Yash hated having to go for tuition. But his mother was firm. There was no argument that could sway her.

“I don’t need math tuition!” Yash cried.

“Start early,” Ma reasoned. “Last year you had so much trouble in the third term.”

“But eventually I got good marks, didn’t I?”

“It’s not the marks I care about,” insisted Ma. “You should get the concepts right at the very outset. Look at it from that angle.”

“And what about my guitar lessons?”

“In the Dussehra holidays,” Ma snapped. “You had classes all through summer and your instructor was so happy with you — you can afford to take a break from that now!”

Yash left the house in a huff and cycled off. “Take a break from what I like — but not from what I don’t want to do — and don’t need to either!” he muttered as he went down the narrow lane to the house at the corner, then locked his cycle next to the half dozen others. “A different tuition master, kids I don’t even know... at least last year I had my own gang and Menon Sir was patient...”

He was so busy muttering to himself that he didn’t realise that he was already inside a room with a large table in the centre and a number of young people sitting around it and staring up at him.

Yash stopped and stood awkwardly, wondering what he should do next. Then the ‘master’ — who was not a master but a ‘miss’ — looked up and said, “Are you Yash? Come in!”

Yash stared. She didn’t look much older than her students but she obviously had them well under control because none of them smirked at the look on Yash’s face.

“I’m Prashanti. Your Mom has spoken to me about you,” she said. “Since you’ll be coming only thrice a week, you’d better get to work.”

Yash sat. And got to work.

Before he knew it, an hour-and-a-half had flown and it was time to leave. His head was swimming with all the things Prashanti had done with the class — but it was a good kind of feeling, not a confused one. Prashanti didn’t have Mr. Menon’s fatherly manner — how could she? She appeared to be barely out of school herself — but she was okay.

Yash locked himself in his room when he reached home and strummed his guitar until dinnertime and after that went to sleep.

By the end of the next week, Yash had got into the swing of school, homework and tuition and even had time to practise the guitar. But he missed being with the group at his guitar classes — they’d had so much fun fumbling around together!

He was on his cycle, pedalling slowly away from Prashanti’s house on Friday when suddenly the silence was broken by the roll of drums and the sound of speakers screeching — and then voices raised in laughter. Yash stopped. The sound had come from behind him. He turned his cycle and went back slowly.

The noise came again — from the broken-down shed in Prashanti’s compound! He left his cycle beside Prashanti’s window and walked towards the noise — now more or less continuous drumbeats drowning out tentative notes from a keyboard.

Suddenly Prashanti came out of her house, her walking shoes on, and moved towards the road.

She looked up and saw Yash, stopped a minute and shrugged in disgust, muttering, “That brother of mine! Can’t play, but has a band!” and strode off.

Yash reached the door of the shed. It was open. There were three boys and a girl inside. One of the boys, Deep, and the girl, Sonia, were from his tuition class. They looked up and saw Yash. “Hey!” they called over the din and beckoned him in.

The drums stopped. In the sudden silence, Yash was at a loss for words. He noted that Sonia was holding a guitar, Deep was on the keyboard, someone else, maybe Prashanti’s brother, was on the drums and the third guy was fidgeting around with wires. All of them looked at him expectantly.

Yash looked at his watch. He often got home much later than this, when he was practising his maths. He cleared his throat and said as he walked in, “Do you want another guitarist?”