Archive for October, 2013

Indian Percussion Instruments

October 21, 2013

I met

Laren Loveless

a very dynamic musician and percussionist, at the Bonfire event organized by the St.Louis Beacon. I decided to send him a video featuring Indian percussion instruments.

Featured are some of the percussion instruments of classical south Indian, and one of classical north Indian music.

It starts with

the Tabla

the north Indian drum-set. Then, we come to the south Indian classical instruments, played in concert regularly. (Click on the name of each instrument for the Wiki entry on it)

the Kanjira

the Morsing

the Konnakol

or oral rendition of the rhythm patterns, called “bol” in north Indian music and “jathi” in south Indian music.

the Mridangam

the Ghatam

the Thavil

I’m sorry, the recording is not of very high quality, but I chose it because one north Indian and all the south Indian percussion instruments (which are used today on concert platforms) are featured.

We have a complex (and highly rule-bound and structured) patterns of rhythms, which are called “taala”

The north and south Indian systems of classical music are quite different, but share a lot of features, too.

All our instruments are tuned to a particular pitch before being played, except, perhaps, the morsing.

Western drums (we are especially fond of the bongos!) are extensively used in our movie and light music. One of our very talented contemporary music drummers is

Sivamani .

Field Notes, organized by the St.Louis Beacon, 18, 19, and 201213

October 20, 2013

I decided to go to the opening event of

“Field Notes”

It was a bonfire, opposite the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.


are the details.


I was privileged to meet

Bob Duffy founder of the St.Louis Beacon, who organized the event:


Archaeologist Dr. Timothy Pauketat gave a presentation about “A Full Moon Over Cahokia Mounds 1000 Years Ago,” explaining the relationship between the structure of Cahokia Mounds and the lunar calendar, and how it wove into Cahokia’s goddess-based religion.


Here’s Dr Tim Pauketat presenting:


Cahokia Archaeological President Larry Kinsella showed a collection of archaeological tools from Cahokia Mounds, and talked very interestingly about them, too!


We had local farmer Rusty Lee and his family demonstrate how to prepare popping corn using agricultural tools.




Larry Loveless, a St.Louis percussionist and musician, co-ordinated a drummers’ circle.

Another percussionist had brought these Scooti drums from Kenya; he’d bought them there when his son learnt to play the drums.


Here’s Scott Ragland, a percussionist who teaches at Saint Louis University, on the right:


He seems to have just had a bright idea in the photo 😀

Larry said we should all drum together, and entice the Hunter’s Moon (Sharad Poornima for us) out of her hiding place in the clouds, but she was veiled throughout:


Larry had a great collection of drums:


Being used to a culture of being very careful with one’s musical instruments, I was amazed to see him handing them around:


Larry talked to us, and we began with a small bell signalling the start of the drummers’ circle:


Along with the popcorn, we also had a great American tradition…that of toasting marshmallows:


Here’s my marshmallow. This was a first for me! They are made entirely of sugar.


I met so many interesting people…Larry’s fiancee Aimee, her mother Stephanie, and her friend Heidi…and there was more warmth than the fire was providing!


Here’s my hand, ready to drum (while the other hand takes the photo!)


When A came over to pick me up, afterwards, I introduced her to everyone, too, and we had a nice natter together before dispersing. I’m looking forward to the Guided Walk in (where else?) Forest Park, tomorrow…today was a (total) surprise birthday party that DnA threw for me…but more about that later!


How one sees it

October 19, 2013

The Hindu piously said
To the fez-adorned head:
“Even if it is Bakrid…
Does not the slaughtered goat still bleed?”

The Muslim smiled. “Oh, yes, we wield
The axe. The sugarcanes in that field
And millions more, are scythed away
To make sweets on Diwali day!”

It’s not what one kills, but what one is used to killing, that makes one inured to it…and not think of it as killing at all! Do we think that we are murdering ants, roaches, rats, worms, or mosquitoes? Is it OK to kill plants to eat them, and not OK to kill animals for the same purpose?

Five moments that set me laughing….

October 17, 2013

Cyclone Kalyan, 171013, STL

October 17, 2013

Anyone who’s taken care of an active baby will empathize with this!

Achari Baingan, St.Louis, 171013

October 17, 2013

How I followed this recipe (with some variations).

Today’s directions on the fridge board for me said, “D cook north Indian brinjal dish”

So I looked up

Tarla Dalal’s recipe


To be mixed into a marinade
2 tbsp ginger-garlic (adrak-lehsun) paste
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
salt to taste
1 tsp oil

Other ingredients
2 cups brinjals (baingan / eggplant), cut into 1″ cubes
oil for deep frying
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
1 tsp mustard seeds ( rai / sarson)
1 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds (kalonji)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/2 tsp asafoetida (hing)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup sliced onions


1 tsp ginger-garlic (adrak-lehsun) paste
1 tsp chopped green chillies
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp dried mango powder (amchur)

I used a little tamarind as there is no amchur powder in the kitchen.

salt to taste
3/4 cup curds (dahi), whisked well
1/2 cup fresh cream

I left out the cream.

3 tbsp chopped coriander (dhania) for the garnish
Combine the brinjals with the prepared marinade and toss gently. Keep aside for 15 minutes.


Heat the oil in a kadhai and deep-fry the brinjals in it till they are golden brown. Keep aside.

I did not fry the brinjals, as it would have upped the calorie count steeply.

Combine the fennel seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida in a small bowl and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the above mixture.
When the seeds crackle, add the onions, ginger-garlic paste and green chillies and sauté till the onions turn translucent.


Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, Punjabi garam masala, dry mango powder and salt and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the curds, fried brinjals and fresh cream and mix gently.


Cook for 3-4 minutes.


Garnish with coriander and serve hot with rice or rotis.

No…keep the garnish, and transfer to a nice glass bowl so that it can be microwaved and garnished later in the evening!


And what the recipes never mention…clean the stove, the pan in which you’ve cooked, the ladles, the cutting-board, and make sure the kitchen does not look as if you’ve cooked there at all! All this while a certain baby is crawling around underfoot, trying to climb up your leg!

Families, and distances

October 17, 2013

I squeeze his little body to me
In an involuntary cuddle.
I smile at his sister in the morning.
We enjoy our time together, giggling and cuddling.
I’m leaving a happy family
To go on with their lives
While I pick up the threads on mine,
Across the world.
Why, then, should separation
Be such a heart-wrenching ache?
Why should I mar moments of happiness,
When I am watching brother playing with sister,
With thoughts of not being able
To see the minutiae of daily life
In their home, and share them?
All too soon, I will be back with them;
I am sure that the bonds will remain strong
And I can take up where I left off.
Let me take an aspirin
To cure my aching heart…
Let me not dwell on the days
That we will have to spend apart.

azhagAna poNNu nAn

October 15, 2013

I suddenly remembered a song I’d heard in my infancy…after months of not wanting to learn new songs, Kavya is suddenly keen again, now!

The words mean,

“I am a beautiful girl;
I have the eyes for that;
The only thing I possess
Is my self-respect…”

The original song is here (from a 1956 film, imagine!)

and the lyrics are:


Azhagaana ponnu naan
Adhukkeththa kannuthaan
Engitta iruppadhellaam thanmaanam ondruthaan

I am a beautiful girl
I have the eyes for that
The only thing I have is my self-respect

Eedillaa kaattu Roja
Idhai neenga paarunga
Evarenum parikkavandhaa inimethaan maarunga
Mulley thaan kuththunga

A peerless forest rose
Do look at this
If anyone comes to pluck it, its nature will change;
It’s the thorn that will prick.

HO…. ankonnu ilikkudhu aandhai poal muzhikkidhu
Aattathai rasikkavillai aalaithaan rasikkidhu (Azhagaana)

There is one grins, that stares like an owl
Not enjoying the dance, just enjoying the dancer

HO.. hO…. hO…
Ingonnu ennaippaaththu kan jaadai pannudhu (2)
Aemaali ponnuyinnu aedhedho ennu edhedho ennuthu

Here, one is making sheep’s eyes at me
Thinking various things, assuming I’m a gullible girl

HO…. hO… hO…
Penjaadiyai thavikkavittu peyaattamaakkudhu
Piththaagi ennai suththi kaiththaalm poadudhu (Azhagaana)

Leaves the wife to suffer, and acts like a demon
Crazily follows me, clapping (to my dance)

It’s a very mid-Eastern, Arabic type of dance number…and talks about the uncaring ogling of men! So I taught her only the first four lines.

Navaratri Golu Conversation

October 13, 2013

“Hi, A!”
“Oh…HI, B! Sorry, I just didn’t see you in the crowd. This is my fourth golu visit this evening, you know, things are so hectic…so how ARE you? My, you’re looking just gorgeous!”
“Oh, thank you! Is your saree a new one?”
“It’s just a simple one I picked up on my last visit to Sun-Dry Silks, they have such a unique collection!…Oh, hi, C! You haven’t aged a bit!”
“Hi, B..and A is here, too! Have you brought your adorable children? Oh yes, there they are…such beautiful princesses. How they’ve grown! It’s been a while since we’ve met.”
“I *know*! It’s just one mad whirl, you know? How are your daughters doing?”
“I have two sons, A. They are doing fine, thank you!”
“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten…one of them is doing medicine, isn’t he? Such intelligence, after all, they are your kids!”
“Oh, I don’t know….well, we MUST get together soon…muaaah! I’m in a rush, I have to pick up my younger son from practice, so bye…!”
“C always seems in a bit of a rush, doesn’t she? I don’t know how she juggles so many things, B..I’d never be able to do it, A, I’m sure!”
“Oh, you and I are just simple people, not career women…we take more pride in our homes and keep everything nice and organized. C doesn’t need to bother with all that.”
“I do agree. A..did you get the number of the Hispanic couple who come do the house cleaning?”
“I’ll get it for you the next time, I don’t seem to have it on my mobile. Oh, my, I just LOVE your jewellery…C wears more traditional designs, you know…”
“She’s not into jewellery at all. Some of us are just different…she’s quite casual about her cooking, too.”
“How I wish I could be like her! My husband and children want everything just so, and I really slave over the dishes…our children are at a growing age, they do need the best nutrition possible…”
“I did notice that C’s younger son is a little short…”
“Oh, well, nothing that can be done about it. Tell me, how do you manage to remain so slim?”
“Ha, ha, there’s really nothing to it…I asked C also if she’d like to join my gym, but she’s so busy that she doesn’t have the time for it.”
“Is that the new gym, Fat2Fit? I just LOVE the way they make the exercises fun. Next week will be my fourth day!”
“I also tried to suggest a good nutrition consultant to C.”
“Oh, just tell me the name and number, I would love to have some good advice for my hubby! I think it’s his metabolism, I just can’t get him to lose weight. He has no time, with his business taking up all his energy. Poor C, life must be tough for her….”
“I can imagine, and she must have been so disappointed when her younger son didn’t get into Wonderful Academy…they say it’s the best school in town.”
“I can vouch for that, the children are enjoying it so much! It’s nice when your children are gifted! My little one won third prize in the kindergarten art contest!”
“That’s incredible! Wow, I’m sure she gets her talent from you. C’s children are so natural…they don’t get all formal-mannered, it’s nice to see a change.”
“Oh yes, we can never hope to emulate her easy-going attitude to life! Even with a husband not doing too well, she never complains. Well, it’s been great running into you…we must meet up for a coffee or something one of these days.”
“Of course! Let me take down your mobile number. Ciao, catch up with you soon!”

Yes, I know, miaow, miaow, miaow…but I am attempting a reconstruction of an glowingly friendly conversation between A and B, when C was also present for part of the time. I was part of the furniture (I had not Been Introduced), so I sat and was very much entertained.

Poor C, I am sure she cannot understand, as she rushes off, why she’s bleeding from so many claw marks. Between running into each other and running down C, A and B seem to get enough exercise even without the gym.

Funnel-web Spiders

October 12, 2013

A glance at a bush can sometimes take one world-wide.



I looked at the wide-flung webs on the various bushes, and thought back to all the similar spiders I’ve seen in India, too.


is one of my posts about Indian Funnel-web Spiders (we also call them Wolf Spiders).


I decided to read up a little about them, and found out that they are of the family Agelenidae, and there could be more than 1,200 species in 68 genera, worldwide. They seem to occur in every continent except the Poles.


These spiders’ social structure is sufficiently evolved, the Wiki says, to include “communal web-building and sharing; cooperative prey capture and communal rearing of young. Spiders have not, however, taken the final step into the eusociality of the social Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps) because there are no workers or soldiers (no castes) and all females are reproductive.”


I’ve seen this kind of social behaviours in Social Spiders, and documented it in my posts


But did not know that Funnel-web Spiders, too, exhibit the same kind of one-for-all-and-all-for-one behaviour.


Another amazing fact that I learnt was that these spiders are incredibly fast; “with speeds clocked at 1.73 ft/s (0.53 m/s), the Giant house spider held the Guinness Book of World Records for top spider speed until 1987,” says the Wiki!


A creature that does, indeed, have a www….World-Wide Web, occurring everywhere…and which is so interesting….that’s the Funnel-web Spider, for you!