One of the stronger memories of my early teens was my mother's Gurukula project. She wanted to reinvent the Gurukula project for the modern times. Its common knowledge that my mother has been my only Guru though she tried a million times to send me to other Gurus for the ISI mark of going to a 'popular' Guru. One class or two I would be back and refuse to go.
My mom taught a few students during that time. And refused to take fees because she believed that Vidya was for daanam. I know now that giving something for free is not given much respect. Even though a lot of the students come back today and say that they have never been able to learn from anyone else after that.
The Gurukula-styled classes with my mother's students, perhaps 10 of them or perhaps less, landed up at home on Sundays at 6 or maybe 7 AM in the morning. Starting with prayers, pranayama and meditation there was a short recess for breakfast, which mom used to make. I really cannot remember now, what she gave us all. Should ask her. But its better she blog about it herself. Hopefully that will come soon. Thereafter rigorous vocal exercises began until lunch. Lunch would be something exciting soups and main course. It would be a different menu each week. A lot of times, my mom would get us to practice the vocal exercises the 'n' number of times and go into the kitchen once in a while to cook. She always cooked personally because the entire process of cooking the food for all of us was accompanied by chanting of various mantras the process.
Sometimes we used to peek into the kitchen to know what was cooking. The aromas would be highly distracting.
Mom was a pretty cool teacher. The post lunch session went in explanation of various concepts. Usually triggered by a question. She would ask one of us to ask her something and from there discussions would begin. And during this time all of us could lean back, stretch our legs, even lie down if we wanted to, while listening to her. And no, I don't remember any of us falling asleep. After this began another round of learning compositions, writing notations until tea-time where another round of snacks came through. After some more classes post tea, the Sunday class would come to an end at 6PM. Today, it is a great fad to say food is 'energized' or 'energizing' anything at all is an amazing thing to do. But this has been a part of our culture and living for aeons. I guess, we should have 'packaged' all this way better as is expected these days.
During that time, a lot of the students said they did better in school. Attention spans had become better. Performance was better. But as one student after another hit 10th std, music clearly took a back seat for every student, except me of course.
Guess only my mother had the guts to put me through music. In other cases, the families did not accept. Some uncle, aunt, grandmother or grandfather, brother or sister disapproved with a child in the family taking music seriously. Or maybe, it was a matter of destiny. Or like the famous quote said, "I was fine but education ruined me" and to just tinker with it a bit, "They were fine, but board exams ruined their plans". hehe.
I somehow remember that my mother was an epitome of patience, taught the other students more concepts, taught them more than I ever had. And no I am not joking. My mother was very impatient with me if I didn't repeat a musical line the next instant. But she was painfully patient with the others. And every time she would say "Illa Kanna" "Illa ma" to explain. If she did lose her cool then one can be sure they had messed up big time with their singing.
And I also remember it was during one of these classes that I got the call to go and record at Rahman sir's studio for Kannathil Muthamittal. No one except my mother knew for the entire period between the recording of the song and its release, that I had met Rahman sir or that I had sung this song.
My mother's experiment had come to an end by the time Kannathil Muthamittaal released. And thence began my career as a professional playback singer.