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Archive for the ‘Carnatic’ Category

Alaipayuthey – My heart’s aflutter

In Carnatic, Music, Poem, Religion on July 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

 
 
krishna

 
 


Kudamaloor Janardhanan – Flute
 
பல்லவி:

அலை பாயுதே கண்ணா
என் மனம் மிக அலை பாயுதே
உன் ஆனந்த மோஹன வேணுகானமதில்
அலை பாயுதே கண்ணா
உன் ஆனந்த மோஹன வேணுகானமதில்
அலை பாயுதே கண்ணா

Pallavi:

My mind is all aflutter, Oh Krishna, listening to the joyous,
enchanting music of your flute, My mind is all aflutter!

அனுபல்லவி:

நிலை பெயராது சிலை போலவே நின்று
நிலை பெயராது சிலை போலவே நின்று
நேரமாவதறியாமலே
மிக விநோதமான முரளிதரா
என் மனம் அலை பாயுதே
கண்ணா….

Anupallavi:

Transfixed, I stood there like a statue, oblivious of even the passage
of time, hey, mysterious flautist!

சரணம்:

தெளிந்த நிலவு பட்டப் பகல் போல் எரியுதே
திக்கு நோக்கி என்னிரு புருவம் நெரியுதே
கனிந்த உன் வேணுகானம் காற்றில் வருகுதே
கண்கள் சொருகி ஒரு விதமாய் வருகுதே!
தனித்த மனத்தில் உருக்கி பதத்தை
எனக்கு அளித்து மகிழ்த்த வா
ஒரு தனித்த வனத்தில் அணைத்து எனக்கு
உணர்ச்சி கொடுத்து முகிழ்த்தவா!
கணைகடல் அலையினில் கதிரவன் ஒளியென
இணையிரு கழல் எனக்களித்தவா!
கதறி மனமுருகி நான் அழைக்கவா
இதர மாதருடன் நீ களிக்கவோ
இது தகுமோ? இது முறையோ?
இது தருமம் தானோ?
குழல் ஊதிடும் பொழுது ஆடிடிடும்
குழைகள் போலவே
மனது வேதனை மிகவோடு
அலை பாயுதே கண்ணா
என் மனம் மிக அலை பாயுதே
உன் ஆனந்த மோஹன வேணுகானமதில்
அலை பாயுதே கண்ணா
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Babu’s Gents Beauty Barler

In Carnatic, Music, Music, Short Story, Social, Writing Assignments on June 23, 2013 at 10:34 am

 
 

barber5
 

 
I entered the barber shop via a hidden and decrepit side-street. I gently stepped over Jimmy – that lazy dog sprawled across the entrance to the barber shop. It noticed me after I had crossed over and quickly stood up to wag it’s tail enthusiastically. Jimmy, and that included every mongrel here named so, practiced the art of the welcome at the slightest hint it may be required. This was the third Jimmy that stood guard at the steps in the past few years. I acknowledged him by calling it’s name. He must be a barber’s karmic avatar, just like the previous two, unable to break free from the cyclical karmic forces that tied them down to a barber’s shop. He let out a contended high-pitched whine that quickly lowered in pitch to a wide silent yawn as he coiled around himself for comfort and sleep.

I deftly pushed the glass door that had a life-size sticker of a smiling woman’s face with hands clasped in a ‘namaste’ position. This was all Babu the barber had to offer as a receptionist and I was OK by the lack of fanfare here. The banner on top of this shop provided me with gentle amusement. ‘Babu’s Gents Beauty Barler’ it proclaimed, mocking my fine sense of linguistic prowess and shaking my firm opinion on a gender biased cabal and profession. This was good. One already had a sense of psychological trimming-down outside the barber shop; and by means of a reverse meta-physical extrapolation: the real trimming of real overgrown hair awaited inside Babu’s parlous: The haircut.

“Come, come” Babu invited me in with his typical South Indian hospitality, anglicizing a word-pair borrowed from his native tongue – Tamil, that had a general predilection for reduplication. In Tamil, simply stopping with the single word “Come” would have meant giving the guest a partial welcome. An incomplete invitation bordering on business-neutral. Babu’s was different. This was home and it demanded completeness in all words, deeds and actions.

He said that out loud enough to mean a general invitation on behalf of the few contended men sitting inside. I could count at least three of them that were overstaying their welcome that only Babu’s could provide. Each one of them felt obliged at that instance to make light conversation with me sometime during the course of my haircut. A self sustaining bio-sphere of happiness. That was what drew me in. A momentary hypnotizing event, this haircut. I would pick on elements of this parlor, as I reclined on my chair to ruminate on it’s divine purpose within this cozy clam-shell of a barber shop.
rajni5
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The anklet bells went dead

In Carnatic, Music, Music, Political, Short Story, Social, Women on April 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm

 
 
 

anklet3

 
 

Bhanu Devi left the small water tap running while she scrubbed off the dried-up blobs of henna paste on her palms and feet. As the olive green henna dregs, washed away on the white tiles of a dimly lit bathroom, an intricate bloody-red pattern emerged on her palms and feet. She reminisced on her own wedding preparations of a long time ago.

“Not even a mosquito should find an open spot to land” demanded her mother to the one applying the henna design, a day prior to her wedding, some three decades ago.

With that, the design grew even more intricate. Bhanu Devi snapped out of this dreamy haze when she heard foot steps behind her.

“Don’t waste the water” said Meera Bai the prison warden, rather stiffly.

Bhanu Devi looked at her palms. They were flush red with the henna design. Yes, they were intricate. Yes, a mosquito will find it difficult to find an open spot to land. She turned her palms over to reveal an equally red finger tip and nails. She weaved her fingers together and imagined herself as a dead corpse. She would make a pretty one, she thought. She shut the tap, picked up her white saree and gave it a quick wiggle. She was prepared to die.

Meera Bai escorted her back to her cell. It was too early for the other prison mates to be awake. It was 3:00 AM on a cold Tihar jail Thursday morning, and Bhanu Devi’s anklet bells proved an insufficient wake-up ringtone for the deep sleepers. She passed Rupali the prayerful, Mohsina the beautician, Savitri the musician and Jamila the vaastu expert. The anklet bells were Savitri the musician’s idea. They were all behind bars, they were all fast asleep. They knew each other for more than a decade now. They were the survivors who lived past an alarming mortality rate in this notorious maximum security prison for hardened criminals. She stopped at her tracks, as she felt a tug at her saree. She looked down. It was Jamila the vaastu expert, kneeling down, one hand holding the prison bar and the other, Bhanu Devi’s white saree.

“Face east, you will attain moksha” she whispered fiercely. Having said that she let out a loud wail and started crying.

Just the previous night, Mohsina the beautician applied the henna on Bhanu Devi’s hands and feet. She was constantly reminded of her brief as the rest of the girls giggled – “Not even a mosquito should find an open spot to land”

Rupali the prayerful, read from the scriptures, but they did not have the patience to hear it. So she slipped into a love triangle Bollywood potboiler. “Rupali, tell us what you would have done, if you caught your husband cheating?” They actually knew it in great detail, and needed nothing to jog their memories. This unusual night was a last supper of sorts, and it threw up unusual questions. They already knew that Rupali had made it impossible to find any trace of the victim – her cheating husband, and his illicit lover, some two decades ago.

“Let us not dwell in a past where we can never find redemption. Memory only serves to confirm our rotten selves.” Rupali slipped into a simple sermon to an attentive audience of four that night. “Only action is a great redeemer, hence let us do good deeds”

Bhanu Devi leaned forward to clutch Rupali, but stopped abruptly realizing that she had pasty henna on her hands. “Thank you for keeping me alive in this dark world”

Mohsina the beautician pulled her gently back and signaled to Savitri the musician to wipe the tears from Bhanu Devi’s face “Just dab, not wipe. We do not want the kajal to smear the entire face”

Savitri the musician made it abundantly clear that the anklet bells be of the seventh note of the swaras. The “Nishadha” or the high pitched “ni” of the musical scale. “Nothing else would do” she had mentioned to Lalu the pimp, who was a tone deaf gate-keeper of prisons, and got it right after the fifth try. “Ni, you bloody idiot!” yelled Savitri the musician loudly into his ears. “Ni, Ni, Ni, SaRiGaMaPaDhaNi, Ni, Ni, get it?”

Lalu, finally got it by sheer luck. It was the luck of trial-and-error. The anklet bells matched the damned “Ni”, a high-frequency note that Savitri the musician swore you could hear from the other side of the universe. It was her damned idea, that this high pitched note, could be heard loud and clear from a distance. Even from the gallows, that is.

Jamila the vaastu expert, gasped for breath, by which time everybody was awake. “Do not worry darling, we are with you!” cried somebody in the dark and it was clear it was a male voice.

Bhanu Devi walked the 240 steps north, 300 steps east, up a small staircase of 5 steps, 34 steps right and across the multi-faith temple-mosque-church for lost causes to arrive at the gallows. “Hey, Bhagwan!” said the hangman as he nervously slipped the black mask over her face and proceeded to tighten the noose that he hoped would not fail. He was no professional hangman. But they said they will pay him Rs.5,000 if he gets it right. They forgot to tell him it would be a woman though. India’s first woman to be hanged to death. “Beyond rarest-of-rare cases” he thought to himself as he pulled the lever.

Bhanu Devi slumped out of sight and into the dark gallows. She did make a valiant attempt to jangle the anklets in the depths to produce the “Ni” that Savitri assured would reach their ears. That she had moved on from this world to another.

“Did you hear that?” asked Savitri at around 5:01 AM that fateful Thursday morning. That high pitched “Ni” reached her ears.

Three times before it went dead.

 
 
 
Notes

  1. Pranab clears way for first-ever hanging of a woman
  2. Vijay Madhav’s cover – ARR’s Uyire/Tu Hi Re
  3. The Death Penalty Worldwide
  4. “It’s like living in a graveyard.”
  5. Dearth of hangmen in India

 
 
 

 

Other Short Stories
bharathi raghu pieta
A Delivery in the Slow Mail Lesson One – Mayamalavagowla Gudiya – A doll that saved me

 
 

 

Lesson One – Mayamalavagowla

In Arts, Carnatic, Music, Music on April 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

 
 
Mayamalavagowla
 
 
 
I am a closet guitarist. When the institute where I train, offered me a chance to take a few free classes, I asked more out of a whim: you wouldn’t happen to teach carnatic vocals, do you?

Laxman, the institute manager, swiveled around in his chair towards a girl seated next to him and gave her two thumbs up. Then he swiveled back towards me with the same two thumbs lifted in elation. Responding to my quizzical look, he said, throwing a glance at the girl –

The teacher just accepted our offer to join us, about five minutes back! Your classes begin next week

I gauged her to be a pleasant 20-something. Every teacher here at this institute, was a 20-something and she fit in like a glove. It was me that was a bit fossilized at the edges.

I have been enjoying carnatic music for a long time. I remember it playing on our Murphy vacuum-tube-valve-radio of my childhood. It would entice me with it’s green-glowing magic-eye, like a firefly on a dark night. All India Radio ruled our house. A time before the advent of television. The gadgets of today appear to be post-armageddon by comparison! But I had never taken any formal carnatic vocal classes.

Armed with an old memory of having bagged a first prize for western style singing, a stainless steel lunch box, that we later etched my name on (for posterity, joked a sibling), I caved in to a heady rhetorical question – Why not?

I sharpened my two HB pencils and put it inside my soft leather pencil pouch. I threw in the sharpener and an eraser for good measure. Just in case we need that. There might be a lot of note taking. Don’t want to be caught without the correct instruments of this trade. I went to class with a mix of anticipation and nervousness. The guitar, on the other hand, was a safe bet, a familiar territory, do some fly-by strumming and pass off as an incorrigible junkie. Vocals sounded plain defeating. I was setting myself up for a grand fall here.

I waited for a few minutes inside our sound-proof audio room. Simple mercies, this soundproofing. I do not want the entire world to listen in!.

Did you guys meet yet? Laxman stopped by to ask.

No, I said, somewhat relieved.

She probably did not recognize you, he said, and went in search of her.

Why don’t we keep it that way? I thought, fidgeting nervously with my notebook.

Inside my head, I am a smart-aleck.  Outside, I wasn’t so sure.

She barges in, while I am still appreciating the sound-proofing materials.

Hello, how are you, I inquired in my super-cool natural voice.

I did put on a brave front till she asked me to sing. I gulped some much needed oxygen.

Did I hear that right? Me? Sing? I flatly refused to sing, to which she said –

You have to, or we will never know your pitch!

I thought to myself – She is forcing me to sing, is this even legal?

I do all this thinking, but she is firm in her demands.

I did some quick thinking and took out my mobile with a flourish. Brilliant, I’ll just sing-along. I played a carnatic tune by Karthik.

Big mistake.

I cannot sing like Karthik. I cannot breathe like Karthik. I am no Karthik. Here is what my mobile played:

 
 

 
 

The silly machine assumed that I will adhere to pure gold standards. Wrong!

I started off with my eyes closed. Closing ones eyes during such times is a very cool ostrich trick. I felt I had sound-proofed myself from eternal damnation. After about a minute that seemed to have lasted forever, I opened my eyes, expecting her to have run away or disappeared from the audio room.

But there she was. Unmoved. Unsympathetic. Not a trace of humor to break the embarrassment, in the relentless pursuit of music and it’s teaching.

The demolition was complete. Vestiges of my self-respect were visibly floating around the audio room. I coughed silently. Mostly to comfort myself.

I don’t remember all of the other details in this one hour session, as the carnatic vocabulary fell on me like a Chennai torrent on a tin roof. Thankfully, all bad things come to an end too. She proffered a hand-shake in the end and then introduces herself. Interesting, I thought to myself. She first icily demolishes, then she warms up.

The next day after my vocal misadventure, I open my notebook over a cup of coffee in the morning. Trying to remember what I had learned and hoping my note-taking will rescue me from a quickly fading memory. A near-blank first page greeted me, and one word, scribbled hastily on it, stared back at me – Mayamalavagowla.

Just one word.

I was overly equipped with assorted accouterments to scribble this one raga’s name in a notebook of 100 pages. The lessons must have glided smoothly over my head, for me to have trapped just one butterfly in an hour. I have work to do. This is a beginner’s raga. It should have had an easy two-syllable name. I’d have named it Ma-ya.

Oh! why did they have to complicate it?
 
 
Here is Professor Mysore Nagamani Srinath teaching her students Mayamalavagowla. Great for practice, I listen to her while driving, and practice with the windows rolled-up!
 
 

 
 
 
 

Other Short Stories
bharathi pieta pieta
The anklet bells went dead
Gudiya – A doll that saved me A Delivery in the Slow Mail