Friday, September 27, 2013

India as seen by others

This is an extract from a book written in 1921

Its Rajahs - Its Brahmans - Its Fakirs



This French man was in awe of this country and toured the length and breadth of it not once but twice.
It is interesting to read what he says.

Here is a sampler.
This is about Indian weddings.

They do not consist, these wedding gifts, as they do with us, of modest cases of jewels, silver, lace, furs, pianos, automobiles, etc. . . . The Hindu wedding boasts of more royal presents. Would you care to know, for example, what was the wedding gift of His Highness the Maharajah of Kashmir to the young couple of Kapurthala? An elephant,six horses, fifteen thousand rupees. The other princes, less rich than he, contented themselves with offering the betrothed: one, three camels, two horses, a dozen falcons ; another, some Bokhara rugs, a collar of pearls, draperies embroidered with gold; others made their appearance preceded by a herald bearing sacks of precious stones in their matrix, or rough-hewn nuggets of gold. The exhibition of the gifts takes place, as in France, a few days before the marriage ceremony, but in the morning, from ten o'clock till noon, in a special room, guarded by two armed attendants. The groom, who alone is visible before the day of the marriage the young girl being strictly secluded in the zenana of the ranees does the honors generally of the inspection of the gifts, many of which are reserved for him personally: arms, jewels, saddles, tennis rackets, polo sticks,etc.

There is something melancholy and saddening in the persistent and mysterious absence of the bride, who ought to be the queen, feted, petted, complimented, of all these festivities. But the Hindu wedding custom permits no relaxation of this stringent system. Even if, like the Princess Brinda of Jubbal, the bride were strongly imbued with European civilization, this preventive sequestration would none the less take place. It is, in a sense, a preparatory novenna which she accomplishes now. Surrounded by the dowager queen, that is to say by the maharanee, the other ranees and their intimates, she trains herself and accustoms herself in advance to the double role of sovereign and wife which must soon be hers. The priests visit her and instruct her thoroughly in her duties there is no question of her rights, which do not exist and in certain obligations which the Law of Manu imposes on her.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I Walk!

I walk. I walk a lot. Of course, not these days.
I always walked to my school from the village.
I remember I walked in hot summer sun in the noon all the way back home from the school.
By the time I reach home eyes would be burning!
Mother used to put cotton soaked in buttermilk over them.
I walked miles together when I could.
Now I walk whenever necessary.
I used to walk because that is the only way I know to move from one place to the other. At sixty also I am only dependent on my legs to go places.
I do not drive any vehicle.
I always make the same old stale joke about driving.
If at all I am capable of driving something, it is the other people whom I can drive mad.
I am not even doing that these days. I hardly meet people.
Some people can go mad because I don’t meet them. But, in that I can never be the reason directly driving them mad.
Indirectly though I am responsible for their madness, but I don’t have the fun of driving them mad.

No. I am not interested in driving anymore.

I am walking.
Recently I have even talked my reluctant daughter into walking. She drives a scooter.
Even if the place of work is just a few yards away, she goes on the scooter.
I was thinking that I walk, because I don’t have an alternative.
Those who do not have to walk also are stuck to only one way of moving around.
That is their vehicle.
I think they forget that there are legs and they could be put to use to move forward.
I had to talk my daughter into walking.
She used to go for walking on her scooter when her cousin was around. That girl went away to the Promised Land in search of greener grass.
So, that made my daughter to give up walking.
You need some place and your feet walk, I thought.
My daughter thinks that you need company to walk.

Youngsters think too many things. That is as good as it gets.
They also defy the natural biological rhythms.
They keep awake in the nights, either working or playing fool.
Partying and spending time on the net is hardly of any use.
Youngsters also sleep during the day!
My daughter sleeps much after the day break.
Because the poor thing was either listening to music or watching a video till late, you see!
It is enough if one is up a little before leaving home.
Brush your teeth, take bath and perhaps eat a morsel.
There are many who prefer a sub to homemade food!
I wanted my daughter to break this habit.
I wanted her to walk with me to keep company!
Hardly interesting but also boring company, I knew1
She agreed! We got up early and went the park nearby. That is an apology of one.
Neither trees nor plants there.
We were alone one day.
There were a bunch of old people sitting on another!
There were a couple incessantly talking while they kept walking!

I always thought talking while walking is not the right thing to do.
I was under the impression that a serious walker does not talk and not even open the mouth.
Regular breathing is necessary in walking I thought.
Otherwise walking turns into strolling according to me.

Who cares about what you think?
Particularly about walking that you never do seriously.
Going along the road for passing time is hardly walking!
I shall walk seriously one day.
Neither I nor my daughter is walking after a four day trial.
I developed knee problem.
My bones, I know are worn out!
Not because I am very old.
It is a genetic problem, we know.

Still, I want to walk!
Think while walking!
Notice people along while walking.

Walking all the way into the evening!
Like many others who cannot run.
People, who can run, do that in a totally different way!

Do you run or walk?

Or sit at the table growing that paunch day after day?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Voleti Venkateswarlu – a remembrance

I never knew who Narendra Menon is till recently. Now, I know even his father Sri Haridas Menon and we are close friends. The father and son duo are music mad people. Narendran arranged a remembrance day for Voleti on the 85th birth anniversary of the genius. Interestingly this took place at Chennai. Naren came there from Mumbai, his father from Palghat. I joined them from Hyderabad, Narayanan from Calicut, Latha from Pune, someone else from Bangalore! And of course there were enough serious music enthusiasts of Chennai in the hall much before the appointed time. Vidwan Sri P S Narayana Swamy graced the occasion, not exactly on invitation! How graceful of him to sit through the concert till the end! Most of the audience remained glued to their seats till the end. That is Chennai! Hats off to its music culture!!

No big banners, no publicity, just an insertion in the local engagements column of a daily did the entire trick.

No big speeches either. I think I was the only big mouth contained in time by intelligent management.

I was stunned to find the kind of adulation that is there for Voleti around. I remember only ridicule from people whenever he is mentioned around where I lived and worked! I am of course thrilled by his music and musical presentations. I am stunned by one or two of those light songs he sang. I was digitizing the cassettes containing recordings of a radio play and a feature on Meera just before leaving for Chennai. The Hindustani tunes he set for the songs in them are still ringing in my ears! Did he learn Hindustani? Let us not go into all that now!

What does one do to remember a genius like Voleti Venkateswarlu Garu? Listen to some good music, of course. We did just that on that appointed day! There was Sri Mavelikkara Subramanyam from Kerala to sing. He was assisted on the violin by Sri S Varadarajan and on the Mridangam by Trichur Narendran. Our Vaikkom was there on Ghatam. I met the main artist just that morning. He is a real humble man of whom I never heard. I know his disciple Jaychandran. I keep surprising such people with their details even in the first encounter. Like music, I also collect the details of artists connected to music. But, I swear, I never knew who this singer was!

Good for me! I deserve some shocks too! He started the concert with a Varnam and a Ganesha stuti as usual. When he picked up Pantuvarali for the sub-main I was wondering what he would sing! Shock for me, and it was Ennaganu Ramabhajana of Ramadasu. With the right diction all through! When he picked up Bahudari of course I wanted and there was Brova Bharama. Shock for me, him singing the song including the word Gopikalakai with the correct lengths and intonations of syllables. Even seasoned singers draw a long kaa making it gopikaalakai making it sound odd. The sound of ‘ra’ is a big problem with friends from Kerala! You can tell their place of origin when they utter that sound for even the first time. There would be a tilt in that sound invariably! Where is it? Did I listen correctly that this Mr. Subranayam is from Mavelikkara and not Manuguru! Whatever song he picked up, he did a decent job1 why is he so very unknown among even keen followers of music, I started thinking. He started a Bhairavi alapanam. I went into my hobby of tracing the hints of a particular song that is going on in the artist’s mind! I was seeing more than half a dozen songs. Ruling out all of them, I arrived at a zero! Shock for me, he picks up “Ika nannu brovakunna” which I never heard in a concert in the recent years. Varadarajan excelled in his version of the ragam! Radio concert like short tani was really mathematical. A small Ashtapadi and then Mangalam.

It may, perhaps, not have been a superlative concert by the standards that some people have set for themselves. It was pleasing and did not lack anything, in fact it was rich in tonal quality, his rhythm sense was impeccable, and syncing with the accompanists was at its expected best. What else do you look for in a concert apart from making you sit enjoying it! Sukham am I right!

When the artists came down from the stage I made it a point to tell Sri Subramanyam that I would have thought he is from Andhra, if the name was not announced! Not a trace of the effect of mother tongue when uttering Telugu words. And, it was a Telugu concert! I told him, “Voleti must be blessing you from above!”

Voleti was known as a serious man. He rarely laughed, I am told. He did not do that when I saw him too.

But, I felt the small picture that was kept on the stage developed a little smile by the end of the tribute! Voleti was sure happy with whatever happened there that day! Almost everyone was happy too!

There were so many personal friends like Vallabhan, TVG Sir, Vijayakumar, Sridharan, Jayapraksh and many more who met me personally there. Though I knew her for long, it was the first time I saw Ms Sandhya face to face! It was indeed a happy day for me too!

(Thanks to the web source for Voleti's picture)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dr Rat

The image is self explanatory!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Human Relations

I was travelling.
That is unusual, I accept.
I have boarded a train at Chennai.
The train came onto the platform at the time it was supposed leave! Then for an hour it was making all kinds of jerks and jolts but never moved.
I was hurrying towards my seat which was incidentally by the window.
The young man sitting there asked me whether I would like to sit by the window.
I said, that was the seat allotted to me and that I had no preferences. He generously gave me my seat. The third man also came. But without even thinking for a while he climbed up to the top berth and hit the sack, immaterial of the fact whether the train started or not.
Then this young man, who I gathered is a senior officer with one of the retail market chain, stretched himself because it was not time for making the middle berths available. He stretched with his feet towards me. He almost touched me with them. Then he snuggled a little.
I also gathered that he is with Human Relations department of the said chain.
It perhaps, why perhaps, in all reality means that looking after recruitments and postings etc. of manpower in the company.
I always wonder if that is the only human activity in the company, what all the other activity they take up is!
Procuring goods and selling goods is after all better human related activity according to me.
This expert in human relations wanted to have some good chat with me.
He said “Hi” I reciprocated though I am not of the generation for such a greeting.
Did he say a thing or two? I don’t recall, but all of a sudden eh asked “How was the Eid!”
I did not say a thing in answer.
I think the boy was shocked and asked my name.
I told.
He said, I almost asked how was the Eid. That does not shatter the earth.
Eid or Idd or Ramzan was like as usual.
This time I did not greet any friends and none brought me the Sheer Khurma though!

I told the boy that appearances could be deceptive.

There was a family of three sitting in the opposite side. A mother, her daughter and that daughter’s husband. They were talking some good Hindi with some typical Hyderabadi words like Nakko in between. This executive asked them about their place. The young man on the other side said beyond Charminar. Our great executive opened his eyes as if he cannot believe what he heard and asked all kinds of questions about the place. He added some uncharitable remarks about the place including the stench there. He said he went there during Ramzaan time and found the place utterly chaotic.
For the boy who was born and brought up there, the comments naturally came as shock!

I intervened and said “That is the real Hyderabad!”
I also said other parts that came up later could be there in nay city!

Enough with the human relations!
There is much more that I can tell about that evening but would like to reserve it.
I am not a typical old timer always complaining, “Children these days….”

I vibe with very old people as easily as I do with youngsters including school going ones.