things more than others).

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