History repeats itself

Recently there were mail exchanges in my Engineering E-group on open air saloon experience of one Rajan Raghavan during the currnt Covid Pendemic. More friends followed it up with their personal stories, including one from Singapore. That reminded me of a bizarre experience in a 4* hotel in Lucknow still having some archaic practices

Lucknow’s only Star Hotel till 1990 was Carlton. In 92 or 93, ITC started their operations in Lucknow with the first 5* Hotel Gomathy and from the Hotel room one could get a magnificent view of the river.

My Carlton stays were nightmarish as I had to share  the room with a couple of bandicoots and I was woken up by not mid-night knocks, but early morning ones of a man who was carrying a black box in his hand on which was painted in white “Carlton Barber”. More surprises followed as I went to the restaurant for B/fast. All waiters looked to be in their 60s and the uniform also looked old and did not seem to have visited Gomathi in a years’ time. One waiter lazily came to my table and placed a glass of water and a plate of 2 hot crisp jilebis. The Hotel seemed determined to dish out alternating bundles of annoyance and amusement and predictably I was annoyed at the waiter and I told him I didn’t order the sweet and having sweets so early in the day was not my idea of a perfect day. The water said that was the tradition of the hotel and pointed out that it was complimentary from the Hotel. While waiting for  my  customary b/f of aloo parantha and dahi with achaar, I quickly gobbled up the 2 jilebis which were heavenly. I anyway was born with a sweet tooth. No more surprises from then on and the b/fast was very tasty and even today Carlton Parantha with  Desi ghee remains my reference b/fast.

Hello God! Are you there?

How we wish there is an answer!

1) No God:

Atheism as it is prevalent now and is practiced by people like Kamal, Stalin, Veeramani, you etc. For this lot of unfortunate of people, simply there is NO God. No pillaiyar, Sivan, Vishnu and so on. But these people will participate in other religious functions like Ramadan, Christmas etc

2) One God

People who worship just one God like Christians worship Jesus amidst a lot of confusions like Is Jesus god or messenger of the god. Similar confusion of god/Messenger exists in Islam too. That is understandable, because they have common roots.

3) Only God

Advaitam/Hinduism says there is only god. Humans/animals/all inanimate objects like a fountain pen to a mountain Range, rivers, ocean, the space, all plants, rocks, stones etc is God for an evolved Hindu. Advaitam literally means “ No two things”. Simple example is Sea/Waves. Are they the same or different? The one that is omnipresent and omnipotent is God. Einstein and Stephen Hawking subscribed to this concept.

Advaitam was propounded by Adi Sankara. Yet, it was him who created the master-pieces like Bhaja Govindam, Soundarya Lahari, Lalitha Sahasra namam, Kanakadara Sthothram etc. A man who knew God was formless, wrote so many Sanskrit classics on various god forms and Each one is but a small fragment of the same supreme, .

Ways of realizing this Truth

There are 4 ways of realizing this, namely Bhakthi margam, Karma margam, Yoga margam and Gnana margam. Adi Sankara and Krishna both recommended Bhakthi margam and Krishna in Geeta prescribes combination of Bhakthi and Karma margams.

Where am I:

I am now nibbling at the farthest end of Advaita as seen by Adi Sankara. So, I get much less involved in the rituals, particularly when we are just a couple and we live in nucleus family. All family members are in the same boat. Even if the spirit wills, I am aware of my physical limitations. PD had been my partner for 16 yrs now!

The most significant reading that enabled my quick transition from agnostic to an Advaiti is a 75 pages PDF document which is an extract from the book “Dialogues with the Guru”. This will answer all questions, objectively with unrelenting scientific temper. There are many instances when the Guru rephrases the question of the disciple, to a more objective form and will encourage the disciple to find the answer.

Guru: Sri Chandrashekar Bharati Maha Swamigal (1892-1954) 34th Pontiff (1912-1954) of Sri Sharada Peetam, Sringeri

Math was Music to My Mama Dr.Ramabhadran

Eulogy from his nephew Sankaran

The first visual memories of my Mama was as a Math Wizard (Rama Bhadran PhD). As Crazy Mohan used to tell in his plays, he was my ” one left Mama ” He left us on 1st Jun around 10pm. (Onnu vitta mama – he was my mother’s Chittappa’s son).

He married a little late as he was smitten initially by the math bug. But how long can a PhD stay a bachelor? Soon he married Raji Mami, sister of his fellow academician & Vice Principal of National College in Trichy, Dr.Rajamani. Mami also was a professor of English and History teaching In Trichy Holy Cross College. They have two daughters Anupama and Anurekha, both well settled in the US.

We lived one km off each other in Trichy and whenever I visited home from RECT, I would visit Mama’s family. Each one of the family held different interest to me. Anupama & Rekha as chubby kids, 3yrs and 1 yr old were ideal bunnies for all my pranks and Mami fondly recollects them even now. But, Mama has left us.
During the 1st year at RECT, in English there was a chapter on Victor Hugo In the non-detailed section. While describing the nature of the man, the author says Victor Hugo retained a child-like enthusiasm for anything new he came across. In any conversation Mama and I had and we had so many, I could see a twinkle in his widening eyes and when he understood the topic, his face would express complete happiness, no matter who he learns from, a grand master or a kid or a half-baked person like me. Can’t see that glint and the transiting expression of worry to complete joy anymore as my Mama has left us.
Mama was born in 1932 to a leading lawyer Shri.Narayanaswamy in Mannargudi. Mama’s chithappa Shri. (Raja) Gopalan was the biggest influence in Mama’s life. He is the grandmaster I was referring to and he started math boom of grads, PGs and PhDs . My mother, in the process became the first lady grad (Math) of the family. Shri Gopalan learnt music from the redoubtable Tiger Varadachari, along with giants of Carnatic Music like GNB, MD Ramanathan, Dr. S. Ramanathan etc. He was close to GNB as his eldest brother (my Thatha) Shri. Ramaswamy Sastrigal and GNB’s father were colleagues in Hindu High School in Triplicane. GNB is said to have been so fascinated by Shri. Gopalan’s dileanation of Karaharapriya that he told Shri Gopalan that he will never sing Karaharapriya as a mark of respect. So, there is very little of Karaharapriya sung by GNB.
Shri Gopalan was posted in BARC Karachi as a Scientist and during partition he shifted to Bombay. Mama joined Chittappa in Bby to do research in Math and learn music from him. I am able to visualize the innumerable moments of ecstasy he would have experienced while learning music from the great man. I was able to experience the ecstasy, vicariously during our chat sessions , which would really be lec dem sessions. Mama had a Semmangudi kind of voice, gruffy. I would throw raaga names and he would do a brief alapanai or sing a popular song in the Raga. Ahiri he sang is still fresh in my mind. He would demonstrate the difference between Khambodhi & Sankarbharanam telling just one swara’s absence in Avarohanam makes so much difference. He would have been such a great teacher to me.
He bought a scooter (I think Vespa Circa 1974 ) and had pulled it down to the last bolt and nut. He wanted to understand it. Victor Hugo at work again! One week later I saw him driving. I wonder if he managed it himself or needed a mechanic. If it is the mechanic, he would have learnt a thing or two in Automobile Engineering.
I remember Mama learning ‘sta’ version of Tamil Language which we developed in RECT. His joy knew no bound when he cracked the grammar but wasn’t happy with the speed he achieved. He liked the use of expressions like the “second and third order derivatives” in that language.

I thought Telecom slipped through his grip. He had many questions to ask and I came out unscathed owing to my marketing skills, or so I believe. Another victim of Mama’s endless pursuit of perfection was Homeopathy. Half measures is not his cup of tea. He studied and qualified himself to practice homeopathy. But, he dumped Homeopathy calling it short of fraud.
He visited his daughters in the US a few times and would spend a couple of months or more and he would have done a complete study of the atlas and road maps even before starting. As a result, he would never find any place new!
About 12-14 years ago, he underwent a by-pass surgery at Apollo and I dropped in for a visit. He advised me to follow Vivekananda’s preaching and the one he picked for me was to banish fear and also to follow Adi Shankara and forget every other Guru in between.
I could never have enough of him and for that reason alone I hate PD. He was quick to spot my movements were slower than usual and made enquiries during my father’s sadhabhishekam. He recalled the speed with which I would speak the ‘sta’ language.
My last conversation with Mama was on an esoteric topic but about math and mathematicians. He said mathematicians are 200 yrs ahead of the rest. I asked him if it was his intuition, he gave a meaningful smile and said it is a fact though it might sound like fiction. In the meantime, my body had started sending signals to me of the of the imminent arival of my unwelcome visitor Mr.Parkinson and hurriedly said Good Bye to Mama.
He was not an excessively religious person. I guess his levels of understanding of religion and god would be like that of Stefan Hawking or Einstein or the likes. But Mama’s exposure to Carnatic music which is Bhakti or Bhava-laden and the society that existed during his first 35yrs, would ensure safe journey of his soul, for my hero has left his body for students of Ramachandra Hospital

He was my only left Mama of the three I had and he too has left now, but after fulfilling his karmic duties.


RTP Structure & Appreciation
(For the beginners by a novice with a lot of listening experience)
Ragam dileanation or Alaapanai (Alaap) is done in three parts.
1) Madhya Sthayi or the mid octave
2) Ucha Sthayi or the higher octave
3) Mandira Sthayi or the lower octave in that order, normally. Sthayi refers to the pitch.

All three parts will be rendered at slow/vilambit and 2 higher speeds. Beginners will find Ucha sthayi exhilarating. In terms of duration, madhya sthayi will take 40% of alaap, ucha sthayi will be take another 40%and mandira sthayi will take the remaining 20% of Alaap. Percussion Instruments are not used in alaap.
Thanam: This will take about sametime as the third phase of alaap. Thanam is singing the same raagam using the word Thanam several times in a nice rhythmic way. Normally no percussion instrument is used while singing thanam.
Palghat KVN, during his visit to Blore circa 1983 under the aegis of SPICMCAY while performing at the IISc, sang a unique Todi RTP, during which he had Trissur Narendran playing the Mridangam , while singing .Thanam, He explained to the stunned audience that this was an old practice of the Trivandrum Palace, It was so good and different, I feel somebody can reintroduce the idea. Wonder, if any trade-mark or Royalty (pun un-intended) issues would be there!
Pallavi & Niraval
Pallavi is usually, a one liner or two at best like a Doha or Thirukural. The musician will play around with the pallavi line presenting to the audience all his wares (acquired skills through rigorous practice/Sadhakam /Riaz) – Left Brain component) and interpretation of the raagam by bringing out all possible hues of the Raga (Creativity which is the Right Brain Component) This stage is called the Nereval. For Nereval the musician will choose the phrase to end each line of the Neraval. Neraval in general and particularly Use of Aahkaram ( Singer will introduce Between each letter of the phrase chosen for nereval .for e.g. if the chosen phrase is Amba Kamakshi, Aahkaram will be ‘aahaha’ Mahaha’ ‘Bahaha’ ‘aahaha’ etc) will make the session exhilarating .

Swara- prastharam:
Completion of the neraval, will lead to Swara-prastharam, which is again a type of Neraval, but the singer uses the basic Swaras that make the raga. Chosen word will be the same and the musician uses the given swaras for the ragam. It is a big-time mathematical exercise. You can see Sanjay Subramanian’s 25 min talk on a documentary on GN Balasubramanian’s music where he says for the great master Math (Kanakku-the Tamil word for Math) effortlessly falls in place. The last iteration of swaram would be longish, covering all three octaves in all the speeds and not a single beat missing for anyone on stage, will whip up a seemingly eternal frenzy and a transient tranquility.
This is a percussion ensemble, where one or more percussionists (Mridangam, Ghatam, Mohrsing, Kanjira, Thavil, Tabla) they play on their respective instruments whatever the mridangist plays. Each phrase will shorten as the percussion war escalates. In between there would be dialogues between them and Ghatam guy can steal the thunder by throwing the pot (the Ghatam) and catching it with out missing the beat. People with a good sense of thalam (like peole who have learnt music properly or Bharata Natyam Dancers) can appreciate the Thani-Avardhanam better. Usha can and I can’t. But I dont walk out of concerts during Thani which is happening even now.

Oh for those True Legends!

There are such poems on a few more near winners,
Or shd they be called close losers,
Losers all the same,
Consider the great Zico,
He bent it better than Beckam,
But cometh the moment, cometh the failure,
Against an ordinary Joel Bats!
Boris Spassky, let the UssR down closely on the heels of the cuban war in the iconic battle of Reijkyavich. Cometh the hour, cometh the failure against the Goat chess player Bobby Fisher.Compare that with Gary Kasaparov. Trailing 5-1 against the eternal favourite of the establishment Anatoly Karpov. Gary won 3 consecutive games reducing Karpov to a near nervous wreck.The match was called off to conserve Karpov.But he lost again in the re-match. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Jimmy Connors is another close loser, loser all the same. He lost many closly fought and one-sided matches, against Borg and John Mac. But Jimmy stayed a fighter and believed he would win until he lost.
But it hurts the reporters and the fans to see someone lose and painfully enough, he losess more often in summit clashes. Not including Roger in this list, but tempted to. Late Nirmal Shekar of The Hindu knew more Shakespeare than Sports. So, however flowery his language is, he runs out of words while writing euologies for champs so much so that you can easily swap them with any other champ of any other game,. without distorting the contents. His famous Comment for Spassky is ” His Head must be aching with crowns”. The description of the match will have the term “the great man” more no of times than the winners score by them. Yet I read such articles because of the great reverance I have for those losers and also for the reluctance of such writers for the use of term “Legends”.
Oh for those true Legends!

My biggest Perk

Sometime in early 98, I was waiting to interview a candidate with one of the weirdest names. The name gave no clue as to the country or region he hailed from nor did it give any indication as to the intense role he was going to play in my life. When the man walked in, half the mystery was over and the rest of it got unraveled when he started speaking. The accent screamed of his Madurai roots, to which he stuck right through.
What started as a boss-subordinate relationship, blossomed into a wonderful friendship, facilitated by the common almamator, where we had not met (I was 3yrs his senior), making us the unlikely partners in TT, Snooker, Golf, Carrom, Rotary, stag outings, old temple visits in Chennai etc. He had a fantastic Carrom board which is in my house since the past 5yrs. I have decided to keep it in his memory.
Perk’s perpetual happy countenance belies the unbelievingly challenging childhood he had been through. One quality of his that I admire most and I believe is the reason for his success in life, is he didn’t carry the bitterness of his early schooldays with him.
A quintessential Rotarian, Perk was caring and effusing warmth and enthusiasm that was infectious. He believed in sensitive implementation than clinical execution of projects. Perk’s default response to any request is YES and this quality endeared him to many.
While he strove hard to be at peace with the world I thought he seldom was at peace with himself. But a great calm enveloped him while he was with his friends and particularly with his RECT friends.
Perk, when you have something to do, you would do that with me and when you have nothing to do you would still do that with me. There cannot be another Perk in my life and I already feel a big vacuum inside. Perk, you are the biggest Perk of my life.
Perk, my friend, you have done a lot for your friends, your family and the Society. Now you may and you should rest in Peace.

Prose & Poetry

This blog is dedicated to The Brilliant writer Indushekar. I did not want to spoil the beauty of the bachelor boy’s flow with my brand of literature there. Consider the flg for a contrast:
1. Narration Vs Story telling
2. Clinical/Precise/Prosaic Vs Poetic representation
3. Humor opportunity almost fully searched, exploited and exhausted
Humour blossoms and the fragrance is left behind giving the illusion that
there is still humour left in the situation.
Oh! The Cheshire cat Syndrome is still haunting me.

But most of you can pick a lesson or two from me (not Indu) in precis writing, a skill I started developing from the Akshara-abhyasa day and the learning and practice will go on until my dying days. I am such a congenital hater of writing that I wont let a word pass through unless it had some rolt to play. It didn’t take my hapless parents long before they realized who is going to be their problem child.
My father had done (MA Hons)in Economics from St Joseph’s College in Trichy and Joined AG’s office in Chennai. He was next posted at Tunga Bhadra Dam in 1960 and we were there till 1964. It was called the TB Dam project and was aka Tamil Brahmin project. Most of the the activities in Karnataka then known as Mysore used to be looked after by Madras. Karnataka was under Madras Presidency.
So, we could manage everything with Tamil. Didn’t even have to learn Kannada letters.But somehow I picked up in Kannada numbers upto 100, The school was also managed by Tamils and all teachers were either Tamils or knew Tamil. WE were addition to the already sizeable Tamil Population, Parents( 31yrs & 28yrs) 3 kids( Elder Brother 5yrs, younger sister 1yr and I was 3yrs )We had the best house of our childhood with a large garden and several vegetables plants, copious supply of water and free power.
One of our teachers came home to have a chat with my mother, a Math graduate from Stella Marris). The person central to the discussion was me and the main complaint was that I am not wrting much. But I had my share of complaints too. I asked the teacher why rest of the class answered only 10 questions and why I should only answer all 15 questions. I don’t recall the subject , but that was pretty much the same with all subjects. The teacher was pleading and said ,“but, you knew the answers”. Then I told the teacher in front of my mother, as a compromise, ”Teacher, why don’t you ask the questions and I’ll reply orally”. I think that suggestion prompted the school management to give me double promotion.
WE were living in Srirangam for a year(1964) when my father was posted in Mangalore for a year on his second and last job. We used to visit the Sriranganathar temple every evening during the Deepaaradhanai time. We enjoyed going around the spacious temple. At the 3 way entrance (picture a T joint) to the Thaayaar Sannidhi (Thaayaar is to Vishnu(Perumal) what Ambal is to Sivan) there are 5 holes purportedly the imprints formed by Thayaar kneeling at the T joint was praying for the Lord Ranganathar to take her as his consort and in the process leaving deep imprints ( about the 1.7cm depth and the diameter about the size of normal fingers)of all her five fingers of her right hand at the place now popularly known as Aindhu (5) Kuzhi (holes) 3 Vaasal (entry point).

Many girls, in a wide spectrum of age group and generally all ladies flock to the point. For the 7 year old, it was too good an opportunity to let go. So I made a dash to the T and was ready for the T off. I left a soulful prayer. Of course there were a few more enterprising kids who were also keen to pray. Then we reached home a couple of furlongs from the outer boundary of the temple.

My mother was making a small conversation with us and our maternal Thatha and Patti and she asked me what I prayed for at the 5 Kuzhi 3 Vaasal. I said matter of factly that I prayed for a wife. Then when asked, why do I need a wife so early, my reply sent peals of laughter. I said , for writing notes and exams. I continued my prayers until we moved to Madurai where my father was posted. Effectively my tryst with 5 holes/3 ways lasted for a year.

I returned to the same spot a few times during my RECT days and the romance with the spot continues,albeit with realistic expectations.

Sparring Friends – Coffee Vs Tea

Recently I was broadsided by a sophisticated mallu – a WIP with a very few “Row” sides to him. Hell hath no fury as a mallu separated from his chai!

Indu Uvacha: (Angrily)
Perhaps your “Madras Kappa” spirit was aroused by my call to tea that you would make so bold to discount tea in such a dastardly manner for that dark brew? Be that as it may (and regardless of whether you’ll be made to eat your joke when you fly on Malabar airlines), I can’t let you get away with mocking tea so.

Good tea, my man, is a lost art that was practiced everywhere in India, until its place was usurped by invaders from elsewhere. Now, sadly relegated to liquid jugglery at the Nair tea stall or, even more sadly, to vapid jokes about meter long concoction, tea is not appreciated in the land that produces most of it. (And, as if coffee is not put to such feats of elasticity in the roadside coffee shops or the railway platforms all over India. And what about that “tumbler and dabara,” that it is presented in so ceremoniously? Besides, coffee (I feel like I’m clearing my throat every time I say that word), a lowly stimulant and drug disguised as emery boosting drink, originated from the deserts of Ethiopia, thanks to a cowherd. Decoction concoction anyone?

In contrast, myth has it that Bodhi dharma (alas, a non-mallu, Pandya prince at that Shankara – tch, tch) brought tea to China. Even if it’s an exaggeration, since china probably can lay claim to tea much before Bo’s arrival there around 5 C AD, the point is the elixir has been associated with spiritual masters and purification. Bo Dharma is not the last spiritual leader who was associated with it either.

In Japan and China, tea is an art form of the highest order, and tea masters are venerated philosophers and spiritual leaders. The Japanese tea ceremony evolved, allied as it was with Zen Buddhism into a highly evolved, intricate art form that’s prized and practiced by aesthetes and Zen monks even today.
Sen no Rikyu, a 16th Century Zen master, is revered to this date for his treatise “Cha no yu” (lit. “water for tea”) all over the world. (But, what’s the point in recounting this to you Shankara? Will you ever sip a cup of tea in this lifetime?) Here’s an episode, involving Sen no Rikyu (see if you can match it with a coffee story, you coffee drinking luddites!):

The Tea-Master & the Assassin

Taiko, a warrior who lived in Japan before the Tokugawa era, studied Cha-no-yu, tea etiquette, with Sen no Rikyu, a teacher of that aesthetical expression of calmness and contentment. Taiko’s attendant warrior Kato interpreted his superior’s enthusiasm for tea etiquette as negligence of state affairs, so he decided to kill Sen no Rikyu. He pretended to make a social call upon the tea-master and was invited to drink tea.

The master, who was well skilled in his art, saw at a glance the warrior’s intention, so he invited Kato to leave his sword outside before entering the room for the ceremony, explaining the Cha-no-yu represents peacefulness itself. Kato would not listen to this. “I am a warrior,” he said. “I always have my sword with me. Cha-no-yu or no Cha-no-yu, I have my sword.”

“Very well. Bring your sword in and have some tea,” consented Sen no Rikyu.
The kettle was boiling on the charcoal fire. Suddenly Sen no Rikyu tipped it over. Hissing steam arose, filling the room with smoke and ashes. The startled warrior ran outside.

The tea-master apologized. “It was my mistake. Come back in and have some tea. I have your sword here covered with ashes and will clean it and give it to you.” In this predicament the warrior realized he could not very well kill the tea-master, so he gave up the idea.

🙂 See you at tea time, Indu

Mixing comes easy to me, be it language or liquids. When dharu mixing happens first, language mixing is further facilitated! Have you tried a mix of coffee and Cognac? Tea is not known to copulate with any spirit with such ecstatic results!

Incidentally, Usha is from Coonoor, the tea land of South India. Her Dad is the Auditor for several tea companies in Coonoor. The tea we have at home is well distanced from the dusts most of you have!

I see your cry to end this storm in a tea cup! So be it. I would rather settle for ‘me’ than care for tea, tea and more tea options of Malabar Airlines!

Rotary & Relocating to India

One of the Co-founders of our company attempted to relocate to India from the US. They had dreams of enjoying so many things like festivals, temple visits, art & culture, family functions and the associated menu etc. When they finally landed, after many familiarization visits, my friend’s wife started complaining about dust, noise, nosey servant-maid etc. I asked her if she is looking for what she wanted to enjoy in India or what she used to enjoy in the US. Many times people make choice between two, but want them both.

Coming from the Corporate World, I was surrounded by Eng-MBAs. I joined Rotary to expand my friends circle with a “good” “sprinkling” of businessmen, auditors, lawyers, builders, doctors etc. In the first couple of years in Rotary, I found a few things not conforming to the conventional “best practices”. I was wondering if I made wrong judgement in joining Rotary. Conceited thoughts like “Does the Rotary deserve me?” crept thru my mind. But soon wisdom dawned and I reminded myself that I joined Rotary to look for things that the structured corporate world does not offer. Then I saw a whole new world of beautiful things in Rotary:

1. Rotarians are caring, showing a lot more warmth than I could ever .
2. Projects were executed through love & compassion and not just through systems & processes.
3. The whole system was running beautifully with no role power for the various positions.
4. Rotary gives as much as you take and takes as much as you give.
So, your disappointment and indignation are misplaced. Ask yourself, “What did I come to Rotary for? Am I pursuing it or getting distracted”. Honest answers to such questions hold the key to your happiness in Rotary and vice-versa.

Divine KVN

Let’s get into a time machine and alight a little before 4 decades
Period 1974. Location Topaz Hostel, REC, Trichy.
2 guys who hardly knew each other were playing a game they hardly knew .
That was KNV (as he was popularly referred to) and me playing a game of Chess. From nowhere I started hearing a great Saveri raagam wafting in and soon figured out that the source was KNV. His Saveri was much better than the brand of chess he played.. I remember the conversation which went like
ME: Hey, that was great saveri
KNV: Being the son of an illustrious father, It shouln’t be too surprising that I could hum Saveri.
ME: Who is your father?
KNV: Palghat KV Narayanaswamy
ME: Palghat who?
KNV used to sing KJ Jesudas songs (Adhisaya Raagam, Deivam Thandha veedu etc)a few of SPB’s like Nanda En Nila in Madhuvanthi and one of Manna De’s all time great songs in Ahir BHairav (Poocho na kaise) all of semi-classical genre and occasionally KVN’s Vandemataram in various cultural programmes and walk away with prizes. Only one thing we figured out in campus was my favourite singer GNB was his pet peeve!
My direct association with KVN mama started when I met him in his Gurukkal Colony house in Mandaveli 1983 as a SPICMCAY coordinator to arrange Lec-dems in Blore. In under 10 mins he arranged the the flg outstanding concerts, within my meagre budget.
Concert-1 : KVN, MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IIMB
Concert-2 : N.Ramani,, MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IIMB.
Concert-3 :MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IIMB
Concert-4 : KVN, MC/Bharti(violin), Tiruchur Narendran (mridangam) at IISc.
Some of the points KVN mentioned in 1983, are still operating as maxims of Carnatic Music:
1. KVN,s music is known for its sruti shuddam and tala perfection. When enquired as to why he carries a tampura as well as a sruti box, he said , the A/C halls wont maintain the same sruti through out the concert. So he will fall back on sruti box mid way to realign the tampura sruti again.
2. KVN was a great advocate of Introducing the Jeeva Swaram asap in raga alaapanai, however long or short the alaapanai be. He was of the opinion that the listener should not be left guessing what Raagam the singer is singing or attempting!
3. He used to quote his guru Ariyyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar often in lec-dem and one of them stood out…” At the end of a Raga Alaapanai, the Raagam must stand out and not the singer!”
4. Vichu talked about how a Ada Tala Bhairavi varnam like Viribhoni would set the tempo for a concert. KVN recalled his guru Ariyakudi telling “ Varnam , adhu innum Varanum!.”
5. KVN constantly believed in offering variety to the Rasikas in terms of Raagam and also Thalam. No successive kritis will be set to the same taal.
6. At the magnificent new IIM campus at Bilekehalli on the Bannerghatta Road., he treated us to a brilliant evening of Bhairavi. Varnam, Bala gopala, RTP, Sindhubhairavi and the thukkada songs. I think it was janmashtami day then.
7. While he performed at the IISc, he sang a unique thodi RTP, during which he utilized the services of Mridangist, that indomitable Trichur Narendran, while singing Thanam, He explained to the stunned audience that this wsa an old practice of the Trivandrum palace. Palace, It was so good and different, I feel somebody can reintroduce the idea. Wonder, if any trade-mark or Royalty (pun un-intended) issues would be there!
8. KVN very strongly believed in giving very good music to all class of people and he said they’ll lap it up. He was not for watering down classical music pristinity, blaming the rasaikas for it.
9. KVN acted in a couple (or one) of movies. He didn’t continue his acting career, Owing to societal perceptions of cinema or the acute brahminical upbnging.
On a poignant note, KVN had 2 huge regrets in life and mentioned them at every available opportunity. One was an incredulously silly one (like all great men having a constant child in them) – He really missed speaking English.
The other regret of his, a really profound one worthy of his musical stature was his inability to teach his only son Carnatic music traditionally, His Master’s Way.