A LIGHT chill in the air, newspapers devoting entire supplements to carnatic music and programmes of sabhas and polite enquiries about which kutcheris I plan to attend the season all these signal the arrival of December in Chennai.
My earliest memories of concerts is that of my mother dragging me to the Margazhi season in different sabhas. But I always only ended up embarrassing her by promptly falling asleep at every kutcheri. Whenever she would chide me about my developing groggy eyes the moment we hit the chairs, I would cry out in defence with my pet statement.
"Come on, I am just a little girl." That was when I was four to eight years old.
But sleep was all I could do at concerts. After a point my mom gave up and left me at home which suited me fine since I did not want to spend my Christmas holidays in sabhas when my friends were out playing.
It is strange that someone who was then so stone deaf to music has evolved into not just a singer but also devoted rasika.
And today when I see so many little ones accompanied by their parents, avidly listening to concerts, discussing the ragas in whispers and accompanying the elders with correct thalams, I cannot help recalling how difficult and sleepy I had been at that stage in life.
If this sleepy self can grow up into a performing musician, I am certain that these little stars will hold the flag of carnatic music high and proud in the coming decades.
Every Margazhi this faith gets renewed with greater intensity. Thank you Chennai for that.
For one, I was not the one who went out and played types. Neither did I have a team of friends growing up. The only avocation that I was involved in was learning from my mother, throughout that age and it was anywhere between 5-8 hours of singing a day so that at one point in time, like everyone knows now perhaps, I chucked school after 10th grade, for full time learning. Which I think is the best thing that has happened to me. I am blessed with a visionary mother. For those who gawk at a 4 year old learning music for 5-8 hours a day, don't. Its a very normal thing to do in families with a classical music lineage.
The editor saying that I was "stone deaf" to music makes me smile. I am still not a devoted rasika of the Kutcheri season yet. I still don't go to Carnatic classical concerts. But I am one of the November Fest, the Dance festivals and the theatre fests too. But I do if it were Hindustani classical, dance or a play. Therefore, I am not sure if there are little ones accompanied by their parents really. Listening to a concert for me then was tough. But then there was this time, when there was a Jugalbandhi, of Sri Umayalapuram Sivaraman and Pt Kishan Maharaj and it was just about a couple of days ago, at TEDxChennai, that one of the speakers there, Sharada Ramnathan, who has known me forever told me that I got up and started foot tapping with all the changing rhythms on my chair. She told my mother then that I must pursue music in a very serious way. I was amused when I heard this story cos mom had never mentioned this. Sharada ji told me I had been 4 or something. Some concerts captured my imagination. Most just didn't.
A couple of years ago, I remember listening to Smt Aruna Sairam, Smt Sudha Raghunathan and Sri Unnikrishnan. I enjoyed those.
It remains to be seen whether I am going to be writing something here each time something appears in the DC as 'my' musings.
In the next few days, if not in the DC, I ll tell you why I don't go to Carnatic classical concerts, or rather most of them. Watch this space.
Add on by me, Padmhasini
Chinmayi thinks she was embarrassing me. Actually she didn't. More than being my daughter, she had been the most promising experimental subject for me...rather a guinea pig in my musical experiments.
Those days she was called Padmasini's daughter. I was well known in a certain circle of people. She, as soon as we entered a concert hall, would ask people around, "do you have a paper and a pencil please?" and she would be invariably lucky to get the pair and would write a kind of daily diary or draw people around. Then she will drop of to sleep.
She was a peaceful, very quiet and an obedient girl, never the type to talk back till 17-18. But then sleep was beyond one's control.. isn't it?
According to serious research, the initial hour and a half of sleep is the best period of absorption and makes a better impact than ten hours of active teaching or listening with a conscious effort.
That is precisely the reason why she surprised me several times when forming musical phrases or lines which were not taught by me actually.
There were several first time experiments on her, which proved wonders.
Stone deaf to music? And turning out to be a musical success? I couldn't help smiling when I read those lines. Serious subjects which are exclusive knowledge areas are to be altered or edited consulting the original writer. :)
I am sure the editor of this article in the Deccan Chronicle is not going to like this. We may face some music in retaliation. And we would not have reacted if it is not altering her biographical details.