Archive for May, 2012


May 19, 2012

This topic has been, well, on my mind for a while, and contrary to the title, I’d like to share my thoughts!

Secrets….one of the most potent ways of stopping communication that human beings have. I wonder if any other creatures on this planet have secrets? We talk of the secrets of Nature, but these are only facts that we human beings do not know, and are slowly discovering. So I suppose that is the definition of a secret….some information, or knowledge, that has not been shared by all concerned.

Secrets are generally,I find, creative of power equations between the sharer of the secret. Sometimes both the parties don’t want the secret to get “out”; in this case, they become accomplices..conspiring to keep the information between themselves. I have so often seen what, in Tamizh, is called “Chidambara rahasiyam” (“secret of Chidambaram”…the secret in the temple of Chidambaram is that there is NO actual god in the sanctum sanctorum, only AkAshA or space.) A Chidambara rahasiyam is a secret much like the Emperor’s new clothes…everyone knows it, but no one refers to it….for example, when a man has a mistress, and everyone (except, of course, the wife) knows about it, but it is never referred to. Or the fact that a certain politician is corrupt…

But sometimes, one person needs the secret kept, and the other person acquiesces to this. This is what causes the power equation. The person who is going to keep the secret has power over the one who wants the secret kept. “Don’t tell, please!” is the refrain from one, and the response is, “I won’t…” with, very often, a “but only if…” rider that often comes unsaid, but is there nevertheless.

A secret can be great trouble to keep; some circumstances may make it imperative for the secret to be leaked. Sometimes, secrets are revealed through some external factors…this kind of revelation often seems to cause a lot more grief all around. Sometimes, just the temptation to show that one is “in the know” causes the pact to be broken, and the trust betrayed. When the secret is, in itself, one of betrayal or transgression, this causes an interesting situation. Is betrayal of betrayal a betrayal? Alas, it is.

Secrets can bring people together…or drive them apart. Secrets between lovers, for example, would, in my opinion, ultimately sound the death-knell of the relationship. I suppose that secrets kept from anyone is, in some measure, a betrayal of trust. Once I know that someone has kept a secret from me, I keep on wondering what other things that person has hidden from me…the trust I had is lost.

Most difficult of all are the uneasy situations where one person (or more) is forced to keep a secret, in spite of an inclination to the contrary. The need for secrecy can conflict with the need for openness…and can be a real strain.

We’ve all had our share of secrets that we’ve kept, and secrets that we’ve given away….I only hope that one is judged by one’s good intentions, and not by one’s indiscretions!


Nectar from flowers: Macro

May 17, 2012

Yesterday, at Lewis Park, I was walking around, and thought I saw some mosquitoes….


but that didn’t seem to be what they were, because they weren’t about to bite me, but were avidly attacking the tiny flowers nearby:

mosqu 2 160512

They had a strange “jumping-up-and-down” action while sipping the nectar, which I tried to catch on video:

Can anyone tell me what these insects are? They are like very large mosquitoes….about wasp-sized.

Nonsense rhyme…

May 17, 2012

I learnt this nonsense rhyme as a child, and as part of my cultural heritage, I’m carefully passing on the nonsense to KTB, as well as the sense!

The rhyme goes, in part:

“Aa Oo may bluk
blukka thookki mEla pOtta
chettiyAr veettu naNdu (the crab cooked in the Chettiar’s house)
nanda thookki mEla pOtta
nAgarathna pAmbu (the snake with the jewel)
pAmba thookki mEla pOtta
panjavarNa kiLi (five-coloured parrot)
kiLiye thookki mEla pOtta…..

I’ve forgotten what comes after this, so I conveniently end with

“kaila oNNum illai!” (There’s nothing in the hand!)

I hope my mother hears this, wherever she is, she’s the one I heard this nonsense from!

For Mothers’ Day….

May 15, 2012

Here’s KTB the Mother cuddling HER daughter (her name is Yaya Papa…papa is baby in Tamizh), changing her nappy by stripping her, and wishing everyone Happy Mother’s Day, at our behest…

And here she is bearing her child off to hospital (to have a baby, maybe?…no, something’s wrong with her legs, apparently)

SUCH a delight, every day!

Doing things…

May 15, 2012

I do enjoy the wit wherever I find it, and on the Hasiru Usiru egroup, a civic citizens’ forum that I belong to, S. Nityananda has posted, regarding car-free walking zones in Ahmedabad, which has been recently introduced:

“at least something gets done in some cities. In Bangalore, we also do things… like deciding the dates for a preliminary meeting to discuss whether it would be advisable to consider deciding a date for discussing initial ideas for car free zones.”

I’ll probably be thinking about this at odd timed, and there will be an unexplained smile on my face!

What I wrote to my birding group in Bangalore, today…

May 14, 2012

Some of the very common birds I see in Forest Park…..

The Brown-headed Cowbirds and their mates seem to be out, and the “treeeee!” call of the Red-winged Blackbird can be heard everywhere. Mockingbirds and the immigrants….the European Starlings with their bronze-green sheen, and the House Sparrows….are briging forth families. The American Robin (called Robin Redbreast in Britain) also has babies trailing along, chirping loudly for worms.

As I walk along Des Peres Creek, the Mallards and the Green Herons look up alertly at me in case I am coming to catch them. Several Kildeer are now to be seen on the grass along the banks…… A Snowy Egret quickly spears a fish, and takes it off. I go to watch the Great Horned Owls, but can see only the mother today….the other birds, such as the Common Grackle, also show their shining plumage, and as a bonus, I see the “Woody Woodpecker” Red-headed Woodpecker, at her nest:

The migratory warblers (they arrive in St.Louis in summer; alas, Missouri is not a hot-spot birding location, but it’s great for my level of ignorance!) show themselves here and there, and once in a while, I get a lovely video like this:

This kind of nature ramble is certainly not the stuff of National Geographic…but it’s my morning “battery recharger”, and I come home by 7am, ready to take on my daily duties, with a happy smile on my face, that lasts the whole day long. Just this morning, an elderly lady (er, I mean, MORE elderly than me!) smiled back at me and remarked, “It’s so nice to see a smiling face early in the morning.)

I watch the mink family in the creek, which I’ve been following from last year:

I can’t see any young ones now, I was very lucky last year, as my friend Danny Brown informed me!

Dear Subbu…thank you for inspiring me, with your descriptive post, to write this….and Zafar Saab, I want you to know that halfway around the world, when I joined the Audubon Society’s monthly bird-watching outing (exactly like our Lalbagh outing) this time, there were THREE people who knew about you, and were awed to think that I knew you personally.

May 11, 2012

News report:

‘The “portions” set for the exams were from “A” to “M” but the questions asked were about “T”…that was out of syllabus…several students said that if the letter had been “P” they would have done outstandingly well, pissed passed with flying colours and even given a practical demonstration.’

(Thanks to Hari Menon for some of the above.

LKG exams results


May 10, 2012

I loved the triangles that make up this image of the house opposite ours in St.Louis…..

frnt house flag r 090512 stl

And the following thoughts occurred to me, as well….

Triangles are a part of life.
They can be shapes of beauty.
But triangles can be a source of strife
When they interfere with duty!

In geometry or architecture,
All is good about triangles.
But (forgive me for the lecture)
In a marriage, they cause tangles!

A figure or a planned-out house
May have three dimensions;
But if caught in a triangle, a spouse
Can have, to trust, no pretensions!

A child is the only accepted way
There can be a marital triangle
And even then, the spouses can say
That the child is the smallest angle!

Three….a difficult number, and it makes me think.

A stalwart’s words…52 years ago!

May 10, 2012

I could not let this wonderful interview go into the mists of the Internet, so I’ve saved it on my blog. Those of you who are not interested in Carnatic music, wait for my next post!

The interviewer was Shri Ramesh Rangan

Madurai Mani Iyer interview in 1960
Following is a translation of an Interview given by Shri Madurai Mani Iyer
to All India Radio (A.I.R) recorded during early 60s. Seniors who heard
him those days may enjoy this more
*A.I.R*: Namaskaaram. I would like to record your reminiscences
about your gurukulavaasam. Whom you did study with at the very beginning
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: I learnt under Shri Rajam Bhagavathar in Madurai
*A.I.R*: Whose Disciple was Rajam Bhagavathar?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: He was a disciple of Ettayapuram Ramachandra
Bhagavatar. My Paternal uncle Madurai Pushpavanam Iyer and the nagaswara
vidwan Madurai Ponnuswami pillai, were also disciples of Ramachandra
*A.I.R*: How long would you have learnt from Rajam Bhagavatar and when did
you start performing ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: I learnt for 2 years from him. We lived in a portion
of his house itself on rent. So, it was very convenient to learn from
Rajam Bhagavathar.
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: After that, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar
established a music school in Madurai in which Rajam Bhagavatar was
appointed as a teacher. So I happened to join that school. I learnt there
too for about a year and a half. After that I started performing in
*A.I.R*: Can you recollect your very first concert where ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: I had been to the Sivagangai area along with my
father who had friends there. My first concert was held there, in a place
called Alavaakottai, during the kumbhaabhishekam festival. Since the
organizers of that festival were well-known to my father, my first concert
took place!
*A.I.R*: Who played pakkavaadyam (accompaniment) for your first concert?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: Nattam Seetharama Iyer, who lived in Kumbakonam, played
the Violin. Tiruvaarur Kunju Iyer alias Rajagopala Iyer played the
*A.I.R*: How old were you then ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: I was 12 years old then.
*A.I.R*: So you started performing from then?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: Yes I started performing from then on.
*A.I.R*: In order to get so many concert opportunities at that age itself,
you must have had help is in it?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: What helped me was my paternal uncle, Pushpavanam
Iyer, had been so famous that people who had listened to his music would
readily agree to hold my concert if someone recommended my name.
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: My only responsibility was to perform well in the
concert that had been arranged. Getting the concert opportunity itself
wasnt very difficult. Had to perform well in the arranged concert, thats
all. It would make things even easier.
*A.I.R*: Then, as you got older, your voice would have changed.
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: Yes, my voice changed. When I first sang concerts,
I used to sing to a shruti of 5 kattai, 4.5 kattai. My voice (shaareeram)
used to be very facile. Later, my voice dropped in shruti, way down to 1
kattai. It all happened quite rapidly in the space of 2 months. And even
at 1 kattai, my voice could only reach the taara Shadja for the highs and
the madhya Shadja for the lows.
*A.I.R*: A range of only 1 sthaayi (Octave)?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: 1 sthaayi, exactly, effectively thats all it would
speak (!) Singing higher than the taara Shadja was difficult, and so
was singing below the madhya Shadja. Hence I was constrained to sing
within 1 sthaayi at that time.
*A.I.R*: So you must have done a lot of saadhakam at that time to get a
handle on your voice and strengthen it.
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: I practised for about 3 hours everyday with the
*A.I.R*: How did you practice then ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: I used to set the shruti high and then try to hold
the taara Shadja which used to be difficult, but I would practice this for
a while, I would take a suitable raga and practice the phrases D N S, P D
N S, M P D N S etc, along with the proper bhaavam of the raaga, in order
to try and strengthen the Shadja then I would proceed upward to halt on R
and then take a look at G and then try M. I only managed to reach the M
this way. Then I would lower the shruti to 2.5, 2, kattai and sing the
high notes a little easier, and then move to 1.5 kattai and sing with even
more ease. I Had to practice really hard, had to sing open-throated and
practice hard to bring the voice into shape.
*A.I.R*: In your career, you must have heard the concerts of a lot of
vidvaans. can you talk about it a little bit ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: In Madurai, I have heard a lot of concerts of
Mazhavaraayanendal Subbarama Bhagavatar. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar,
I have heard a lot of his musical discoures he also used to perform
concerts, in his performances, there would be a lot of Tyagaraja
compositions and other great pieces, the discourses would be very musical.
Also in Madurai, there was Nagaswami Bhagavatarvaal who sang a lot of
Tyagaraja kritis in his concerts. He would not repeat the kritis he sang
from concert to concert in the many concerts I heard! I had a great
opportunity to listen to a lot of different kritis of Tyagaraja, all those
in vogue as well as many rare ones. he was a disciple of the Walajapet
Venkataramana Bhagavatar, a prime disciple of Tyagaraja.
I have heard concerts of Karaikkudi Brothers with Dakshinamurti Pillai on
the mrdangam, Kancheepuram Naina Pillai, with Malaikottai Govindaswami
Pillai on Violin and Dakshinamurti Pillai on Mridangam etc.
I have heard lots and lots of concerts of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar &
Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer.
Then I have listened to Veena Dhanammal. And I have listened to lots of
performances of great naagasvara vidvaans during temple festivals, and
night processions staying up all night long and walking behind them.
*A.I.R*: What is your opinion of current performance methods ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: The Current performance methods setup by various
senior musicians of our time and their aesthetics, I must say I like it and
hold it in high regard. And I try to proceed along that route as much as
*A.I.R*: What is your opinion regarding shruti ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: You mean setting an aadhaara shruti (base shruthi)
it should be set such that the taara Shadja is easy to reach not too easy
however otherwise it would be floating and fragile. It should not be too
easy, if you hold the taara Shadja in an extended manner i.e. kaarvai,
you should be able to hold it with firmness and strength, without
tiring. Only then you would be able to sing the further higher notes like
R, G, M, easily and attuned to shruti. A lot of musical phrasing, in
our current music, is in the upper reaches. These are also the notes that
are heard with clarity and which grab the peoples attention. If you sing
in the lower octave, people nearby can hear it clearly and only
knowledgeable rasikas would like it.
However, we are required to sing a lot in the upper octave these days, and
for that one should not tire. Even though there are mikes and speakers
these days, one should be careful not to tire, since otherwise you
would slip from the shruti. if that happens, your singing will not be
fulfilling or pleasing. And if you dont satisfy the listeners with your
singing in that range, then there is no point in singing in the lower
reaches either, having lost their attention.
The aadhaara Shadja should also be held well and with firmness. Even if
you are only able to intone the lower N D P in a soft manner, thats
OK. But the taara Shadja is very important
, it should be held with strength and firmness.
*A.I.R*: In singing svaras, i.e. kalpanaasvaras, you seem to have a
unique style could you let us know about the evolution of your style?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: Unique style? Really not. Mazhavaraayanendal
Subbarama Bhagavatar used to sing svaras like this. When I was a student
and a novice performer, I have heard a lot of his music he used to sing
svaras even for many rare raagas, his sarvalaghu manner of svara singing
used to be very good. I tried to sing like that and develop my svara
singing, my style is a direct outgrowth of that.
*A.I.R*: Thanks for that information. In svara singing, people sing
tisram, misram, etc. what is your opinion on this arithmetic (kaNakku)?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: As long as the raga bhaavam is not spoiled, there is
nothing wrong in singing arithmetic swara prasthara with thisra, misra etc.
If the voice admits of this exercise, and if the arithmetic is also
interesting, then there is no problem at all. We can all be happy and
People who are well-qualified only should attempt it. Everyone need not
feel a compulsion to engage in this. If we do arithmetic, troubling
ourselves, losing raga bhaavam and losing the shruti also in the
process, there
is no point. The sukha bhaavam in the cutcheri would be lost. Without
losing sight of the overall sukha bhaavam and the raaga bhaavam, when
someone who is intelligent, has a strong memory and has had good
association with laya vidvaans, does this arithmetic, then we also can
enjoy it and appreciate it.
*A.I.R*: What advice do you have for the youngsters who are learning music
and desire to perform, and others who have just begun to perform ?
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: They should hear many concerts of the senior
vidvaans, ie the established vidvaans. Because, however much they are
talented, since they lack the experience, their music will not be
sufficient or fulfilling. They should observe how the senior vidvaans make
their concerts a success and please all varieties of listeners, how they
use their voices in a concert hall, how they employ the various thick and
thin shades in their voices, how they plan their concerts, these are all to
be learnt only by direct observation. It does not happen otherwise, however
well one sings by themselves or practices their music.
They have to hear the senior vidvaans over and over again, no other way.
But, they dont have to imitate them. It will all jell together over time as
they keep singing, and hearing the senior vidvaans attentively.
They should pay sufficient attention to setting the shruti before singing.
They should give sufficient time to the accompanists to adjust their
instruments to the shruti. Before proceeding to sing, they should attune
themselves to the shruti by intoning Sa-Pa-Sa in a manner audible just to
themselves. Steadying themselves thus, if they sing, there would be no
problem. If in the midst of a concert, the shruti drifts, they should
adjust it properly and then only should continue. If the shruti
wavers, sukha
bhaavamm will be lost, the felicity will be lost. The more and more we are
attuned to shruti, the easier the music will flow. Hence one must pay
great attention to it.
*A.I.R*: Thanks very much for sharing your experiences and your pointers
to all aspiring musicians. Namaskaaram.
*Madurai Mani Iyer*: Namaskaaram!

KS Ramachandran, Amritha Apartments, 2nd Floor, E58A, 21st Cross Street, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090;
Landline: (+91) 44 2446 8896; Mobile: (+91) 98410 71388

KTB singing some old Tamizh songs….

May 7, 2012

She’s always been fond of “pAttu pAdavA”, an old Tamizh movie song. So when she suddenly decided to put Wally the walrus to sleep (on top of a measuring scale, for some reason), I asked her to sing a lullaby and she sang the song instead!

When I requested her to sing “jO jO”, a lullaby I often sing to her, she first told me Wally was waking up, but got suddenly interested in the song, and put Wally back to sleep again, singing the lullaby at top speed!

Another favourite of hers is the old movie song from “kAdalikka nEram illai”, the 60’s hit comedy….here she is, singing “ViswanAthan, vElai vEndum!” with great gusto! (The song is sung by the hero who has been wrongfully dismissed by his beloved’s father, and is saying, “Viswanathan, I want a job!”)