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Theory:

8. That I can be so affected by a few familiar phrases on the bansuri, surprises me at first, for on the previous occasions that I have returned home after a long absence abroad, I have hardly noticed such details, and certainly have not invested them with the significance I now do.
Explanation:
 
Seth is surprised to see himself musing over a piece of flute music. He is amazed by the fact that a few familiar phrases on the bansuri had such an impact on him.
 
He calls the music familiar because a bansuri is not new to him. In fact, a bansuri features in most Indian classical or contemporary music. However, what astonishes him the most is the fact that he perceives the music differently.
 
Seth states that he had never noticed those details before. Moreover, he adds that he had never invested time or effort into deciphering flute music, nor had he associated it with the various meanings and significance he was doing now. He had never felt like that before, never during any of the previous occasions when he had returned home after a long absence abroad.
 
The only thing that is different now and then was the journey he had undertaken. Though everything remained the same, his long journey from China to his home in India transformed him, enabling him to look at things differently.
 
 
A flute seller's playing his bansuri*

Meanings of difficult words:
 
S.No
Words
Meanings
1
Invest
To devote one's time, effort, or energy into something
2
Self-PossessedTo be calm and in control of your emotions at all times
3
MeantimeThe time before something happens or before a specified period ends
4
EndeavourTry to do or achieve something
5
Flatter
Lavish praise and compliments on someone, often insincerely and with the aim of furthering one's own interests
6
NieceA bird known for its songs, especially for its high notes
7
A letter of introductionA type of correspondence, usually email, used to introduce someone you know to someone else
8
SuccessionA number of people or things of a similar kind following one after the other
Reference:
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. Kathmandu- Vikram Seth (pp.127 - 131). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.
 
*A flute seller's playing his bansuri: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRP9PrWOz4E&t=3s