Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finding ragam

After many many years I attended two Carnatic concerts this season. I have been to a few conecrts outside of chennai, but there is something about the december season. Much has been commented about the parallel food festival that goes on, so I am not going to go into the details of the aapams and dosas I ate. Beyond the fantastic performances the audience were interesting to study. The ultimate point of this experience is to be able to find the ragam after all and it was quite intriguing to see who from the audience have the ability to do that and who are pretending to know and who are just there for the emotional appeal. There was a visiting professor from some US university who thought I was a student. Made my day, despite that he was in his eighties with possibly failing eyesight. He shared some of his opinions on the singer as well as the rest of the spectators quite caustically. There was a young man who seemed like he had come in by mistake but wrote down ragas for almost all the pieces. The best was the father and daughter - the father must have been in his eighties and the daughter late fifties. The daughter had to sit in a different row and it was fascinating to see the interchange. She would mouth the name of the raga and he would nod or shake his head and if she had an explanation she would write it on her phone and pass it to him. During the RTP there was considerable speculation and a few others near them also joined in the mime. I couldnt know for sure if they got 'keeravani'. I certainly didn't. What an ultimate pattern matching problem!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

By the beach

Every time I go to Chennai I dream of going for a morning walk on beach road. After many many years finally I managed to do that, more than once, this time. Walking on beach road in Chennai early in the morning ought to be listed in hundred things to do in India before you die. It was amazing to have the wind against my face and the music of the waves as I walked about four kilometers each day.

Starting from the lighthouse, as you walk towards the Marina swimming pool, past the wide road you have the stately buildings on your left and the vast sandy beach on your right. The sun fresh from the east shines upon your face and the cawing of the crows fills the air. As you walk past the various statues, you could almost loose yourself in stories from the past. You have Kannagi to think about feminism and terrorism, you have Gandhi to wonder about salt and swadeshi, you have Pope to wonder about the power of language and assimilation. I wondered if anyone would care to unveil a statue of Ovvaiyar these days - we don't know her religion or caste [let me not be loud, someone might claim her], or let unveil the statue of G.U. Pope. There should be walking tours in beach road.

By the third day the waves got ferocious and for the first time I saw the sandy parts of the beach filled with water. Thane showed its might and I could feel the power of nature.

In between on a sunny day I drove down by beach road to Mahabalipuram. It was hot and crowded and I felt thoroughly tired and low.  One of the unsung victim of over population is the wide open spaces - I felt like mourning the lack of an imaginative setting that is a must for viewing the old structures of Mahabalipuram. I guess short of the Pantheon, Mahabalipuram is probably  the oldest structures I have ever visited. [Stonehenge wouldn't qualify :)] It is such a fantastic example of man's triumph over nature I thought as the waves crashed against the rocks close to the temple and the salty air that swept the carvings. I should read my copy of Periplus again.