Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Motorised Foldable Treadmill going cheap!

Motorised Foldable Treadmill going cheap!: "Email jshobha28@gmail.com for second hand, well maintained, treadmill for sale in Alwarpet, Chennai, by NRI before leaving abroad! Good price, easy storage. ..."

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Haze, Haze Go Away!

...and don't come back!

Yesterday was such a delight - the weather seemed to take a turn for the better. By about 3.30pm, the clouds began to gather. Shades of light grey appeared. Not promising, but present all the same. Could pass off for a false-alarm, very much like the clouds visiting on days past.
But yesterday, by about 5pm, all doubts were cleared, ironicaly, by a heavily clouded sky. It was so dark, it reminded me of that Will Smith movie, Independance Day!
Looks like I will finally be able to breathe air worthy of proper clarnatic vocal practice - minus the stuffed nose. The weather may seem to be merely a pleasant change for the average person, but for a singer whose nasal cavities protest at the slightest hint of the haze, yestarday's downpour was music to my ears!

(Photos: The frightfully delightful storm that cleared the haze yesterday!)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Jakarta Reviewed...Really Quickly!

Some memorable moments: a. Nirmala Chandran, the perfect hostess, b. an evening at a spa c. history visited in Jakarta's biggest muzium, d. The Chandrans' backyard.

What I liked:

  1. Hawkers and push-cart vendors selling simple foods along the roadsides, in every part of the city.
  2. Greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenery! And what superb landscapists Indons are!
  3. First hand experience of religious tolerance.
  4. Appreciation by the people, of all their heritages that were there, through the ages.
  5. The food (Laguna, Stix, you have my vote!)

  6. The Spas!
  7. Beautiful Batik.
  8. The endearing language used by the locals, e.g. "Pecel Nasi Ayam Pete" is actually "Special Nasi Ayam Petai" for us in Malaysia.

What I loathed:

  1. The traffic and the narrow roads.
  2. The fact that my impecable Malay (so I say!), made me soooo Malaysian when I spoke that I was a tourist waiting to be taken for a ride despite what I thought was an advantage.
  3. Endless Security checks at the airport.

Verdict: DO VISIT!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Dear God, Speak to Me Through Music...


I know there is so much I've already changed in myself.I know this because of music. I know there is so much more I can change in myself. That too, is because of music.


This change, is not just a change of one person. It starts with the transformation of one soul - mine. Like a game of dominos, the change in the soul, transforms my THOUGHT. The mind then transforms my WORDS, which are expressions of thought. Still, this is all change of only one person - me.

Then, something impossible happens... a change in my DEEDS or ACTIONS. This is the trigger point that starts affecting others. Incidentally, an ordinary person will only see music as a cure for boredom or a quick-fix for a bad day. In effect, so much more can happen if you allow music into your mind, your body, your nerves, your muscles, and your very Being.

What happens is a change in ACTION. In the past, if I felt the need to cure my stresses and frustrations, I used to seek external means; a friend to vent to/ unto, 2 hours instead of the predesigned one hour workout on the treadmill to induce mindless fatigue, a little more chocolate, one more drink, the list goes on.

And in the pit of my stomach, I know that these actions, no matter how loudly they seem to speak at the time they were indulged in, are totally silent in terms of the effects they have on my Being. On my muscles, on my nerves, on my body, on my mind. And worst of all, as a musician who was seperated from her art for so long, the effcts on my music suffered the most. This was my past.


Chicken and egg situation really.With music now leading me for the last 3 years, I am changed. My ACTIONS have changed because my WORDS changed, because my THOUGHTS changed. And my thoughts changed because I was LISTENING to music. Not listening like a student learning the intricacies. Not listening like someone asked you to check out their new album. Listening to the point of being lost to be found.

By listening to music, I went beyond notes and lyrics, beyond Rasas and critiquing.


The epiphanic moment for me...the moment when music began affecting my actions was when my mind which had been conditioned for 8 years to THINK, finally made way for my heart to FEEL. That was the turning point. The point when the music led to changes in thought, word and finally, deed.

Now that I have experienced this life altering change, so many other areas of my life have stared seeing improvements.

1. I am more environmentally aware, more receptive to kindness, more trusting of others and more intuitive.
2. I've started reading people better and knowing when not to read them, which is equally important.
3. I've learnt to balance my own energies and I know what it takes to do these.
4. I find that I am able to "play" with my energies through music.
5. I consume less (not just food, but utilities, transport etc.) and tend to save rather than waste, even when the resources aren't paid for by me.

Such life-improvements cannot be measured into the dollars and cents - something that corporate organisations strive for, so that they can make sense of how valuable an mployee is to them. I say this having been an ambitious corporate employee myself prior to my pursuits in music.


The interesting thing about the change I am experiencing through music, is that I am only mid-way in it. I will only consider my change complete when I can give music back to other lives. And to get to the point of giving back to other lives, I need a combination of the correct proportions of music education, independence to express my art and most of all, the optimal avenue to seek excellence in music. Given my genre, it is obvious where geographically, this combination comes together. I have undoubtedly, had the pleasure of having that combination for some time. But a sapling cannot provide the shade that a fully grown tree is capable of giving. I've come past the stage of a seed, in my time in Chennai. And I am now a sapling. If I grow to adulthood, what I give will have value. We encourage our children to go past Form V and pursue degrees. We are proud of those who have fully explored their field of study, because they are reliable sources within their area of expertise! So why not see hwat the tree can do, rather than what a sapling can do?


Giving back is where the ACTION cascades down to other lives, enriching them. This is where ONE person's change affects others. The value of this to an organisation or to society, is not explicable on an employee evaluation form. But just because you cannot measure something, it does not mean it does not exist. Before emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence were recognised, only mental intelligence was measured.

And as we continue to overrate others for their extrinsic value, see where that has gotten us... A barrage of high-flying MBAs, who can't lead without pilfering, over-consuming, laundering and scandalising!


The world needs HEART. Those HEAD years are over. We've used our HEAD years in the evolution of mankind, to consume the planet's resources, hoard tangibles for ourselves, lose our morals and waste our lives.

Music is my personal means to get out of the nexus mentioned above. To another, it may anything from skiing, to tailoring, to sculpting, to teaching, to curing the ill. But to me, it's music.

If not giving music to others (through performance, teaching, etc), I see no point to spending hours, days, months and years, perfecting an artform which is otherwise just an expression of the individual.


So, being in the mid-point of my transformation, I look up to the Lord and ask Him, "Dear God, please tell me if I can give back before I've finished the task you've assigned me. If I need to complete the journey of music before I can effectively give my music to others, please tell me what I should do. Don't leave me options, for I want it all. Don't leave me clues, for I am daft. Leave your message in music, for I listen to my heart everyday till I leave this place of music. Once I leave to revisit a corporate existance, Your voice will be muffled. So speak fast, speak to my heart. In my heart, I shall hear You and only when I've heard You, will I be able to transform thought into word, into deed."

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Google "Carnatic Music": Save A Life Today!

It is of utmost importance to my sanity! This is a plea.

Please beloved musignoramuses, google carnatic music today.

Because I'm a little weary, after 3 years of having the following conversation...

Musignoramus: So I heard you're learning Carnatic Music in India.

Me: Yes, I am.

Musignoramus: Waaah, so cool. ...Actually what is that ah?

Me: It is classical music. But it is Indian....South Indian. I learn classical indian vocal music.

Musignoramus: OOOHH! Classical? So you play piano hah?

Me: (Ahem...) No, I sing....classical indian VOCAL music. Western classical music is what you're thinking of, I think. This is Indian classical. One may choose to play Carnatic compositions on an instrument, like the veena, violin. Or sing like myself.

Musignoramus: OOOHH!! Now I know.

[Brief silence of deep thought by musignoramus]

Musignoramus: So, does this mean you are singing for Indian movies now?

Me: Why would I sing for Indian movies?

Musignoramus: Because you said you learn Indian music.

Me: I learn CLASSICAL INDIAN MUSIC (geez...what part of "classical" can't this person GET?)It has nothing to do with singng or WANTING to sing for movies.

Musignoramus: So learning CLASSICAL music means you want to sing for OLD movies now??

Me: (GRRR!) No, I don't sing for movies just because I learn classical indian music. If you learn classical music, there are so many careers open to you... besides the carnatic performance itself, you could do devotional singing, vedic chanting, you can get into composing music, teach carnatic music...

[interrupted by musignoramus]

Musignoramus: Awwww! So you CAN'T sing for movies? So sad!

Me: Yes, you can. And I would, since I am not against film music. But it is not the ONLY thing I can do, or would WANT to do!

Musignoramus: ~sad pout~ So you wont be singing for any Shah Rukh Khan movie??

Me: Nope.

Musignoramus: Hritik Roshan?

Me: Nope.

Musignoramus: ...Kamal Hassan?

Me: Nope.

Musignoramus: How devastating! But then why would you learn music if you can't sing for films?

Me: (What's with this person??)...I CAN sing for films, and have been offered to! But I learn Carnatic Music because I enjoy LEARNING Carnatic Music. Not film singing. Using my knowledge of Carnatic music, I crave singing devotional compositions, singing in fusion work, and creating music. I also like singing in the Carnatic genre itself.

Musignoramus: So, you don't have contacts for films? Have you tried getting in touch with A.R. Rahman?


Don't forget to google "Carnatic Music" today. Save a life! It will be mine!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Beware! Summer Enemies Cometh


It's March. In Chennai. That says a lot. Sweltering heat, beads of perspiration, odours unbecoming and even tempers flaring. Yes, tempers flaring...let's talk about that.

Considering temperatures reach 40 degrees C, it's not surprising that the auto driver who was so nice to you in winter suddenly sprouts two horns and a tail. He now wants Rs. 65 for a ride that previously cost you Rs.30. "Previously" meaning until yesterday! You realise he isn't going to let you off without a fight. A heated argument ensues with an otherwise (winter-time) friendly chap. You finally hurl the money at the musky-smelling, angry-hand-waving driver, wondering what right the summer confers on auto-drivers, to turn into ruthless monsters! And thence, you've officially made your first summer enemy!

But once the ride is over, you look forward to your vegetable purchase for the week. Chennai offers such a variety that it's almost harder to be a meat eater than a proper vegetarian here.

The vegetable seller who you now see sheilding her head with the mundhaani of her saree, gets annoyed that you have not stopped by her stall on the sidewalk for your usual supply. She used to sell juicy oranges, bright bottle green lady's fingers and plump scarlet tomatoes. But that was in the cool winter air. Now, under the baking rays of the sun, her spinach bundles look limp and the oranges look devoid of life. Compared to the ones you'd find inside the air-conditioned supermarkets, the saree-clad vendor's produce hardly looks inviting. Not to mention you'd much rather push a trolly through cooled aisles than haggle over Rs.10 in the heat, with a loud, unrelenting vege vendor.


After a quick visual scan of her produce on the sidewalk, you walk swiftly by. In a moment's contemplation you know that your choice to pass her by has angered her. She glares with what you can only presume is an an avalanche of muttered curses unto you, as you pass her stall. You have to, to get to the supermarket. Her gaze is fixed on you as her lips and teeth syncopate to produce unsettling whispers. You wish a smile could make you seem less ungrateful, but you know that nothing short of splurging your vege budget at her stall will satisfy her. You know that there has been no explicit agreement that you would patronise her stall, but somewhere in between 3 winter months of sharing moments of satisfactory haggling, Rs.1 rupee oversights and a nicity or two, you feel you owe her. "But God, what I'd give for fresh spinach and juicy oranges!", you think to yourself! So, with a poker face as your only weapon of defense, you dart past her stall. "Maybe she will think I'd forgotten to stop. Simple human error. Forgettable. Forgivable, no?", you rationalise. No usual nicities nor enthusiastic negotiations transpire on the sidewalk today - it seems irregular, off-beat, unsettling.

The moment is officially over, between you and the vendor. You're too far ahead to turn back and stop at her insipid veges. You're not near enough the supermarket to disappear into its temperate air. Suddenly you realise that an uncharacteristic coldness has come to occupy the space between you and the vege seller, as ironic as that seems in the humid Chennai air. You've officially made your second summer enemy.


Of course, by now, the last two experiences have carved a little frown between your brows. And unfortunately, the sun doesn't seem to care - he continues to generously pierce your flesh as you make your way to the supermarket in quick, long strides. As you enter the supermarket anticipating the soothing temperature, all that you can feel is a tiny breeze teasing the back of your head, at the door. Upon entering, the matter is clear - the air-conditioner is out of order, it seems. Musty smells and tight air-pockets assault you. Your anticipation of a comfortable shopping experience is crushed. But really now, it's to late to turn back.

So you choose a trolley and manouver it around to the vege and fruit aisle. Ah, but your scan for spinach and oranges proves disappointing. No spinach. No oranges. Much less that freshness you so deeply desired. But all hope is not lost, you think. Perhaps you can settle for other sprightly produce. Indeed, you come across the carrot, radish, onion, brinjal and french bean. All fresh as anticipated. All succulent. Ah, finally the pot of gold!

As you make your way to them, you plan the wonderful culinary delights that would emerge from these colourful ingredients by the time you're done with them. "Ah, not so bad afterall", you smile. But your smile quickly gives way to knitted brows again as you find yourself behind a long line at the counter, reminding you of a free lemonade counter at the fun fairs in primary school. At least 5 customers in front of you seem to hail from families of 20 people, it seems! Their carts are overflowing with veges and fruits that couldn't possibly be rung-up by the registers in time to get you home for your 4pm class. "Haven't these supermarkets heard of a counter for less than ten items?!" you wonder as you look at your minimal number of items. The wonder rapidly descends to frustration when the counter staff seem insensitive to your suggestion to open the last counter.

A kurthi collar soaked in perspiration ignites a flare in you; Somewhere in between the auto driver, vege vendor and an unventilated supermarket, you feel you're at the end of your tether. You are highly aware of the grime forming beneath the folds of your pattiala pants, which stick to the back of your knees. As you try and coax yourself into believing in the virtue that is patience, you notice the second-hand of the shop's clock, edging to that dreaded 4pm. Your line still looks hopelessly long.


Finally, as you give up hope, the idle counter suddenly opens and the quicker customers hurriedly wheel their carts to this new ray of hope! Being one of them, you find yourself behind exactly 2 customers. You are pleased. Two is better than 15. But then, the guy working the new counter seems disinterested in moving with any haste at all. You're not the only one sensing this - the customer in front of you urges him to speeden up. The staff barks back at the suggestion rendered with politeness. You suppose the humidity outside and lack of ventilation inside the supermarket are the reasons for this staff member's behaviour. What else could it be, you think, drenched in sweat yourself. Well, at least you're not the only one with summer enemies, you reckon. A small verbal face-off ensues between the customer and the counter staff, once again prolonging your journey to the register.

"The 4pm class would have started 10 minutes back", you ponder. You've given up on thinking that you'd ever make it today. You yield to the fact that at this point, it does not matter how long it takes to ring up your 9 vegetables. You relax into your state of waiting but somehow, the air is too still and you find yourself noticing irrelevant details; the band-aid on a child's nose and an mp4 player attached to the ears of a foot tapping shop assistant. The air is still and it reeks.... The air-conditioning remains only a devious trick to lure unsuspecting customers looking in from the outside.


Finally your turn comes. You're ready to do anything to get out of the place. So you enthusiastically lay out the veges from your cart, onto the counter in the hope of helping Disinterested Counter Man get you out of there! He rings up the register and tells you the amount, which is 3 times that of the sidewalk vege vendor's. After the experiences of the hour, you can't help but feel like you think you know what her curses a while back must have been about. In any case, you take your bags and triumphantly walk out of the shop. "Finally!", you think, making your way to the road side. The auto you hail even stops and a pleasant face politely asks where you'd like to go.

Just as you think the world is finally going your way, the auto driver seems to think Rs.30 is insufficient to take you to your residence hardly 3 minutes away! Only Rs. 70 will do! You want so badly to get in rather than having to bake in the sun holding shopping bags and jostling your legs from the annoying sweat-beads running down your thigh. But you restrain yourself. You see on the auto driver's face that he knows of this inconvenience only too well. You ask him to move to the shade but he turns a deaf ear to the plea. Evidently he never stops in the shade because that gives the customer a slight edge in negotiations! In the sun, the driver has the advantage of pre-quoting high rates knowing that a customer desperate for his vehicle's shade will not bother to haggle too much!

You are appalled and shocked at the auto-driver's scheme. Anger swells within you again. Of course, by now you realise that summer enemy Number 3 has arrived!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The "Right Teacher"

Of late, many people seem to be wanting to pursue music seriously. Some of these enthusiastic individuals have contacted me in attempt to be placed with "the right" music teacher. Some of those asking are known to me and others are are strangers.

Below is my response to two enthusiastic individuals, Ajayh and Satvik, who I don't quite know, but who nonetheless have taken the initiative to seek help. I hope my blog entry reaches yet others like them who don't quite having a starting point, and are looking for the right teacher. I've not posted Ajayh's and Satvik's emails in this blog in the interest of keeping things short as possible, but the general theme of both emails was the interest in me placing them with /finding them the right teacher.


Hi Ajayh and Satvik,


Great to see your enthusiasm. Music is definately something that connects you to your soul. My hope is that everyone who loves music should find the right teacher for himself/herself because of music's connection to the soul. Therefore finding a teacher, or better yet, a guru, is sometimes a task that a student can enthrust only himself /herself to pursue. Why? Because of the unique qualities/ requirements of each student.


I think the need to know the student before helping him/her has something to do with the fact that ours is an orally transmitted art and it does not easily flow from teacher to student if a connection does not exist between the two. I believe that the right TYPE of assistance is thus more useful than just answering to your questions, for the sake of it. So read on and I hope you'll agree with my thoughts...

Here's something I've learnt - the more I know my family and friends' individual voices, musical tastes, temperaments, talents and propensity to work, the easier it has been to suggest teachers who are just right for them. And though I do reach out to respond to messages like yours in the interest of helping, I have sometimes found that the most useful assistance I can offer to those who I don't have a knowledge of, is to refer them to the sources of information that I myself have used in the past.


In response to both your cases (and that of other eager learners), pls refer to the Mudhra Music Directory. This is an annually updated listing of Carnatic Music teachers and musicians in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. You can buy this directory for Rs.100+ at many chennai bookshops e.g. the Karnatic Music Book Centre, tel: 0091-44-28111716 or 28113253. Email is kmbc@vsnl.net

The directory will help you by giving you the option to call and enquire directly with the musicians(s) of your choice, once you tell them a little about yourself -current level of exposure to music, classes per mnth you can attend, music goals, etc.


It will be very easy for someone who has NOT met you, to put you onto a teacher without hearing you, knowing your background, understanding your goals within music etc, and make you feel like you're on the right path. But if it does not work out, you'll soon be re-starting with another teacher....chances are, again someone else would have chosen for you. Then you'll have to readjust your mindset, style etc all over again. This is a viscious cycle that only the student can break, through the knowledge he/she has of himself/herself and his/her singing.

The aspect in which you'd find the best assistance is in the ability to teachers as every where in Chennai there are accomplished musicians and able teachers. The Music Directory will help you with the with a list complete with contact details. Then pursue a teacher who will fit the unique attributes that make you the vocalist that you are. This is tough if you're not sure of each artiste's style. However, there IS a solution - listen (to potential teachers' concerts), read newspaper reviews (Friday Review, Hindu for e.g.) and these can help you identify the better teachers for you.

If you still want the simpler route, i.e. for someone to recommend you a teacher, make sure the person knows your vocals, understands your uniqueness, goals etc, well enough, to be enthrusted with such an important job as finding you a teacher that connects you to your soul.

If there is something more I can help with or if something needs clarification, let me know.

I wish you well,

Here's to a life of music! God Bless.