Monthly Archives: February 2016

My tryst with music…My training in Carnatic music started when I was seven or eight in Madras. Saraswathi Gana Vidyalaya, now a premier institution, started their branch in Adyar, a growing suburb back then. There were classes for both vocal & instrumental music and dance. I was enrolled for both vocal music and dance classes. However, when the dance teacher punished me for some little mistake I made, I refused to attend any more classes. My music classes were to continue for a very long time, till almost the time I got married; but my music teachers changed many times over, through the years. Every time they changed, I had to start almost from the basics. No two music teachers, like two doctors, would agree with the methodology of the other.My father, who was with the Indian Army, took voluntary retirement because our education was getting disrupted. We could not even stay together. Only my younger brother and I stayed with them. Our other siblings were with our great grandfather in Bangalore. Once he joined the civil services, he was posted in Bombay. We got our admissions in colleges and schools. My older sister, Sarayu and I got our admission in SIES ,Matunga. After a short period in Ghatkopar, we shifted to our quarters in Byculla, close to Bombay Central station. We had to change train at Mahim to reach our school, near King’s circle station.Soon after settling down, the search for a music teacher began. My father found a lady teacher who gave music tuitions after school hours, near Mathunga station. My sister and I started going for these classes together but halfway through, she lost interest. My father had high hopes regarding my musical future; but I too had to stop the classes. I was still young to travel home alone.My father finally found one teacher who was willing to come home and teach me. He was highly recommended by our family friends. He was a good teacher but there was a problem. He was to come thrice a week but he would invariably come on Wednesdays when it was time for Bina Geet Mala on radio. It was my most favorite programme, compered by Ameen Sayani with his baritone voice. Binaca Geet Mala was a great hit; not just me, but all Hindi movie fans would wait for this. The moment that everyone would wait for was when he announced the Hit Song of the week. Hence, the Wednesday music classes were always annoying. The last straw was his arriving five minutes before that annual Binaca started. That day, I hated him and everything connected with music. Even my father was empathetic and told him he should have a better understanding of child psychology. I had to sing however, though my singing and crying were mingled. My other siblings also missed the program because of me.I had no objection to learning classical music but I was against practice, which was forced on me. I loved film music and collected song books of all movies. My favorite singers were Lata and Rafi, followed by Manna De. I liked songs based on classical ragas. My father wanted me to excel in Carnatic music and wasn’t happy about my not giving it more attention. One day, because of his frustration at my not practicing, he threw all my song books into the boiler! Another day, my shruti box went flying out of the door. My father was a man of very intense emotions but he was also a very affectionate father. The family joke was that if he punished us, he would also come home with a gift, by evening.In 1958, he was transferred to Calcutta and thus began my love for the City of Joy and renewed interest in music. Once again my father’s search for a teacher began soon after shifting. Temporarily, since our office quarters was not ready, we were living in Ballygunge. This was the South Indian hub, much like Matunga in Bombay. There were South Indian Clubs, hotels and classes for all fine arts. There was also Guru Guha Gana Vidyalaya, run by Sri Anantha Krishna Iyer who was a disciple of Ambi Dikshitar,a direct descendant of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar.,one of the musical trinity (others being Sri Thyagarajar and Shyama Shastri).This academy was at that time run by Sri Anantharaman. He along with his sister was teaching vocal as well as instruments. This was a place after my heart; the teachers had the right amount of discipline combined with kindness. For the first time I started liking music and got lot of encouragement from my teachers. There was no force element this time. I continued with my passion for film music based on classical ragas, both Tamil and Hindi. We used to go to concerts also. My most favorite singers were ML.Vasantakumari, Balamurali Krishna and in the later years K. J. Yesudas. I preferred light classical to the more traditional, heavy classical music. After I finished college, I got my first job; very keen to earn my own money! My father was not very happy about my taking up a job since I had already started my M A classes and was also preparing for civil service exams.This was a time when I genuinely wanted to pursue my music but there was lack of time. The same music teacher was coming home now but he found it difficult to come so far. We had to stop the classes but I started learning Rabindra Sangeet from my friends and Pancharatna kritis when I went holidaying to my air force uncle’s house in Vijayawada. I also learnt Devaranama in Bangalore with my Bangalore cousin. I kept in touch with music since both my parents were music lovers and there would be L P records of eminent musicians of those times. In 1966 I got married and that was the beginning of the end. My husband was fond of film music but had no patience for classical music. I was in fact in Madras, and could have improved given proper encouragement but no one was really interested in listening to me sing. The last two concerts I attended were of Balamurali Krishna, my favourite singer. Gradually my singing was limited to golus. My interest also slowly faded. We then moved to Delhi and that was truly the end. My ten years of married life were beset with domestic problems culminating with my husband’s death and one had to deal with life after that.In conclusion, I can say although I had talent, a good voice and sincerity, there was probably not as much exposure and opportunities as there are now. My initial years were also wasted by me. Talent is to be nourished and cherished. Practice is also vital although my realization of this came very late. Support system is essential. Now there are lot of exposure and opportunities galore. There are fresh talents both in classical and film music. The future is bright.

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Train journeys of old times and a view of the railway platform 

My father was in Central Government service and always posted at different places,always far from our native place,which was for all practical purposes,declared as Bangalore.Every year at least once or sometimes more we had to travel down south.Always a long journey.Those days train journey was totally a different story.May be things were not so convenient.All the same there was a comfort level and privacy,hard to find now.We could have an entire coupe for ourselves.-some perks of my father’s job.Thus there was a homely feeling with so much of privacy.As children we could be as naughty as ever but not with a disciplinarian father around.Otherwise we could chat or read or just watch from the window.As much as possible,food was packed from home.We were not an orthodox family but platform food was considered unhygienic and expensive,since we were so many of us and also the term “expensive” had a different connotation at that time.They were the days of steam engines which emitted lot of soot.With all this there was a pleasure attached.
My fascination was and is watching the railway platform.It was fun looking at the anxiety levels of those wanting to get down and those wanting to enter and find the proper seat.I am writing about ordinary classes.We have travelled by this also.Initially there were no reservation,then reserved seats and after that sleeper berths.Therefore there were near stampedes near the doors.Even now it is still the case.There would be welcome for those arriving and sad partings for those departing ,in the platforms.There may be cases of parents and their children,loving couples bidding good byes or siblings parting.

A second feature which used to appeal to me were the food stalls and vendors,selling all tempting fares.These were the days after my marriage.It was not considered fashionable to carry home food.We succumbed to temptation and suffer later.There was not so much awareness as now but all the same there is more junk food than before.Initially coffee was not available in these routes and we had to compromise with tea.not my favourite.Even now the coffee available leaves much to desire.The dining car and caterers were still to make an entry.

Thirdly I used to eagerly wait for the cart carrying news paper,magazines and books.There were reputed bookshops on the platform but I was always scared to get down and relax at the platforms,as if the train would leave without me-effect of watching too many movies.Not serials yet.

Now coming to the present times,if we travel by trains,we take the a.c coaches ,with cramped seats.No question of looking through the window and enjoying the fresh breeze. Looking at the scenery and getting poetic or romantic.We can look through the glassed window but it is not the same.Time and convenience plays a part and people take the flights or prefer to drive at their convenience.Old timers like me miss these train journeys and feel nostalgic.