Angkor wat

Angkor wat

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Janaki miss- a tribute

'Janaki miss' as we called her, taught Carnatic vocal music in her tiny house at the end of an even tinier gully. Some of the richer students frequently drove right up to the house with a flourish, only to realise that there was a price to pay, it was practically impossible to reverse. Most of us walked up, and we could hear the strains of a very loud and lusty sa re ga ma from the very junior batches floating down two roads atleast. Janaki miss was a very warm and fiery person, when you first joined you'd be minorly bullied, but with time all of us settled into various levels of comfort with her. I was particularly fond of her, and she of me, so that we often spent the post class times with her talking about various people none of whom i knew, but would nod vigorously if asked 'and then this happened with- you know so and so?' with a glare. This, knowing that a no would lead to an impossibly complicated explanation of who is connected how to who and i'd get even more mixed up! Bangalore is still provincial in many ways, and within the same areas it is routine for older people to assume that everyone knows everyone else, meaning their family scandals and peculiarities inclusive :)

It was an uphill task for a single woman in the sixties with a clear talent in music to realise that she had to earn her living by it, assuming she wanted to live. Though to me it seemed unforgivable for any family to put a daughter or sister in that position, she was very matter of fact about it after all these years. Music was her passion, and perhaps to overcome the loneliness her days were crowded from 7 am to 7 pm with classes, and many of her students would also bring in supplies, stay to chat and of course, update her on the latest neighbourhood gossip :) She had strong and clear opinions on things- the etv newsreader was good, the dd one hopeless (never trust a man who smiles so much), the temple in front of the gully was good, the new student was good but her parents interfered too much, whereas the older lady who'd just joined would never get a grasp on swaras but was very keen nonetheless. but then what can you expect from a shetty? they just had too much money, so their parents make them feel they can buy everything. This blatant generalisation no doubt born of her generation was completely in contrast to her attitude in taking students though. anyone interested was welcome, she had no dresscode, jeans, salwar kameez, skitrs, upto you. all she wanted was a genuine interest and some progress to show for it. The mad hour to hour scheduling of course meant a compromise on time per head and therefore on quality, but people were welcome to come by later if free and just hang around and learn things. She certainly had a sense of humour, and some funny incident would get her smiling ear to ear and cutting the vegetables with that much more gusto, while they were serenaded by mohana or kalyani! an off tune even in a crowd would be instantly caught by her sharp ears and lead to much knife waving causing those nearest to back off nervously..

Infact her lesons were as much fun for th music as for the various diversions. Often she'd get up mid piece and still singing and giving the beat, walk out of the front door picking up something behind the door. Then suddenly the singing would give way to angry abuse. This was the cue for us older students to grin and look at the new ones, who'd be open mouthed and clueless. Until they, like us, realised that this was directed at her lifelong foe, a huge spotted cow that always diabolically waited till she was well in her stride and then hoping to get away with it, ambled up to chew on the soppu immediately outside her door. a vain hope, of course. The cardinal sin was if we stopped singing. She'd pop her head back in and glare ferociously 'Who asked you to stop'?? and of course everyone nervously started immediately, except not all at the same place..

The students who pleased her best were those who made the effort to ask the right questions and got the thala right. Poor thing, she did suffer from a number of older students (usually fond mothers and aunts) who just could not get the concept of rhythm, and insisted on substituting adithala for rupaka and occasionally something in between completely randomly, all the while cheerfully pausing midpiece, wiping their faces, making coments like 'so hot no?' and enthusiastically proceeding. On such days the tanpura was abandoned, and she'd glumly sit in a corner waiting for them to finish and then switch on etv. I suppose the newsreader read in rhythm, atleast.

She was a huge source of support and love to us all though, certainly to me. the last thing i remember before I had to leave and she fell too sick to teach, was her making me promise i'd 'keep studying well and do something big'. not, she hastened to add, 'just like all these people, making money and having no happiness ' but something out of the ordinary..She remained fiercely independent when a sudden cancer forced her to slow down. She hated not being able to get her own vegetables, but was gradually reconciled to it with a very nice young girl staying with her. Her students were sufficient and sufficiently fond of her to keep visiting, and when we do meet now once in a blue moon, the talk automatically shifts to her and makes us all smile in warm remembrance.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

altered dreams..or are they?

Last night I dreamt I was watching a tulsi plant guarded by a slavering wolf, and i had to stay outside the chalk ring to be safe. Though I probably have more whacky dreams than the average person, and can trace this particular mixed up association back to a bad choice of a late night movie and old photo album browsing, :) it did set me thinking. As a 10 year old, I could spend hours playing around the tulsi katte with my 'children' (a battered rabbit, a friendly devil, anoushka and a friendly dragon) and my cousins, and nothing gave me greater joy than to distribute (carefully rationed) cheese spread and sauce and chutney sandwiches to everyone! The memory made me wonder, How many of my childhood ideas of happiness do i still have? How many do I no longer want, or have 'grown out' of? This line of thought led me to an interesting discovery..all the main things that gave me pleasure are fundamentally the same now! :) Maybe children have a clearer view of what makes them happy and less to distract them from it! Or of course maybe its just me :) anyhow whatever the reasons, I thought i'd list some things that always made me happy, and look at how true that is now..

1) The Cauliflower experience! : This aesthetic experience starts with the smell of cauliflower cooking, goes on to looking at the delicious florets as they go chatpat and to the grand finale, the glorious taste, when cooked in haldi and the rest! :) To add that chef's special touch, it had to be accompanied while eating, with either good company or a famous five (nobody beats enid blyton at food descriptions!)...I'd change the enid blyton to an agatha christie now, but the rest is identical :)

2) Looking forward to a return!: Nothing could beat this anticipation, not even the actual coming! It would be usually a parent coming back from somewhere (mostly my father) or cousins visiting from abroad :) Much of it was just their presence, but some part was DEFinitely those dark hocs and the cheeses :)..intact

3) Lazy morning: A late and totallu unguilty sunday get up knowing there was nOTHing one had to do..with hot chai-breakfast and a constant background from my mother (thats not the sugar spoon!..ginger is good for you stop fussing..i dont know how you'll ever run your own house..:)..intact

4) Having a friends day/Meeting interesting people and hearing all about them : Intact and more :)..though this also includes successful avoidance of someone you don't want to meet!

5) Putting up plays :BIg thrill and creative fun :)- not any more :( but watching plays is some substittute

6) To watch a scary serial or hear a scary story at night, then find there's nobody under the bed or bureau PLUS the torch has batteries PLUS I sacrifice dignity to confess and dont sleep alone! :)- not as strong..but still a feel good, the first two definitely!!

7) Sangeetha class- Much more than just a musical experience, and an invariable mood more :(..but more on that independently

8) Long aimless walks and sky gazing- first yes, second, terrace :(

9) My room- an instantly relaxing place! fullof familiar things and posters and colours and books :)- not anymore..the hosetl one is cluttered and anyway spend hardly any time there

These are things I used to do, here is a shorter list of things I wanted to do!

1) have an older sister

2) To write a book that'll smash all records and then retire for life :)

3) To travel and interview people along the way, and of course smoothen their troubles and leave with lots of gratitude graciously accepted :)..particularly in afghanistan

4) Go to Mohenjadaro, be an archaeologist, and crack the Indus script!

5) Explore parts of the amazon, specifically where an anaconda might be..

6) To make a brave sacrifice and help someone I love elope with someone else! I have no clue where this came from,but certainly remember being melancholily thrilled by the idea for years..always gave me a nice glow :))

6) To have a story teller permanently at hand ! :)

there must be more..but these offhand atleast! Some day I hope to realise the less impossible ones..or maybe all even, who knows :)