Wednesday, December 30, 2009

PSBB Teachers 10 - Mahalakshmi Miss & Kumudha Miss

[Start of Series]

(Part 9 here)

(Note: Since neither of these teachers handled any classes for me, I really don't have much to say about them, which is why I'm clubbing two teachers in a single post.)

PSBB TP Road Library - the 1990's
Mahalakshmi Miss - She was one of the teachers who I remember from the TP Road library. I recently came across an article here and was pleasantly surprised to see her.

PSBB TP Road Office - the 1990's
Kumudha Miss - A very frail, slightly grumpy kind of woman when busy, she handled the running of the office (which was right below our Principal, Jagam miss' room). I'd met her a few times, when I'd gone to get stuff like chalk, dusters, etc. However, whenever I saw she wasn't very busy or anything, she was quite pleasant. :D

(Part 11 here)

Monday, December 21, 2009

PSBB Teachers 9 - Mahalakshmi Miss

[Start of Series]

(Part 8 here)

Crafts - '93-'97
Mahalakshmi miss was our Crafts teacher. I should admit that I'm not a particularly crafty person (whether it is in talking to people or in making designer showcase objects out of wool & ice-cream kuchis), but on rare occasions, my craft-work would turn out pretty nicely, well, at least nice enough to hang in my house for a few months. :D
Mahalakshmi miss was a very skilful teacher, with a slightly croaky voice, who, though constantly heckled by us students, put up with us quite sportingly. I think we had "Crafts" until 4th standard or something.
We, however, used to have fun during the class - though the subject, by itself, wasn't particularly very interesting for the normal 9/10-year-old, the fun part came when we used to mess around with the fevicol & paraphernalia that was a requisite for the class. :D

(Part 10 here)

Vaidyanatha Foundation - Rengasamudram

A few weeks ago, I got an email in an egroup about a young Gandhi who, after graduate education in the US, quit his well-paying American job to return home and do yeoman service to the poor, while leading a totally austere life. Totally praiseworthy, to say the least.
One of the members replied saying there were many many such great service activities going on that pass unnoticed and highlighted one such case. What struck me most about the email was how earnest the appeal seemed, in light of the fact that the sender, Shri Ramanathan (a 75+ senior citizen) requested, not for monetary support, but for ideas.
Another highly praiseworthy aspect of his deeds was the fact that he actually does not have any kind of relationship with the village he has settled down and begun his charitable work in/for. Apparently, he surveyed a few places before deciding to settle down here.
Below is his email -
"thanks for the prompt reply/ack of my message. re somehow since there are not enough access it gets disturbed. please giver me your postal address i will send you details of my activities with press clippings, funding is done from own sources right now. we established this foundation: AA Vaidyanatha Foundation, Visram, Agraharam, Rengasamudram 627 413 near Ambasamudram tirunelvely dt tamilnadu. we have no connection with this village, after exploriung possibilities in Kariappatty near madurai we decided this place suitable. (Phone 04634 293460/293560: cell 9486402330/9489351102. but it is an uphill task to help the illiterate poor. there is no co operation from the few bhramin households. the panchayat is chaired by sc man and others do not co operatre with him. we started with feeding the school children 100 every month, then changed it to every week for select 25 boys, girls from the agraharam st. emphasisx is to help the school drop out girl children and generally on the weaker sex. people eke out a living by rolling beeedies and brick kiln work harmful to their health. we have given instrument boxes, study materials, pens, pencils books to all students, now we have given one cycle each to a girl student in 6th 7th 8th standard, we want continue this. school is unaided and has classes from first to 8th standard, efforts to improve the shcool is meeting the same fate dur to non cooperation. we have sewing machine and compouters but lack of bus connect difficult to get a full time teacher. we have approached the TNSTC to start more bus services, the file is not moving atr TNSTC level, we have written to the DY CM MK stalin and hope things would improve. there is neither auto nor four wheeler in the village. we depend on autos to come from mukkudal 3 km away. since there is no medical facility here we got a TB detection treatment camp from Dy Director of health, GH tenkasi, another medical camp from Tirunelvely, we are pressuring the government to start a PHC, thanks to MK Stalin the files are moving though slow. we got Rs.1.25 Lakhs for renovating the cremation ground which was scuttled by communal interests, we got Rs.85000 sanctioned for a play ground same result. we got Rs.20,00,000 for repair of the village road, the panchayat president says it is all spent, there is none to ask how. we were promised Rs.25 Lakhs for metalling of the main road to ambasamudram and mukkudal but due to no proper representation by the panchayat it did not come to us but went to near by kallidaikurichy. the panchayat was asked by the RDO to pass a resolution to seek PHC but no resolution is passed even after 6 months. in the meanwhile State Bank of India has been approached for establishing a medical center, earlier positive response form Tatas for a medical van/ambulance was lost because tamilnadu government has a free ambulance service 108. now i am following up the state bank matter, while keeping in touch with others like amalgamations group chairman sivasailam. Indian overseas bank has promised to send a team to the village to teach the girls to repair mobiles. the village has many heritage temples around including Tamrabarani river, papanasam river, agastyar falls, mnanuimuthar falls, gajendra varadxa perumal, nellayppar and nava tirupathi templs. there is scope eco religious tourism, if some small groups can come visiting it would boost the village morale and the foundation would also be enthused. please see whether small groups can come visiting especially women, we would be happy, in our first floor we can manage two couples or five or six people on short visits. please reply. RAMANATHAN (SENIOR CITIZEN) my wife and me after five decades more living in Bangalore and kochi settled down here buying and remodelling a house to leisurely live. any suggestions, help, comment advice welcome."
For more information about the foundation, go here -
In today's e-World, donating a few hundred dollars to Asha Vision at the click of a button is a fairly easy thing to do. But contributing ideas is more difficult.
If not ideas, the least folks could do is take up his invitation and visit the place. Going by what he says, the village definitely does not appear to be a dull, nondescript locality.
And if not visit, as usual, what we software engineers do best - spread the word around. :-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Carnataca Sangeetham and Me

I am not from a very musically oriented family or anything. My dad dabbled a little in Mridangam (apparently, he learned from Kumbakkonam Rajappa Iyer, who was Sakkottai Rangu Iyengar's sishyar), as also a little in the guitar. Unfortunately, since he started learning quite late (abt 30 or so), he couldn't really progress very far (his Guru apparently used to say - "Ganesa...unakku nanna varudhu, aana speed pathaadhu. Veral apdiye velayaadanum. Ange paaru-7 vayasu payyan, romba chinna payana irukkaane maami'nu sonna kooda kekka maattengara avan amma - "chumma vandhu okkaarattum mama," apdinu solli kaasu koduthuttu kozhandhaiya vittuttu poidra. Andha kozhandhaiya paaru, mridangatha madila vechukka kooda mudiyala adhaala :D"). 2 cousins from my dad's side (both girls) learnt the violin. Shucks, just as I write this do I realize that one of them is a Music teacher/professor in a college or something in Chennai. :O Revelation.

Anyway, coming back, being from a normal-yet-nothing-special Tambram family, I had my usual push towards Carnatic music, which I stoutly opposed. My PSBB days were more attracted towards physical exploits (despite my not-entirely-conducive-to-physical-activities appearance, back then) - come Summer, it invariably used to be one of the Cricket, Yoga or Gymnastics camps that I used to join. I should especially be credited for my determination because my cousin (the only one in my family who is in my age-group) had started going for Carnatic Vocal classes (pah...indha parents irukkaale!).

So now that it has been fairly established that I had no childhood gift for Carnataca Sangeetham, my parents were quite surprised when they discovered after coming to visit me here, that now, after 24 years of my life, I was able to enjoy some Carnatic songs (for Carnatic reasons also), talk about a few raagas (2, to be specific :P) and appreciate & admire Carnatic musicians (something I had always done, despite my relative non-affiliation with the field) in an informed manner (if very minute). "Enna da, unakkum gnyaanam porandhudutha? Engerndhu idhellam aaramiche?" Sad though, I was, to disappoint them, I reassured them saying I was still the same old gnyaana soonyam wrt Carnatic music, and that there were other reasons that I had consciously started trying to pick up bits-and-pieces of Carnataca Sangeetham.

For me, Carnataca Sangeetham has always been a prime form of expression of love & devotion to the Lord. Being a relatively religious guy, I had always felt deep respect for Carnatic musicians, while also feeling bad that I'd missed out on a great way to worship the Lord. My regard for Carnatic music was also greatly influenced by such divine souls as Smt. MS Subbulakshmi [aah, how her name is one of the first to pop-up, right?], Smt. DK Pattammaal, Shri. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Shri. Madurai Somu, Shri. Seergazhi Govindarajan among others. It probably also helped that I am a Sama Vedi. ;-) Over the last few years, however, my admiration took a quantum leap with increased knowledge about a few other factors such as the amount of dedication & effort required to even be half-successful as a Carnatic musician and the amount of Maths present in the art. That's also about the time one of my juniors from college and a close friend started learning the violin from an IIT professor he was doing his Master's under, whom I had introduced him to. Somehow, there were a few exchanges between us, (with him being the primary contributor) and before we knew, we'd started something of a mini-group where we'd discuss & exchange (predominantly) Carnatic compositions. The group consisted mostly of people who were amateurs and had some knowledge either in singing or an instrument, with me obviously being the outsider, with almost no exposure to serious Carnatic stuff. A lot of times, I'd just read through the discussions without really being able to grasp much, but I did make it a point to read though.

It's about a year now since I've been part of the group now, and though I cannot lay claims to being a serious connoisseur of Carnataca Sangeetham, I'm quite enjoying what little I've learnt. Tangibly, I can more-or-less identify two stunners - Thodi & Reethigowla.
Thodi - I can specifically remember from when Thodi got stuck on me - Roopa rendering "Gangai Karai Mannan" in Superstar Global. I was blown away from the first time I saw it. Not that I hadn't listened to the original by Daas Ettaan, but that was waaay back in my Carnatic timeline. Also, this raaga was quite distinct and I understand that it is one of the few raagas which can be identified within the first few notes itself.
Reethigowla - Well, this was since Kangal Irandal, actually. :-) The song initially irritated me, I don't know why - I really liked it, but somehow, I didn't like it. Not sure if the accusations against James Vasanthan of copying were responsible, but I tried to block listening to the song as much as I could, but eventually gave in (much like Harry Potter :D). And then, Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiraan and Thalaiyai Kuniyum Thaamaraiye came by...and Reethigowla was here to stay. And finally, Azhagaana Rakshasiye revealed itself in all its crowning Rahman glory to me. Just as I type this, I realize I had very similar feelings to this song also - there existed genuine appreciation of the song in me, but there also existed some amount of dislike of the song. Coincidence, I wonder? Oh, and a good friend & one of the carnatically senior-most members of our group, Maythini, brilliantly described the raaga in this comment of hers in Gradwolf's post. I couldn't help but nod away in agreement.

The Raja'ness...
Another wonderful thing to have happened as a result of my slightly increased Carnaticisation is my amazement at the greatness of (in the words of Karthik, my raaga-identifier) "one of the greatest composers of music since Thyagaraja & Bach", (though not yet in their league) Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja. I mean, his music has such a heavy dose of Carnatic raagas that it requires a separate study in itself. One of my favourite pastimes these days is identifying songs with same/similar raagas. This is not something I do by exploring songs in youtube, but random songs just come to my mind, and then other similarly-raagaa'd songs pop up out of the blue. Here are a few similarities I found out by this random reminiscence. (Disclaimer: My only verifier for these songs is Karthik, so the accuracy of these similarities is solely attributed to him :D) -
  1. Oora Therinjikitten and Bhagavan Saranam 
  2. Alaipaayuthey Kanna and Kalyana Then Nila 
  3. Hava Nagila/Misirlou and Engeyum Eppodhum (which I initially thought was Raja sir's, learnt from SK that it is MSV's)
  4. Aboorva Sagotharargal Sad theme, Thenpaandi Cheemayile and Kaadhodu dhaan Naan paaduven (by MSV, sung by LR Easwari)
  5. Poongatru and Valaiyosai 
  6. Thalaivar's ulti-romantic Kaadhalin Deepam Ondru and Nilaave Vaa 
  7. Akkarai Cheemai Azhaginile and Sangeetha Megam (which, IMHO, has one of the best opening pieces of music for any song)
Ok, that's about it for now, and I know there is a good chance I may have been way off mark in many cases, but even if I was wrong in finding similarities (specifically based on Raagas), I've been able to appreciate all these songs much much more now. Not to mention my realization of Ilaiyaraja's greatness. Obviously, I belong to the Rahman era, and his greatness was easier to realize and relate to. (Talking about Rahman, I felt there might be some link between these two - Maanoottu Mandhaiyile and Kathirikka.) I've to go a long way before this 'sub-conscious identification of similarities-in-raagas' syndrome hits me with Rahman as input.

So there I am, in my Carnatic Chronology so far. It's been intimidating & depressing at times (simply because of the magnitude, among a zillion other things), but thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening & engrossing. I'm not sure how long or how far I'll go in this pursuit, but it's been one fulfilling experience so far. :-)

PSBB Teachers 8 - Shankari Mam

[Start of Series]

(Part 7 here)

Drawing - '93-'97
Shankari mam was this awesome Drawing teacher we had, and she could just about whip up any portrait/picture in a matter of minutes. The best thing about her was how unassumingly she used to draw on the board. She'd start drawing the picture quite innocuously enough, and we'd think it was no big deal, and before we knew, we'd have a superb picture on the black board, and that's when we'd start grappling around for our pencils and stuff, often failing miserably enough. :D

(Part 9 here)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

PSBB Teachers 7 - Kamala Miss

[Start of Series]

(Part 6 here)

V 'A' - '94-'95
Mrs. Kamala Selvaraj - No, she wasn't Gemini Ganesan's older daughter. :D She was a smart, slightly dark, suave teacher who had bobbed hair. I remember her English was especially good, and she used to drive to school in a light blue Fiat/Premier Padmini. If I'm right, her husband worked at the Chennai Port Trust, because she once arranged/helped when we went on a field trip to the Chennai harbour which remains, till date, my only trip there. :P Not sure why, but she wasn't around for much longer after 5th standard.
I also remember that 5th std was when I first started doing "extra" work at school - helping her out with the progress report cards on the once-in-2/3-months-Sat/Sun when parents would come with their wards, meet the teachers & collect the report cards. I also remember one such 'Report Day' when a classmate, Joel Jayaraj (who is frmr PSBB-Main Sports sir Williams' son) kept irritating me long after most parents had collected the report cards (we usually hung around after school even on normal days), I chased him around the empty 2nd floor corridor and beat him up.
:D Sorry Joel, not sure if you remember, but in case I didn't apologise, here it is. Ironically, Joel is now an officer in the Indian Navy. :D

(Part 8 here)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

PSBB Teachers 6 - Chhaya Miss

[Start of Series]

(Part 5 here)

IV 'A' - '93-'94
Mrs. Chhaya Bhagat - I think it would be fair to say that she was one of the first teachers who had a mass fan-following, at least as far back as memories go. A small'ish, cute, affable teacher, she had a very delicate yet stern-at-times way of handling the students.
I remember one specific incident - she was explaining the curvature of the Earth's surface in Geography once, when I remembered seeing proof of this in the "Baazigar O..Baazigar" song which had just released (still not sure if it's the camera that made the ocean look curved or if it was a wide angle shot) and out of my eagerness to share that piece of info, I kept raising my hand after she ignored me or asked me to keep quiet or something. I immediately started crying. :D And then, she kindly, sympathetically asked me to tell whatever it was I wanted to, and I happily related the info to the class. :D :D :D
On a sad note, I remember her husband passing away a few years after that. She has two sons, the older one being about our age and the younger one, a few years younger - I still remember how cute he used to look back then, when she used to bring him to school, Vidyut, his name was.

Last I saw her in the end of 12th std, when she had come for her son's admission to DAV Gill Nagar and she even remembered me!

(Part 7 here)