Monday, 31 December 2007



Chennai - the city of twin personalities; For 11 months of the year, you can find people who say it is "kollywood's crib", "land of compulsive hooting", "home of haggling salespersons", "city of scrumptious vegetarian Indian cuisine", "a dust filled atmosphere", "a haven for unruly traffic" and "increasing in property prices". Though people will relate to you the vastly diverse facets of Chennai for 11 months, for 1 month Chennai puts on her best and shows-off her stuff - the Music Season of December. And thank God for the affluent capitalist NRIs in one sense, this musical, intellectual, soulful season is now extended...from November, through to the end of December.


Though the concerts are many and we (music enthisiasts) are all drawn to different artistes and 'sabhas' (halls), one thing's for sure - the audience in these performances show a marked improvement in knowledge compared to when I came for the first time to Chennai in '98. Though reduced to memories of a short trip for music in '98, that trip gave me my first insight of the performers and audiences of the music season. I can bravely say that the comparison between then and now is obvious my view, more people know what to look for in a Carnatic performance now. Questions asked during lecture demos and discussions on which I've eavesdropped (bad girl me!) outside the halls lead me to this conclusion.

Fellow enthusiasts/audiences who cram into the halls with me, still constitute the elderly, but a new wave of young blood is also present, clearly bewitched and bewildered by Carnatic music. These youngsters may well be the first generation of beneficiaries, who have inherited the drive and thrist for protecting their culture, from their forefathers' generation. The way this happened I think is that the older generation saw the need to inclucate the love for this (somewhat) fledgeling artform in their children. Perhaps they were noticing the dwindling number of young fans over the last 30 years, and felt the need to resurrect the diminishing interest to preserve the art. Their resultant outcome of their efforts, if we can indeed attribute the outcome to them, is an 'influx' of Carnatic Music enthusiasts, performers, critics, connoiseurs, intellectuals and educators today. So, is this then the Golden Age of Carnatic Music?

I ask because, these audiences walk into the halls armed with knowledge, skill and a learning mindset to say the least. Many in the audience, let alone those on stage, are undiscovered prodigies in some aspect of the art, and the blessing they've inherited is that many of them, with the available avenues in Chennai today, will be discovered at tender ages for their respective niches in the art such as being adept at tala, rendering alapanas or flawlessly rendering a krithi after a single lesson. Our forefathers will be happy to learn that the means exist today, to assist in assimiltion, analysis, appreciation and augmentation of one's skills in the art.


Though students of my generation have only been discovered in our later years for our talent, I take pride in being priviledged to learn music in Chennai during what may be perceived as the Golden Age of Carnatic Music. This is a privilege that offers supreme opportunity to develop one's art.

While personally, I may enjoy this privilege, the current day 'movers and shakers' of the art will tell you that it isn't all fun and games; it is very easy to lose sight of the woods for the trees in such a time. This is because handling the art with the same tenderness and protectiveness that its forefathers did, is very much a part of the role of the musician, just as it is his/her role to perform for the entertainment of today's musically-educated (and yet, demanding and diverse-in-view) audiences.

That fine balance between entertainment and art-preservation I reckon, is the biggest dilemma an artiste of today is facing. For the purist Carnatic artiste, it can almost be a moral issue. But for the less than traditional, the art is seen as constantly evolving almost to the point of needing rather than wanting change.

In my current view therefore, that there are 2 schools of thought on teaching the same art, i.e. Carnatic Music. These schools (for sake of explanation), can be categorised somewhat losely, based on what proportion of their focus is dedicated to entertainment, vs. the proportion dedicated to preservation. The greater the focus on tradition rules and accepted deviations from the aspects which are considered true Carnatic music, the more "purist" the teaching. Thus, entertainment is secondary to art-preservation. On the other end of the spectrum are those that feel Carnatic music is still evolving, thus they accept creative changes in preference to some of the more traditional norms of rendition.

The ultimate Carnatic "entertainer" will almost always be labelled as being less true to the artfrom and thus more irresponsible, by the purist. The ultimate purist inadvertantly, could be regarded as being closed-minded by the entertainer.


Thus, during the music season, the one thing I feel that can pressurise artistes to worry more about the packaging than the product, is that certain review /analysis written on their performance. Sometimes, veterens are mocked for being 'old fashioned' and newbies prematurely commended for for a single act of ingenuity that can't be repeated or explained by the performer! Though many perfromers are assessed fairly or at least diplomatically, the pressure to perform in a manner acceptable to both the purist and the entertainer seems to be the driving force behind the nature and content of today's performances. Perhaps it is a good thing. Perhaps it isn't. In either case, pressure of this nature deviates the art from the artiste, i.e. the product loses to the packaging.

So, if this is indeed the Golden Age, perhaps the hardcore art-preserver/purist would encourage us to be careful about the product first. Packaging later. Afterall, we don't want to be blamed by future generations for carelessly losing the very treasure that our previous generation saved for us. Their fervour is perhaps parallel to nature-loving activists whose cause is to preserve the ecosystem.

Then again, speak to a hardcore entertainer and you'll be opened to a whole new set of arguments that say the treasure of the past is only the basis for today's entertainment, not the template. Their fervour can be likened to those who believe in the theory of evolution, for without evolution, no thought, no expression, no art and no civilisation would be present today.

Both have valid arguments.


Having said that, interestingly, if you watch the audience that glue themselves to performances during the music season, you realise that the issue of entertainment vs. art-preservation is non-existant to an engraossed audience. The artist's magnetism which is possibly a combination of technical prowess and expression of self whisks the listener to a place where only the music matters.

* PIO - Person of Indian Origin

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Had a Bad Day...Week, Rather!


I was in Malaysia on a dutiful visit for some days. Just returned to Chennai on 29 Dec.


It wasn't planned as I flew home on 20 Dec to pay my respects to my late, dearly departed cousin whose funeral I missed, thanks to my deaf/indifferent Chennai travel agent who got the departure date wrong and booked me on a flight with a transit in Colombo! It was a sombre week in KL and the travel left much to be desired; During the 3 hour transit in Colombo, my credit card got jammed in some reader in the airport. Upon disembarking in KL, I learnt that I would miss my friend, Nyuk Chin's wedding as my travel agent only managed a ticket out of KL on 29 Dec, 9am, which is NC's wedding date! Next, I learnt through a total stranger that a "so-called" friend of mine forgot to tell me she's getting engaged on 23 Dec (Satya, don't worry, I didn't tell anyone it was YOU!) ...hehehe. I found this out on 24th.


Meanwhile, an aunt got admitted in hospital and everyone was a bit jittery about the her health until she made it out a day before I left, though the good news is that she looks heaps better now, according to an uncle.


Went to buy a much needed school bag to take to Chennai for my lectures, but ended up with with a party blouse thanks to two very persuasive cousins who themselves incidentally, bought nothing during our shopping! Finally I found the bag section in the shopping centre but then, my camera-phone went bonkers while one cousin decided to try out my phone. The poor thing's so sad about it, but I am aware that electronics and me have generally not had long lasting relationships for one reason or another.

Next whopper, the service centre promised rectification of my phone AFTER I departed for Chennai! Nice huh?! Thus I'm resigned to a previously retired cell phone and will only get my own phone back when mom visits in March. Meanwhile, I've lost some phone numbers as my "re-hired" handphone has no memory chip reader/facility.


Then on my return to Chennai, which my agent promised would have an IMMEDIATE transit flight, I got free character-building lessons. Here's how you can sign up for the course:

First, hire my travel agent. He'll sign you up. He'll put you on a flight like the one I go put on.

Here's what to expect in the course:

Board the plane one hour late. Why? Because the plane will arrive late. Then it's "sitting duck" time. This means you get to sit, and sit, and sit on board, with no apparent explanation by the crew. You're not checking how long, cos if you know it may freak you out more. So you just wait. Then as the plane finally starts taxi-ing, the pilot will speak over the PA system and tell you that the plane behind spotted a smoking right engine on your plane, taking this baby back to the docks, so to speak. After another hour, you can take off and survive the turbulent weather which will make youfeel like it's your last trip. Then, when you finally reach Colombo, you will be treated to 6 hours of waiting within the confined space of the little airport which only accepts USD and credit cards. If you're like me and your card jams, you get to walk around the airport for 6 hours, and sleep next to screaming 4 year olds who are for some reason, enjoying the transit more than the holiday their parents spent thousands on! And you'll also be treated to a buffet lunch at a nice restaurant which you have to travel to, for half hour, in the scotching sun. Then you'll eat with passangers who for some reason, prefer to poke their food at the buffet before selecting it!

Anyway, when the 6 hour wait is finally over and hope is on the horizon, an announcer will notify you that the flight to Chennai, (which is a city placed just 1 hour away), has been delayed by another 2 hours. And as you count your fingers and toes and your eyes start crossing from the boredom, the waiting and the hunger, you'll give in and try the only thing which the airport sells in Indian rupees.... a suspicious looking chicken minibun. Out of sheer hunger, you wolf down two minibuns and spend the remaining time hearing sounds of indigestion emerging from your belly, much to the annoyance of other cranky transit passangers in the boarding hall. As though that is not enough, another 1/2 hour delay is announced and the guy with the suit and laptop seated in front of you appears to suddenly twich and seem like the veins in his neck are having a party. Then finally the boarding call is made and the passengers, disregarding the first call for the elderly and those with kids, make a dash for the plane. Wearier passengers like me, amble on slowly, reaching our seats just before take off.

And as luck would have it, you just may get a neighbour who likes his whiskey so much that he talks loudly to it after a couple. Finally, at 2300 hours, you land in Chennai. A 14 hour flight to a 3 hour destination. This is my agent's promise. If that's not character building, tell me what is!

Anyway, if you need my travel agent's contact details call me. And for all those other add-ons, just have a bad week and it'll just follow naturally.


I think I've gotten every thing down from my bad week. Feel much better now.

....SIGH!....And this, my friends, is what I love about the power of blogging! Feel the PEACE!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Amma's Vacation in Chennai, 2007


Yes! I had mom's presence in Chennai about a month and a half back.

Unlike her earlier trip to Chennai, this trip was much better. Her last trip was something in parallel to Christmas Lampoon's Vacation, that Chevy Chase movie, which meant I had to convince her that this trip would be great. For one thing, there was electricity, water, gas, TV, and a pre-arranged cab to take her around at times unlike her last trip when everything just went wrong...for both of us as we were new to Chennai.

This time, her day time was spent experimenting in the kitchen with all ingredients native to Chennai, watching the Malayalam channels (more like Devouring!) and visiting nearby garment shops. All her saree shopping was done for the decade by the time she left Chennai. So glad she enjoyed it all!

Mom is in her element surrounded by home deco items. This place is made for her, I tell ya!

Mom at a Music Show dedicated to late composer, Kannadaasan and his melodious compositions (dated pre-80s). Don't look for mom in this shot, she's in the audience, not on stage. :-)

Mom watches "Chocolate", the latest Malayalam movie in Chennai, on the big screen! Prithvi Raj is her latest favourite and that just made this movie all the more important to catch before leaving Chennai.

Mom enters crafts-centre, Poompuhar on Mount Road, all grins.

Once in Poompuhar, mom's too much in love with the art to leave.

(Can't get this picture upright, help!)

Mom visits relatives and gets a shot with everyone, but I chose this to publish since this is the only photo in which my cousin Ramesh's daughter, Paru's face, as well as mom's are both clearly visible in the same photo.

Hmmm....who's that shopping for art again? ;-)

Mom at Chennai's favourite bookstore, HigginBothams, looking fulfilled with her purchases of numerous astrology books!

Mom's visit this time was bearable afterall, I guess. She also ate in all my favourite restaurants in Chennai like North Indian Restaurant Kabul, Chinese at Wang's Kitchen and Noodle House. South Indian food at various places and a visit to our old "home" Woodlands Hotel made the visit complete.

With purchases in hand, mom returned to KL with a grin this time! :-)

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Pink Toy-Teacup

The following is a short story I wrote recently. Characters and events are wholly fictional.

As a child of about 7 ish, Beena had to share her toys with her little brother. Not for very long...he soon tired of her kiddy, feminine cutlery sets and blonde haired dolls when he discovered the joys of battery operated toy-jeeps and toy-swords with "Thunder Cats" stickers all over them. That and gadgets which dismantle and rebuild. Ah the 80s!

But during those 1-2 years when all he had were Beena's playthings, she was asked to share. She was told not to deter this "tiny tot" from attaching plasticine to little talking-doll Linda's blonde hair, for instance. Beena realised she would never have a complete, well-matched set of toys the way her cousin Deepika had. Deepika had a pretty sky-blue ceramic toy tea set with every piece intact. And another shiny green plastic one laced with fairy-dust, and again with every piece intact. If one cup was apple green, the rest were too. If one toy knife was 3 inches long, so were the others in the set. There were as many cups to saucers, as there were forks to spoons.

Unlike Beena's own set, in Deepika's there were no imposter-like stand ins for the real thing; Take the instance when Beena's brother satisfied his curiosity by jumping on on her pink clay toy teacup. Naturally, parents being loving as they are, immediately try to mend wounds like these quickly and painlessly. In her case, Beena recalled, this took the form of a new replacement teacup. It would have been the solution, except that the new cup was white, made of plastic, and was smaller than the other pink clay ones. Of course tea sets never had spares. Beena understood that when mom comforted her. Little Beena did not accept it, but she surely was bright enough to understand it.

As she grew up, Beena forgot how significant these episodes were to her as a child. Over the years, she found herself, by some twist of fate, always being the one to create harmony among the people around her. She was the one who calmed tempers and then, offered counsel when the dust settled. Never judged too soon or too harshly. Perhaps it was this trait that led her to a career in counselling. She loved this career and was continually fascinated about what she learnt on the job.

The thing is, for a long time, Beena did not know at which point she became drawn to understanding people better. Recently, a 20-something neighbour, Parvati, said something that reminded Beena of the 80s after a long time.

Parvati and her sister Priya, lived next door to Beena in Chennai, where Beena had recently been posted after living all her life in Mumbai. Parvati asked over breakfast one day, "Ever feel that you had 4 knives from the same set and now somehow they've become 3, after you hired a maid to help you in the kitchen?"

Beena laughed in agreement and joked, " Yep, and in parallel, ever realise that the 2nd yellow bowl you bought thinking it matched the first yellow in your kitchen doesn't match? And suddenly you have this entire ugly set of cuttlery of mismatched shapes, colours and sizes?"

Parvati did not think it was a joke, and agreed vehemently, "Aiyo, my sister thinks I am crazy for wanting matching kitchen sets and all that. She says it is all for utility, not beauty. But I can't help thinking that the matching sets present some order in the chaos of a kitchen, don't you think? She doesn't mind our kleptomaniac maid Visalam taking our knives and spoons. My job is not to replace these things every now and then, what?"

Beena nodded empathetically and lifted her spoon for another mouthful of ponggal. Though she wore a calm smile, she understood that Parvati was too angry to keep her thoughts to herself. This neighbour continued, "When I was a kid, Priya used to break all my nice-nice kitchen sets that Thatha used to buy from the nearby toy shop. Then Amma used to replace them with things she made from wire, wood and tape and all that. And now I am doing the replacing myself. I just want ONE set which does not have a blue saucer for a purple cup or a stainless steel knife for an aluminium fork."

As Beena agreed with her annoyed neighbour, she remembered the words mom spoke when little Beena was being comforted years back. It was that day of the broken pink toy-tea cup. The words suddenly seemed to sound different to Beena now, compared to when they were first said, 25 years ago. "See molu, this set used to be so uninteresting because all the pieces looked exactly alike. Now, you have a different piece. Think of the different members we have in our family. Just as the father and mother and children are all different in a home, in your set now, you have something different. So your set may not be uniform, but it is more interesting than a uniform set. The disparity adds confusion but the variety adds character."

Beena shared this memory with her neighbour who then appeared to remain thoughtful for a moment. Her eyes then revealed something of a breakthrough and she said, "Yes, perhaps I push Priya too much about the little things as I do about big things. Hence, she's indifferent to my opinions, including the the antics of our Visalam."

Then Parvati looked up at Beena with a twinkle in her eye and said, "Hey, you're pretty good da!"

Beena smiled back but refrained from sharing her thoughts on her mother's words. Beena's thoughts were that she was conscious of mom's wisdom surrounding the cup all of a sudden, after 25 years. It took her this long to figure out that mom's speech was about understanding and accepting people as they are.

So, after many years, it looks like she had finally understood from where she got her talent for counselling. And her education and interest in counselling may well have begun at around 7.

My "Spanish ...(etc!) Conquest" wild imagination please, I was refering to my efforts to learn Spanish, as the "Spanish Conquest". I love learning languages. And I love Spanish, now that I've 'tasted' it.

However, I must say that when I first landed in Chennai to study music, I thought I was not going to need much more ramping-up of language skills given my 4.5/6 GMAT language score in English... and my proficiency in spoken Tamil and Malayalam.

I thought that my existing language knowledge surpassed that of most people I knew, and that it was all I needed to manage the tongue-twisting compositions that would come my way. Now, well into my course, I find myself swarmed with language, symantics, phonetics, grammar, vocabulary and what have you, of a whole host of languages! Try this on for size - an elective in Sanskrit, compositions in Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Manipravalam, music theory in Tamil tradition and prosody, lectures delivered in English...and here's the cherry - Espana, the extra (compulsory) subject! Hence, my time has to be divided absolutely down to a "t", so that no language suffers neglect.

It's no wonder that I suddenly greeted my Spanish teacher in Sanskrit this morning and wrote "Introduction to Spanish" on the Sanskrit Exam answer sheet under "Subject:" this afternoon. Two minutes after I had written that, I realised what I'd done and made the correction. After I handed up my exam answer sheet with the corrections, a fellow Sanskrit enthusiast who heard my account of the last few hours said, "It's ok, it's common around here...students who take Sanskrit invariably also have a hand in anything between 4 and 9 other languages." Then, just as a matter of fact, he raised his hands and counted on his fingers, 11 other languages he was studying at unversity besides Sanskrit.

Definately a humbling moment.

Well, whatever it is, on the balance of things, I somehow feel elated with language more than I feel burdened. Perhaps it is that special something that language offers in terms of opening doors to a new culture. Language allows insight without having to sail the world to acquire it.

So will I take Spanish II next semester?

Hell, yeah!

Exams Versus Music Season


It is that time of the semester, when stress is at its highest - exams are up! And at the same time, music season is here. It's like having the cake and not eating it. Can't wait for 8th Dec!

Monday, 29 October 2007

What Cyclone? Get To Class ~Whip Whip~

And so the Cyclone's news spread to the entire nation,
with every Chennai student watching TV in tension,
(...Also, we music students were waiting to see if exams would be on or not. )
And for Monday 29th, MU announced that they were not.

"Hooray hooray,
for the extra study day!"
Our joy lived short
and we turned distraught,
as some MU authorities felt that the announcement said "colleges and schools are shut",
leaving the educational institution called the "university"
in imbiguity.
"What to do, what to do?", they must have pondered for a good part of the day,
for in the end, they announced much to our dismay,
that "exams would be held on another day,
but classes would go on, (needless to say)".

It makes authorities proud that they'd hold classes
despite lads and lasses
having to brave the wind and water
To get hither and thither.

I don't know the real reason classes ensued at the university
while everyone else stayed at home in safety.
But I think it just goes to show
that the "college and school" goer
are too precious to send out to brave floods or cyclonic winds that blow
while in this world of the educated, the university student is 'two steps below'.
So we lesser folk risked life and limb suring such a disaster
to get to our alma mater.

Perhaps the authorities think we uni students are disaster-resistant
or replaceable,
or just plain dispensable.
In any case, to the university student,

it isn't a compliment!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Cyclone: Lessons of Life

It's been raining continuously today since like 5 am. Mom and I were quite enjoying the sounds, smells and cool air (last of which is something that's rare in Chennai...not wait - all three are rare here to be fair), until we heard from an aunt in Mugappair that Tamil Nadu is on cyclone alert. Sigh! And Schools and colleges are closed tommorow. What's more University of Madras is located just off the beach, so the place is surely off limits. So much for the theory exam we Music Students have tommorrow.

BUT NOT TO FEAR :-) The good news is that the alerts are more relevant to suburbs of Chennai and beach-areas than city. But the red flag's not down yet (pertaining to floods), for places in the city, weather it's Mylapore, Nungambakkam or wherever, till the govt of Tamil Nadu says so. It will only be clear late tonight, according to NDTV Times news, whether the cyclone alert will need to remain or be removed.

So for now, it's clear that today is meant for practice, practice and more practice. And some TV or radio. Indoors it is, for today and tomorrow.

I must say, being my first time hearing about a cyclone in a place that I'm staying in, it's very educational. It also explains to me in an indirect way, as to why it is one has to be patient with public services and the govt workers when living in a HUGE 3rd world nation that has many weather-events. I'm just imagining the scope of work in the villages and outskirt areas of Chennai when this is over. And suddenly I feel forgiving towards the police officer who shouts at the struggling cycle-peddling old man for carrying three times his weight on the bike. Or the politician commissioning a mass evacuation, or the officers on the ground helping villagers prepare for a time like this.

Certainly a lesson in patience, gratitude and appreciation for one's fellow man! Thus, a prayer of thanks to the Lord for keeping watch on us all, city (or village) folk.

Ok, back to music theory for a bit now before singing practice resumes.

God Bless.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The Impetus to Blog

Of all the questions I choose to answer from the world's wet-blanket, sceptical, fun-less by-standers in this game called life, I choose to answer this one - "How did you think of starting a blog?", with the emphasis on "you". "Why not?" is my quick answer. But with the symantics of the questions posed, I can get away with answering so absurdly that they'll learn never to pose me an ambiguous question ever again in their lives....heheheh

It all started when I came across this lovely blog (DESIGN, not content) by some NRI Software bloke in USA who started a blog about himself and then ended up posting (1) unrelated photos of him dressed in ill-fitting three-piece suits against various American cars...yep, go figure - AND (2) more unrelated captions of these story-less, expression-lacking photos, in bad English. Not profane. Just grammatically challenged English, so to speak. And at the end of his "About Me" section which is two sentences long, he says that he has randomly sent this blog to many Malayalee girls all over the world in the hope of finding a bride-to-be! Hence my stupid luck in seeing this blog. Could nto figure out how my hotmail account said "Malayalee" in my profile but hey, who's to say an old friend did not think it'd be darn funny to get Shobha riled up with this sorta character sending her a blog, and then gave Mr. NRI my email.

While I could have easily not eaten as a result of being totally disenchanted by his "advertisement", I realised how wonderful a tool the blog is. I know I love writing and so far everyone from home's been asking me to write about personal experiences here in Chennai. It takes me ten minutes to pen 400 words if I dont edit. Hmmm...Maybe I should blog? Why not, if Mr. NRI can, so can I :-))))

Being a complete ignaramus as to the difference between a blog and website at that point, I approached the one person who always gave me short answers to every philosophy and computer related brother.

Our dialogue went something like this at dinner...

Me: What's a blog? ~wide eyed and bushy tailed~
Prem: Why? ~not amused that I did not know what a blog was in the year 2006!~
Me: I want one. ~still wide eyed and bushy tailed, but hiding embarrassment the size of a nuclear disaster~
Prem: You don't know what it is, but you want one. Awww!~pat pat, now go back to your hole and rest there till I tell you it's ok to rear your once the tech police have past you by...ok but I must admit it's so cute that you want something you don't know about~
Me: What is the difference between a blog and a website? ~please tell're the only one who will answer this in one sentence.I dont care if it is just your opinion and isn't wat would be a 100% Mr. NRI-geek-fact no 121!~
Prem: Hmmm, not sure, but I think a blog is just momentary outpourings...websites are more serious. Can just blabber on them.
Me: Of then, I definately want a blog. ~cos I want to blabber, download, outpour, spill (aiya, not too much lah - Don't get your hopes up!~
Prem: Ok, then get one.
Me: I want one!! I want one! I want one! Get me one.
~don't be mean, I want one!~
Prem: Ok, sigh!
~I better say yes or I won't hear the last of this!~

And thus, the blog of Shobha Janardanan was born. Not this one....just some blog I posted and could not find later because I wasn't as savvy with the blog as I am with my writing. Of course, I dont even count it as my first blog since ASTRO's blog is what I think is my official first blog ever...yep.

Ok, enough useless prattle for one day. Before I (b)log off, here's a big thanks to my brother and Mr. NRI who I hopw, has found a bride who is as passionate as he is, about cars.

And there you have it, the answer to your question, "How did you think of starting a blog?"

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Recording...."FOR FUN"? :-)

Yesterday evening, three uni mates (Renjith, Aravind and Komal) plus myself met up at "Sing Ur Tunes" studio and hit the mics for fun. It was my first "for fun" recording as all my previous times in studios were to record for a film, stage show, audition or commercial.Never for fun!

Well, thanks to these three friends who thought the "one-armed bandit" deserved some singing action after the agonies of the Sept 28th Auto accident, I was there crooning for bit. It's a liberating feeling to sing just for fun at the studio with all the effects etc! And since it was for fun I sang all those soppy, melodious songs which a budding (cine-singer) artiste never commercially gets to sing for films till they're 40 (released film!) songs-old, or when their vocally-equivalent predecessor retires. Whichever comes first. :-)
But know what?....I realised yesterday that the lure of film singing has diminished in its attractiveness, as I delve deeper into classical music. Maybe it is just that there aren't as many lifetime-hits as there used to be once upon a time, unlike classical music. Cinema... such a fragmented industry with marketing dollars speaking louder than substance of the movie, that the lure of singing for something like that comes only after a satiating rendition of a carnatic or deviotional piece....ok...THIS SHOULD BE IN ANOHTER BLOG, so I shall stop talking shop here and just admit that "yes, I was dying to break the filmy sing-song session yesterday with a devotional hit", but I was out-numbered by my three enthusiastic filmy fans. ;-)
Meanwhile, Renjith (MA Music 1st Sem) and Aravind (M.Phil Music student) , Komal (MA Dance 1st Sem), and I (MA Music 1st Sem) all had a blast listening to the two guys' previous recordings too. Of course, since we were using the studio at no charge, we had to wait for all paying customers to first finish with their works of art - and mind you, everyone who enters a studio to sing never leaves till the final cut's just perfect as can be. So we waited forever and a day till the uncle who came before us, finished his editing.

We'll be doing this soon again, when schedules permit. Rest assured lah! Maybe even a devotional-singing thing. Oh...Check it out - the cast features in Aravind's shot of me!...Ok, my fore-finger's tired of doing all the typing....gotta go sing...voice break's over!

Thursday, 4 October 2007


Life is full of ups and downs ...this is a 'down' right here (and a sideways!) rickshaw accident last friday. I took an auto home after uni. The auto driver rammed into a merc from behind! Why? The merc driver stopped in the middle of taking a right turn, to answer his phone.
~sigh~ Pray tell me... whodunit?
Anyway, thank God, I'm a hemotoma, a few 'arm + leg' sprains, and four stitches away from recovery. Coulda been worse. Though my right arm is in a cast, the left middle and ring fingers took a punch too, so they're temporarily out of order. :-)
Ah, but finally I'll be able to follow Desparate Housewives, eat on time and spend more time listening to music since there isn't much more I can do right now. Even to practice my singing I need a hand for "thaala". My toes just aint doing a good enough job at it I tell ya!
(Thank God for a neighbour who loves to type!)
Anyways, any takers for solving the crime?

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Rain Rain, Don't Go Away...

Just come again at a more convenient time. Not at 9.30pm when I'm on my way back to Mylapore from dinner at Nungambakkam High Road - with traffic roaring in my ears while my friend tries to steer his weathered motorcycle around potholes and bumps.

And since Chennai roads lack pavements and shaded areas, everyone on bikes decide to huddle under the nearest tree. TREE! I thought when we were kids, our teachers in science class told us NOT to stand under trees when lightning and thunder visit. But I can't blame these poor souls...there was no shaded bus stop or shop-porch to take cover under.

Just everyone stand under the dripping, dropping, plopping rain, ok? And mini pools of water that are too big to be puddles and too small to be ponds. Smack in the middle of RK Salai! Talk about an obstacle course.

And finally, making the tail end of the journey I get onto Luz Church Road about 1/2 a KM from my home, and the land is dry. The trees are rustling from the dryness. People are walking on DRY land, and not huddling under trees. Only my friend, the bike and I, looked totally wierd as we were the only drenched objects around on that quiet road. Would not be surprised if people wondered why we looked like we just emerged from under a waterfall or something.

Haha!...Sigh! Ah well, Chennai never ceases to surprise me.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Business Class: Travel At Your Own Risk!

Yesterday I flew into Chennai for my MA (Music) classes, after a break in KL. Travelled on business class in a premium airline. Why? Having in the past, had terrible experiences in economy class on ANY flight to Chennai, I chose business; Somehow, alcohol and male passangers Chennai-bound, create a cocktail of cacaphony and commotion on an otherwise decent economy-class flight. So I travelled business class for the second time in my life, despite being in about 30 flights to date.

Since on my first biz class flight I'd met actress Kushboo's two cuddly kids and had a pleasant conversation with a Malay oil-and gas exec with a taste for Haris Jeyaraj's songs, I waited to see who my neighbour would be this time!

It was a man of about 50 spotting a very unusual hairstyle which I can only describe as "Imuda" hair. Even his glasses and the general shape of his face pretty much appeared like Malaysia's comedic-actor, Imuda's. Of course, the moment you took a closer look, you knew he had distinct Indian features and wasn't remotely related to the Malay actor. But I still could not help thinking "what if" Imuda had something to do with inspiring this man's general persona?

It was at the tip of my tongue to say, "Hey there uncle, are you an Imuda fan?", but of course I made a special attempt to refrain from even making eye contact, so that I would not even snicker, let alone blurt out my impertinent question.

After mentally smacking the funny thoughts and wild imagination out of m mind it was easier to present a decent smile and introduce myself, though I kept it brief - a PIO Indian-music student. No sooner had I made this intro, this seemingly uncommunicative passanger seemed to only too glad to volunteer a lengthy, pause-less, self-intro! Sigh!

It felt like an eternity of words, but the gist was clear; Apparently, he was part of a trio of Tamil cinema producers on his way back to chennai after some deal-making in Malaysia. It seems, he is the COO of the cine production company. He went on to talk about his movies and what business he had in KL. I was surpised that he'd share so much detail with a total stranger. Lucky for him, I'm a responsible blogger and therfore shall not share these interesting cine-news bits unless bribed with ten KJ Jesudas kutcheri tickets, a lifetime supply of Bombaj Jayshree and TM Krishna CDs, and a chance to hold the tambura for Sudha Raghunathan on one of her concerts!

Initially, I remained patient, presuming Mr COO was recently in a sales meeting and perhaps was in the same mode when he got on the plane. But then, he spent a good deal of time lambasting everything in his conversation with me, and did not seem like he had come out of a sales meeting at all...He was irked by Indian movie stars, govt officials, newbie directors...and some other categories of persons that I could not understand...I think he said "skydiving instructor" at one point, but I can't be sure with his unusually heavy Indian accent and low speech volume.

As though it was not enough, he mentioned how everyone from KL was all over him (indicating he was a personality to be reckoned with, maybe?). He kept insisting that I'd seen his movies though I repeatedly said it had been sometime since I watched a Tamil movie that stuck with me beyond it's 3 hours. The last was Vetaiyadu Vilaiyadu. Why he would assume a music student would necessarily be in love with cine-songs is beyond me. Perhaps someday it will dawn on him that there are hundreds of music genres and that cine music is but one of them. And if he thinks music students would spend a 100% of their time glued to cine-music, then his understanding of music education itself falls short of what I would expect from someone of his calibre in the entertainment indistry.

But the icing on the cake was when he asked questions in a volume that is two decibles below audible levels on a plane AND winced when I asked him to repeat his questions! (Come on lah, uncle!)

Whatever it is, just being nesxt to him got me SO frustrated at one point, that I wished I could just jump off the plane and take the next one. Thought hard. What is it I could say to get Mr. COO to zip it?? What? What? What?

Then its struck me - I was not the only one who was a captive audience on this plane! I could always do the "give me a chance to sing in your movie" thing. It may just annoy him if I hard-sell in a captive environment! So I turned off the pleasant disposition that generally enables me to make friends with strangers, and turned on "lil' miss pesky, irritant opportunist". I asked to sing in his movie...about ten times. While he responded, I spoke about how good I was. I topped it up with "Can I bring my friends? They sing too. Not well enough but they'll make up the numbers." I got the guy to recline back into his seat within three mins! Gosh, I wished I thought of this plan one hour back!

Too bad. If Mr. COO was more socialised and had a good head on his shoulders, I may have even politely told him the truth that I am not intending to clinch a song in his movie and was merely making conversation on a monotonous flight. Afterall, I'd never heard of him or his company before, even after he whipped out his card and showed me a logo which he said I "should definately recognise"! Sigh! Sorry mate.

What some people think of themselves, I don't know. I only know that yesterday, I learnt about one charmless person in the entertainment industry.

Funny thing is, I remembered distincly having paid for business class because I wanted the comforts that come with a business class flight. I did not perceive anything else other than uncontrolled alcohol-consumption as providing that discomfort. What I bought therefore, was just perception!

So would I revert to my yodelling, alcohol-filled economy class fellow passangers or try my luck again in biz class? Hmmmm....I think I'll go biz and take a risk. I mean, I figured a way to solve the problem this time and my last biz flight was good. The odds are definately in favour of biz.

And I'll ask to be placed with a kid or half-decent adult, if only agents can start having tick boxes for that too, on a flight booking form. Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, 5 August 2007

My Achan, The Food Critic!

My father. My Achan.

As a young man after Independance, Acha worked as a teacher. He was an avid reader of English Classics and always dressed immaculately. He was "Insurance Man of the Year" sometime in the late 70s. I was less than 5 and could not remember it but the newspaper cutting remains tucked neatly into an old photo album, to date. "Mr. Jan taught me a lot", says one of his ex-trainees who still keeps in contact with our family, 15 years after acha's passing and sheds nostalgic tears while talking about lessons learnt.

Ah, but there is a less talked about part of Acha! :-) ...Acha loved food. Back in the 80s, I remember how acha's cooking preferences were articlulated; The steaks had to be medium-rare for him. Not medium. Not rare. Medium-rare it was.

Prawns were never to be shelled before cooking, "so that the flavours are contained", my father would say. Satay, yong tau foo, biriyani...everything had something of an "ISO" standard to fulfill, where he was concerned.

It drove my mom up the wall sometimes, as it did the cooks at the resaurants he tried out. Sometimes, if the cooks/chefs expressed annoyance at his requests, acha would never patronise their restaurants again. But mostly those who cooked his "special-orders" often came by his table to thank him for his remarks out of curiosity if not to reciprocate the interest he took in their culinary quests. Some of them even permanently modified their dishes to Acha's specifications if they were felt his suggestions packed a better punch in their dish. These of course, were Acha's favourite chefs/cooks. :-)

Though some chefs never know it at first, by satisfying acha's palate, they were inadvertanly tending to a huge client; You see, acha never ate alone. Typically, if it weren't a family dinner out, Dad would at least invite Kinnu and Nanu (my cousins who were in their young-20s), who would then tell cousin Shashi about it. Two days later, Shashi brings his sister Rekha and maybe if they were celebrating something, they'd invite cousin Shreedaran...and the list goes on.

Soon, if the restaurant was good, it finds its way all through my family tree of 18 paternal uncles/aunts and 12 maternal. Their children total 50. And this entire circle completes their visits in a matter of 2 weeks or so. Then someone in the family decides that the next birthday bash or aniversary is to be celebrated and the shop closes to the public for one mealtime, as the premises would have to pack up to 70 customers! Repeat ones, mind you. And all this is minus acha's insurance clientelle, of course.

The thing about Acha's sense of perfection was that it was so acute that family /friends /insurance clients totally relied on his "reviews". At the dining table, Acha's words struck a note with customers and chefs alike. So, it was no wonder that when once I met one of acha's favourite restaurant owners-chefs, this gentleman said, "Your father amazes me ...the way he places his orders - the details! He can taste the slightest deviation if there is one when the food arrives!"

Though his friends, students and colleagues remember acha as a teacher and insurance exec, I for one (as do many of my family members), remember him for his exquisite taste for good food.

Captain's Cabin on Jalan Bukit Bintang in the heart of Kuala Lumpur is my favourite of all his picks. And maybe I've been a difficult customer too though it has been 15 years since Acha passed on and I've had no one to "watch and learn from" since then. But somehow I feel like getting my steak medium-rare when I ask for medium-rare, is something I can't help. Maybe it's just genetic.

Oh, and the prawns - if it comes to the table shelled, it's going back to the kitchen!