The Pensieve

If you have something to say, I might be saying something as well

Trichur Brothers

Kalpadruma Arts & Artists Annual Festival held a Carnatic vocal concert on Sunday evening at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, by Trichur Brothers, who was accompanied on the violin by L Ramakrishnan, on the mridangam by the vocalists’ father Trichur Mohan and on the ghatam by Venkat Subramaniam.

The concert begun with a volume and bass adjustments using Kamalaptha Kula – grapevine has it that this is one of their favourite mike test songs😉

Kamboji ata thala varnam in normal, thisram and second speeds set the pace of the concert. This was followed by Namami Vighna Vinayaka in Hamsadwani and Aadi Tisra thalam, a song by Krishnaswamy Ayya / Krishnayya. Crisp mel kala kalpana swaram ended in what I think was the song’s chittaswaram as korvai.

Then it was the Sun slokam jabakusuma sankasam in Sowrashtram followed by the Navagraha kriti of Muthuswamy Dikshitar for the Sun god, the song for the day of the week, sooryamurthe. The song was ornamented with one avarthana swarams in dhuruva thalam.

I would say that the sub main in ragam Hamsanadham, was the song of the day. A very unconventional start of aalapana and with seamless transitions and a confident dialogue of raga phrases, it seemed as though one person was singing. The raga Aalapana was very impactful that during the technical timeout (again), pinnadi irundha mama and pakathula ukkandha maami were still humming hamsanadham. A snippet of the same to listen and enjoy🙂

Other songs performed were

Pantureethi kolu by Thyagaraja,

Om namo Narayana by Ambujam Krishna,

Krishnam Kalaya a Theerthar’s Tharangam.

The main number  was a Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi in Kaapi, “hare Rama Govinda murare mukundha sowre murahara”. When the violinist played some standard Kaapi, the duo was again as unconventional as possible. However, the pallavi was sung in various ragas viz., neelambari, kedaram, dwijavanthi and maand – each artiste took up a different raga to improvise instead of the monotony of playing the same raga in cyclic order.

What I liked: a variety of thalams, apt and new compositions brought to the table.

What could have been better: less time spent on mike adjustments, maybe.

Until next,


Prince Rama Verma

This is the third post of the series of Guru Vandanam. The post is about Prince Rama Verma, from the royal family of Swati Thirunaal Maharaja and Raja Ravi Varma, and the disciple of Dr. M Balamurali Krishna. Though He does vocal and veena concerts, he is a true blue teacher at heart and does workshops in Chennai and Bengaluru and also music residential camps in a village in Karnataka, Perla.

It was in one such workshops that I started to learn from Prince Rama Verma. It is quite possible that we might not have a teacher – student bond (he might not even know I exist), because these workshops always have intermediate organizers and are one of type. Nevertheless, I did learn and understand a lot from these workshops.

He used to give rational explanations or historical stories to things Carnatic, in between teaching songs, some words of wisdom which I share below.

“Silence is very under-rated. The performers don’t give the importance to a long ‘kaarva’, instead think that heavy, fast brugas establish our superiority over music. The lay people who appreciate old Tamil classical songs, say that these classical concerts are drab and annoying. We in turn brand them illiterates gnana shoonyam). In reality, the gnana shoonyas are us! In case you give a half aavarthana of silence and your accompanying artiste might not follow the same, please warn him before hand in the green room!!” He means that certain Carnatic music performers fill a song/concert with such heavy detailing to just show their prowess and this could possibly be a reason why Carnatic music isn’t interesting enough to a lay person.

It seems there is a logical reason as to why Mayamalava Gowlai has been the incontestable starter raga for Carnatic music beginners all along. Since one of the instruments our music is based on is the Veena, and for a kid to handle a veena and play the initial lessons would be difficult, MMG with swaras coupled next to each other was the perfect choice. (i.e.) [SR1]-[G2M1]-[PD1]-[N2S].

Few of my favourite songs learnt – Omkaarakaarini in Lavangi (by Balamurali Krishna), Pankajamukha nottuswaram by Dikshitar, Aliveni in Kurinji by Swati Tirunal, Karuna Cheyvan in Yadukula Kamboji by Irayuman Thampi.

Here is a lecture video link to give a sneek peek into his classes.

Until next,


Three Hundred

When your BFF publishes a book that you have already read, re-read and heard about during the making, that too a quadzillion times, how do you review it? No this is not a review.

Author Sir (AS): Did you read the draft I sent?

Vid Dev (VD): You know I don’t read love stories, right. Will do it over the weekend.

AS: Did you complete it? It has been more than a week already.

VD: OOPS! You know I was working late… Let me do it this weekend.

AS: Hmmm……………….


VD: AS! I read the first chapter… It is full of typos.

AS: Yes ma. The part I have given you is the unedited version. I have sent it to the editor, lets see.

VD: Oh okay.

AS: Ignore that version, I am sending you an epub convert. Try it out on your phone and tell me how it looks.

VD: Okay………………………

VD: AS!! Ayn Rand, Fountain Head, and that train scene. The story actually took off brilliantly!! And then ended at the same pace – duh when are you giving me the next part?

AS: Haha, you liked it? Wait… How long you took to read what I sent. Wait for now.


VD: Hey! This other girl who comes in your story. I have read the story somewhere. Isn’t it the “the Girl with the Tattoo” from your blog?

AS (smiling): Yes, it is.

VD: So these incidents are real? They actually happened to you? Are you that Jai?

AS: Hmmm… I wouldn’t say so. I just drew inspiration from characters I have met.

VD: Finding addresses and sending flowers – don’t you think that is nauseatingly romantic?

AS: Well Jai is blindly in love. What else can you expect?

VD: Fair point.

AS: Did you read that book I lent to you? Do you remember the seven stages of love? I am basing my novel on the same concept.

VD: Oh yes! That was new to me. So your book has 7 parts, one for each stage eh? That’s cool!!


AS: Did I tell you? I am changing the title to simply 300 days. How far are we with the reading now?

VD: Close to completion. I like this Chilakamma character, you know. Well portrayed. Not like this strong willed feministic make-believe women in many books. She is strong in her own way, but so real; so relatable, with all fears and indecisiveness, wanting to be nice to all, facing the hardships that life throws at her. I have even portrayed a mental image of how she looks like.

AS: I wonder how she looks like.

VD: Let me see if I can do an illustration.

AS: Speaking of illustrations, the other one you drew – the physical copy got lost in the floods. All I have is a digital version right now.

VD: Oh no😦 But, come on, we know what all you went through during the floods. Let’s hold on to what we have.


AS: Congratulate me!

VD: Congrats!!! What’s the occasion?

AS: The n-th publisher rejected my novel. Way to go, right?

VD: Ohhh! AS, those publishers are not the only ones who can judge your story. Look at it this way – you want to tell the world your story; the world (universe) will conspire a way to get it done.

AS: I am worried that the book might not see the light of the day.

VD: Please don’t talk that way. Look at all that you have accomplished. All that research and effort that you have put in creating this will not go waste. We should’t let it.

AS: Hmmm…

VD: You are an amazing story teller AS. It is time everyone gets to know it.


AS: Vid! 300 days is available for pre-order now!!!! It will be up for sale from the 18th of this month. You know that is Anya’s birthday?

VD: You and your way of remembering dates. Yaay! I am super excited. All the best to you!

AS: Thank you🙂

VD: I shall “keep spreading” word about the book. I am sure you will go places buddy. “Keep smiling”😉

300 days book trailer:

A little something I drew, a couple of years ago (the branch has 300 in it and chilakamma means parrot):


Grab your copy of the book here.

Until next,


Thrika the Nosering

You might be wondering what on earth does this title mean. Well I didn’t know until I read the book Sivappu Kal Mookuthi (the Girl with the Red Nose Ring) written by Nandhini. Technically it is a graphic novel created by Nandhini and her team at Make Believe. What starts off in the story as a ghost story something in the lines of Darling and Kanchana suddenly takes off the flight to Hollywood and ends as the the aliens-space shuttle-crystal containing power (thrika)-scientists researching ET. The readers however are left back in their seats completely taken by surprise.

Along with giving my usual disclaimer that I don’t review books, and these are just my thoughts after reading a new book, I would like to say two more things. This was the first picture book I read after Chacha Choudary and Tinkle. This is also the first Tamizh book I completed after high school.

The best parts: The ghost to alien story transition was smooth. The characterization is maintained throughout the plot with subtle differences, say, an attire change for the next day. Emotions are captured beautifully on the faces of the characters, and they supplement the words for sounds like grrr, crash, aaaa and the likes.

On the flip side: Varun’s past could have been explained or eliminated. There could have been some description about the hair-like things that kills the villans.


Oh how I wish this book is made into a Tamizh movie… or an animation film… All the very best to their future works.

Until next,

UnWarp – the Induction

The story takes over from here, an amazing first part written by Dhivya. Read on…

Priya was standing in the same beach, but something else seemed totally out of place. This is not the Marina stretch where she goes for her usual morning jog. There were no boats, no remnants of stalls, no laughter therapy group, and no cricket playing guys too. Above all, the beach sand and shore actually looked clean! She turned to face the new lady who was wearing a sparkling white and blue gown and accompanied by a man in a formal suit of similar colors.

“Welcome to our land – your kin has called it by many names, Middle Earth, Alagesia, non-Muggle world, to name a few. I am Vas and this is my husband Gop. We are the elves responsible for welcoming and inducting those who are visiting us for the first time. In fact, had it not been for Gop’s mistake, you would have come here during your last jog itself,” Vas gave a quick glance at Gop, before pressing her Bluetooth headset-like appendage and walking a little afar to talk into it.

“The vortex malfunctioned”, Gop smiled sheepishly. Priya thought the couple looked cute together, though it seemed that Vas was in charge.

“You don’t look anything like the elves I know – long ears, pale skinned… You both look as much human as I do!”

“Haha! That is a serious misinterpretation your kin has made. We all are just differentiated by the work we do and the responsibilities we take. For instance, we Elves and Wizards are the knowledgeable ones. Dwarves and Goblins take care of all the physical and mechanical work. Knights and dragon riders are responsible for our safety and security. And finally, men deal with money related transactions and trading.” Gop noticed that Priya gave a surprised look as he spoke, as though she had had a revelation. “Yes, this is the same as your varna caste system”, he smiled at Priya again.

“I was about to ask that…” Priya warmed up to the friendly Gop, “It is amazing to see our caste system being used elsewhere and not misused like we do.”

“Hold your thought lady, you might never know. Why don’t you come into the settlement and freshen up; then we could probably give you a short tour of what we do here, followed by an induction ceremony based on your preferences.”

Settlement… Ceremony… What on earth are they talking about? A gazillion questions pirouetted her mind, but something about Gop made her trust and walk calmly beside him, while Vas led the way in a stride.

“Did you realize you guys have abducted me into this… this land of yours without my consent? Who are you guys? What is this place? Who is she talking to over the headset? Where are you taking me?”

“You know you ask a lot of questions…” Gop was laughing.

“Well, I have been called a Pochemuchka”, Priya nodded, “But tell me why am I here?”

“Don’t panic, you will get your answers real soon.”

Gop and Vas – the Elves

I pass the baton for the next part of the story to Megha Sreeram. Read the next part of the story here.

Until next,


Padma Chandilyan

Padma mami aka Padma Chandilyan, daughter of the writer Chandilyan and disciple of Palghat KV Narayanaswamy, has produced many musicians of the upcoming generation. The entire family is also musical with mridangist Srimushnam Raja Rao mama and their son Raghavendra Rao who is none other than music composer Sean Roldan.

Let me start off with the first time I met mami. I had auditioned for a TV show, where I met an old music friend of mine, who was learning from mami then. She offered to introduce me to mami and took me to her house. It was 2 PM and mami had just finished her house chores and was lying down. She said, “paduthunde kekaren… oru paatu paaduma…” (sing something, I will lie down and listen). I started singing Dikshitar’s Ranganayakam in Nayaki raga, and she was up and sitting straight by the time I started singing Anupallavi. She said that is the respect one needs to give to music. Whether I sang that well or not, it did give me a good feel and a nice lesson. She used to refer even a younger musician as ‘avar’ stating the same reason. In a world where musicians spoke ill of their contemporaries, this was a value to learn and adopt.

We have learnt quite a few songs in detail – to the extent that whenever I’m singing that phrase / line of song, I would unconsciously recollect all the mistakes, corrections and advices she gave and a faint smile would creep up my face, every time. One such best memory is with Bhairavi ata thaala varnam, viriboni.

Usually as a warm up during the start of the class, we sing a varnam. That fateful day it was viriboni in bhairavi. Maami came running from the kitchen when we were in Anupallavi, and asked us to stop our shoddy singing. Then she went ahead to re-teach the same, and explaining how and when to use the two dhaivathams – when the next swaram is ni use the second, if its pa use the first. I then realised how wrongly I had been singing the same song for years together! Simply singing at the right note does add to the song’s beauty🙂

We used to sing kalpana swaram, neraval and aalapana (these are extempore ways of expressing the raga while a song is being rendered), like a relay. Ten plus students sitting in a semi-circle and singing when their turn comes, secretly plotting how to excel than the others (while waiting for your turn). A mere aha from Maami was all needed; a healthy competition it was.

Raja Rao mama used to take a few classes instead of Maami. During one such class when I learnt the only Harikamboji song I know till date – “Muruga Thirumaal Maruga”. There was a second sangathi for the Anupallavi – “Thiru ulaavum Then Pazhani Deivame”. Maama used to say how the sangathi should be sung if the ones carrying the Lord in veedhi ula were singing it – not on the landing of the beat, but in a whimsical way, matching their footsteps. He used the tamizh phrase kaalara ulaathara maadhiri. And then guffaw at his own imagination!

There are many more songs and great moments to talk about… “Meenakshi memudham dehi”, “Ninne nammithi nayya”, “Bala gopala”, “Aazhi mazhai kanna” – each of it worth a post’s length. But I sign off here with a smile in my face, reminiscing…

Until next,

P.S: This is the second post in the Guru Vandanam series.


Remember the scene where Parvathy goes to meet Dulqer in the malayalam movie Charlie? Its a festival called pooram a.k.a thiru-aadi-pooram.

Pooram is a festival held at a temple in Thrissur on the day of the pooram star. This year it falls on April 17th, that is today. One of the major events in the festival is the pancha vadhya melam performed by more than 200 artists.

One of the songs sung during the festival is Kanthaa njanum varaam… Below is a link that I believe is how the original folk song is sung. (very feeble, raise volume and listen).

During an interesting conversation with a friend, who blogs at, I learnt the meaning of this song. It is about a person (probably a girl) pleading Kaanthan to take her to the Trissur Pooram festival. She lists out the reasons as to why she wants to make it to the festival and what she would do there. She says, she wants to see pooram; wants to be with Kaanthan in the pooram crowd; wants to listen and play the percussions of pooram; wants to see the fireworks, et al.

I just wondered why a song about a girl talking to her guy, be sung and performed by a bunch of men. Weird. If only someone could explain.

Enough wondering about the meaning, this post is about the chronological versions this folk song has evolved to; though my story started the opposite way.

There are a couple of malayalam movie references to the song, though I have not seen the song been fully used.

Then came the Masala Coffee band which was started two years ago, which did a cover for this song. The song starts off with the lead vocalist Sooraj Santhosh playing an intro in a kazoo. The entire song sounded to me like a fusion of classical and rap, there is a bit played in esraj, and the flavours brought out of the same old song are so refreshing and scintillating. (do I sound like a cook-off’s judge here :O) The folk song took a good turn at this juncture – the Masala Coffee version remains my favourite to the day.


This song which typically has flair of ragas Sankarabharanam and Yadhukula Kamboji, got a language variant that was released in Tamil. A movie Uriyadi, that was released earlier this year, had music composed by the very same band, and they have used one of their trademark compositions and made a tamil version out of it. The song, also starting Kanthaa, was written as a funny take on the middle class challenges. However, I wasn’t sure if the lyrics did fit into the existing composition. That being just my opinion, the tune does seem to have stuck on and created the magic. Listen to the same in the link below.


Wondering where would Kantha go from here?! Hopefully to somewhere nice :) Kanthaa njanum varam…

Until next,


P.S: Esraj and Kazoo are musical instruments, whose name I learnt only while reading up for this post!

Acceptance from understanding

How to go about describing a book that I just haven’t read, but knew about right from the days of its inception? Well, a couple of years ago, it was merely a hypothetical story telling after a concert I went to with this author, Tee Kay.

Today the book has been completed. Waiting to be edited; and published for the whole world to be read and enjoyed. Well, I mean when I said the book is for everyone. You are familiar with the phrase “family entertainer” being used for movies, right? This book I would say, is on those lines – drama that appeals to anyone in the family.

At the outset, it is another love story, of course. But if you ask me, the myriad of emotions and relationships it portrays, makes it atypical and special. You could relate it to each character Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni, and the bond between each and everyone of them is composed brilliantly.

Beyond all this if there was one thing I understood… more say realized after reading this book, it was the caption – accepting by understanding.

As a music student myself, I have always been urged to understand the meaning of what I am singing as it would enhance the singing; bring out the right emotions. But either because I was interested more in the musicality or because remembering lyrics by heart itself has been an ordeal, understanding the writing always escaped me. Until now.

But when a song’s lyrical beauty is linked to the movement of a story narration, that is when the true nature of what it means… what it should have meant when the song was written… what it means to the listener … and how it got linked to the happenings in the story… A whole new dimension to the very same song emerged.

I should not talk only about lyrical understanding here. The book also also talks about how understanding helps in accepting a situation, however traumatic it might be. You can deal with loss, anger and pain, and come to terms with it, not by resolving it; just by comprehending what happened.

There is a lot more to say about SaRiGaMaPaDhaNi by Tee Kay, but I would probably get back with another post when it is being published. All the best and looking forward to it coming out real soon!!! And here is to all his creative efforts coming to fruition (Y) Happy Birthday🙂

one of my favourite part – excerpt from the book


Until next,


As Jazzy as it gets

It was the closing day of the five day Spring camp at Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (called SAM henceforth) and I got the opportunity to experience the same, thanks to Chennai Bloggers Club. Five of the bloggers got together and travelled for over a couple of hours to reach SAM located at Seekinankuppam village on the East Coast Road.


We reached the location at 1 pm and Diane, our host at SAM made sure we had lunch before giving us the campus tour and explaining about the various happenings. Vayitrukku unavu, piragu dhan sevikku – but the food was good, a common one for faculty, students and guests alike. The ambience for music was set right here when I picked up a conversation in the neighbouring table where its occupants were humming and discussing some technique over lunch.

Campus Tour

During the campus tour we visited the various floors, practice and recital halls for various instruments, the open arena. We came to know that the entire campus is designed in the shape of a piano, though we couldn’t get an aerial view of that. The recital halls are named after eminent musicians. All practice rooms are sound proof. Students are allowed to use the practice halls to sing or play in groups or solo any time. The open arena on the terrace is used for jamming sessions by students every Thursday.


In fact the entire college atmosphere is filled with music, and I am sure it would be a stupendous experience studying there. It seems the longest term degree that could be had is the Bachelor’s degree programme which is tied up with McNally Smith College of Music in the USA. Apart from that there are also smaller courses, diplomas and workshops conducted in music production, live performance and such themes.

Konnakol Class

We got the opportunity to sit in one of the classes happening at that time, which turned out to be Indian Music – Konnakol class by Ghatam Karthik. At least I sat the class’s length, and the experience is worth a post by itself. He built the class from the basics of “tha dhi thom nam” and the various nadais, rhythmic rests and kaarvais. From there we (everyone present in that class) gradually went on to recite in sync, complex set of jathis in sankeernam (represents nine). A sample of the patterns that were explained, below:

Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Tham tham tham tham tha||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|| Tham tham tham tha tham||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Tham *pause* tham tha tham||

(in Lavangi scale – S R1 M1 D1 S :: S D1 M1 R1 S)

;; ;; RS,D,; SD,M,; DM,R,; MRM||
;; ;; thari kita thaka thom; thari kita thaka thom;  thari kita thaka thom; thakita||
And it went on…

The class extended into an extempore ensemble of all the faculty members performing rasikapriya for us. It was euphoric, listening to Mili Vizcaino for Vocals (Western), Sid Jacobs on the Guitar, Pablo Lapidusas on the Piano, Fabio Bergamini on Drums, Johann Berby on Bass Guitar, Sreyas Narayanun for Vocal (Indian Music), Dr.S.Karthick  on the Ghatam all perform together!

L Shankar’s Speech

There was a special lecture by violinist L Shankar who spoke on various topics from his musical journey, his PhD in Ethnomusicology, his electronic dance music (EDM) band, Shakthi and his invention, the double violin. Certain words of wisdom from his speech, below:

  • Never comment on a piece of music unless you are asked for an opinion. You can even perform with them, but do not comment unless asked.
  • Practice to make your music perfect; do not practice for a performance.
  • Do not take music as a second profession – you either take it up full time or you don’t.
  • The importance of breathing and not using drugs, to youth in general, to musicians in particular.
  • I play the same way for ten people or for a huge crowd of thousands (though I wondered if this is as easy as said)

Interesting Interactions

During break, we had some interesting conversations with the students and faculty. While speaking to Karthik sir on his Lavangi korvai, he said that he had composed a whole thillana in the same raga and I was free to learn and sing it anywhere🙂 I also got to try playing an instrument that looked like morsing – Sid said it looked like the Jew’s harp which should have been a distorted word for ‘jaws’ harp because we place it between our jaws to play. Whereas the student who had it said that she purchased it in a Tibetan shop in Pondicherry.

Thanks again to Sai from the PR agency, Diane, Rahul and Vinay from SAM. Watch out for the performance of the SAM faculty at the Egmore Museum Theatre on Apr 8th. I have attached a snippet of the kind of fusion that happens when they perform together (this is just a recording of them warming up before performance). The day’s events came to a close by a performance by the jazz fusion band playing what I understood as Hamsadwani.

– Until next,

The Real Show

We know there is so much drama, hype and emotions in a reality show, right. All for a TRP rating one would think. Midnight shoots, contracts to sing whenever summoned and capturing you weep on TV – is probably lesser known. But the real show starts much earlier than all this.

I was talking to this friend when she narrated an incident that took me to nostalgia (not in the nicer memory sense).

Eight years ago – me in yet another popular TV studio auditioning for a then popular TV competition. I got till the third round where I had to sing something of a genre I wasn’t comfortable with – I thought I did a decent rendition of thoodhu varuma when I walked out. An uncle from the audience with a familiar face walked up to me and said, “you did pretty well, they were talking about putting you in already. Why don’t you call me once you are selected; I am looking for someone to sing the title song of a serial that I’m producing? Maybe we can use your voice…” It was then I realised he was a serial actor from the same TV.

No calls came and so I called this actor / producer back after 3 days. He asked me what I had sung. Then he asked me why I wasn’t selected. How would I know? “Did they ask you anything else?” I blinked. “Well, if they had not called you yet, then you should have been rejected”, he said and cut the call.

Getting back to current day, this is the story my friend had shared.

She went to the auditioning grounds of yet another popular TV music show and stood as the third person in queue. But 150 of them got selected much before her and they were double promoted – owing to the fact that they learnt from the judge there.

Poor girl had sung every song she was asked before she was rejected. When she came out, a well wisher had suggested her to take a detour and go meet the voice specialist there. She had to repeat sing the same list of songs before the guru asked what was her result in the panel. Then he said same goes here, and rejected her. When she came out, this is what the well wisher said: “If you had offered donation or else asked to learn from them, you would have gone through easily!”

I didn’t have words to console her when she shared the story, but having listened to her sing in person, I know she has a beautiful voice and is very much capable of going places.

Comparing the two instances, I just thought… Had I figured it out that day itself, at least I wouldn’t have doubted my ability to perform.

– Until next,

A tribute to Thyagu

The Composer

Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Syama Sastri are regarded as the carnatic music Trinity. All three of them were born in Thiruvarur, and were carnatic music composers, but their music, lyrics and favourite God were distinctively different. Saint Thyagaraja (let me call him Thyagu in this post) in particular, wrote about, sang and worshipped Lord Rama in telugu. They say that out of 24,000 songs said to have been composed by him in his lifetime, only about 700 songs remain now.

The Tribute

In order to pay respects to the genius works of Saint Thyagaraja, the Thyagaraja Aradhana festival is held at Thiruvaiyyaru. On the day of bahula panchami (the day when he left his mortal self), musicians from all over sing/play the Pancharatna krithis in unison.

The Format

The event starts with a prayer to Lord Ganesha, Sriganapathi nee sevimparare in Sourashtram, followed by a song for the teacher Gurulekha etuvanti in Gowri Manohari.

Then ensues the pancharathnas, also known as the gana raga pancharatnas. Thyagu wrote them in nattai, gowlai, arabhi, varali and sree ragas. They are:

Jagadhanandha karaka – Hail the one who brings happiness to this world
Dhudugugala nanne – Rama, please save me from my sins and arrogance
Sadhinchane o manasa – I achieved, O mind!
Kana kana ruchira – It is an endless pleasure to see you
Endaro mahanubavulu – A salute to all the great people out there!

This is generally followed by individual song offerings of musicians showcasing their talent.

Finally, we conclude by singing a Thyagu’s song on Lord Hanuman, a fellow worshipper of Ram, and then the mangalam.

Art by Deva

Going Global…

As it was not feasible for every musician in the world to both go and sing at the same venue on the same day, and still out of love for Thyagu’s music, people from various regions started conducting their own aradhanas for Thyagu, preferably around the same period. To name a few – Cleveland AradhanaStree Thyagaraja Pancharatnam, Chennaiyil Thiruvaiyyaru and every sabha conducting one on its own.

And also Local!

That is how we also started. When we were out of Chennai, and not connected to the musical frenzy here, we decided to call friends who share the same interest and sit at home and sing. This started happening every year and we started getting audience as well. But when we moved to a town (more like a big village) and conducted the aradhana there, more than half the locality turned up for the performance, in a place where I had thought none really cared about carnatic music. And thus we are back here continuing tradition for the past 17 years and all set to perform this year, this weekend. Fingers crossed.

Endaro mahanubavulu; anthariki vandhanamu _/\_

– Until next,


Dr. Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam

As said in my earlier post Guru Vandanam, this is my first post in the series.

Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam, or Viji aunty as we call her, is a carnatic music performer and teacher and a Doctorate and the disciple of Rajam sir, and of course my guru! You can read more of her bio on the link above. Because here I am going to talk about my learning experiences under her.

It is said that a place that is surrounded with music all the time will have a certain vibrating effect. Though I have heard many say it, the first time I experienced this was in aunty’s house – the room where we learn. The ambience is that vibrating and musical. Even Casper, their dog would attend our classes regularly and he was always seated in the front row! I even have a recording of us singing bhairavi varnam and Casper’s howl exactly at upper Sa in the background.

I have learnt many dikshitar kritis from her to my heart’s content (I am a huge fan). Vaaya tharandhu padanum is a general advice given to music students. But she showed me how to open up and sing at the same time not sound loud. I also learnt how to put the tambura – it ain’t easy as it looks for sure.

Ksetra Sangeetham is the series of thematic concerts she does. The format is thus, each episode concentrates on a particular religious place (kshetram); there is a initial speech by a historian or a religious person on the Gods and Godesses and other specialities of the kshetram, followed by aunty’s concert of songs exclusively sung on the same place.

I had the opportunity to be a part of a few episodes such as Kanchipuram, Nagapattinam, Swamimalai, Guruvayoor and others, in helping her in primitive research and preparing presentations for the concert. This outside-classroom experience gave me a whole new outlook to the way songs might have been conceptualised, its religious and political setup.

Aunty’s way of teaching / singing a raga is more ingenious than traditional, something I had observed even as a fan of her concerts before I started training under her. Hopefully I retain and reproduce whatever I have imbibed.

Below is one such Dikshitar’s song being taught by Viji aunty in the paatu class broadcasts. Parvathi kumaram bhavaye in Naatakurinji…

– Until next,

Discovering MDR

One usual compliment that is generally said after someone sings is, “You have a sweet voice”. The listener observes the pleasantness in the voice than the rendition. And a corollary to that would be that a musician with a tough, base voice would be less pleasant to hear. At least I was looking at music with this perspective for sometime. Especially with respect to one particular yesteryear musician called MDR.

Even when Diwakara Tanujaha used to play MDR songs when I was around, I used to crink my face and run away from there. One day he said, “Vid, you will be able to fully appreciate Carnatic music only on the day you can appreciate MDR”. Though he never forced me to listen, that line kept haunting me and seemed to have stayed active at some corner of my mind all the time. That very line made me curious to go and explore a couple of recordings. I searched youtube for MD Ramanathan and listened to the below link, a thillana.

He is an enigma. I read that he sings songs extremely slowly but I have listened to quite a few fast paced ones, like the thillana above. And his voice is very misleading – one booming unintelligible sound that I had heard once, now seems a voice that is one with the tambura and deep.

In the recordings I have listened to, I have not known one place where there was an unwanted kaarva or sangathi. Many a times while singing, we commit this mistake of adding ornamentation to music at the wrong places, just to show we can. Probably that is what makes carnatic music boring to the Muggles. MDR taught me not to.

MDR on the right

MDR has composed krithis under the name (mudhra) Varadadasa as a tribute to his teacher Tiger Varadhachari. Today, a group of MDR aficionados have a group on Facebook called Varadadasa (maybe the name is a tribute to the tributer! ) These guys help me in my MDR discovery further. Uploads from media fire that I have downloaded on my phone, makes sure I have “Coffee with MDR” everyday morning during my travel to office. Thanks to them!!!

– Until next,

Guru Vandhanam

One reason why I love Carnatic music is because of the way it provides freedom for experimenting though within specified boundaries. Probably because I was brought up in a similar way (i.e.) a conservative rule-bound family which gave me the freedom to think and decide for myself.

As the art fraternity goes, passing on skills is predominantly hands-on and by word of mouth. And this gave rise to different schools of music (not in the literal sense, but more like a style of singing), each with its own uniqueness and specialty, and musicians at a level of the hierarchy added something on their own and passed it on. I had the opportunity to learn a few of the styles like Semmangudi, KVN, DKJ, Balamurali.

My initial discovery of carnatic music had been a very bumpy ride. The sarigama exercises and by hearting and reproducing keerthanams (songs) never enticed me and I hated music till my late teens. Later, it was solely my teachers and the kind of music I was exposed to that made that disinterest, interesting. Hence, as a tribute to all the teachers I have leant from till date, I present this series of posts from the next, called Guru Vandanam.

– Until next,

The Red Ring

“Tan tan tana tan tan tana tan tan tada tan….” screamed my phone as the alarm rang. I just flipped it down and silenced it for another 10 minutes of sleep. “Mesha raasi neyargalukku…” I heard the tone like an echo from my house + neighbor’s TV.

Damn… Getting up to rasi palan yet again. How much ever I tried, I was never able to wake up before or much after the program is over. Somehow it is not a good idea to know how bad your day is going to be, right when you start it. Well, the days when this astrologer uncle tells is bad for me, were the ones that actually turned up pretty good. Hence the fear, you see.

Today, was a little different though. He (the astrologer uncle) went a notch up and started explaining the advantages of wearing lucky gemstones and what is the chosen color for people born under my raashi – red it seems. That afternoon my recently-turned-tech-savvy Mom was sitting online and browsing. Only when she called me to sit with her and choose, did I realize she was shopping online for red stoned jewellery.

That is how I landed up at the online website of NAC jewellers, Stylori and got reminded of the CBC contest I had enrolled in. I navigated to Jewellery -> Rings -> Gemstone. Did a filter by stone color where I chose red (as per the prediction suggestion).

Once I chose a particular ring, there were options to customise it. One in particular was in choosing the ring that fits you, that I have not noticed elsewhere. No inch tapes and all – just use your debit card! So, I clicked on find your ring size. Placed my Naturals card on computer display and resized the card image on screen accordingly. Then used an existing ring, placed it on the display in the next screen and chose the right size.

The price range setting is a little irritating though – it resets to 5k plus each time the page refreshes. I wish the webpage is modified to retain the price settings, supporting people with lesser budgets!12191449_10206698449272736_2540664704821492850_n


Now, that the choice is done. Either I get really lucky by just the thought of buying a ring and thus win a voucher, and then use it to actually buy one……. Or I buy the ring, then get lucky and win a voucher, after which I wonder what I can buy with it! Still contemplating.

Until next,


Mastering a Toast

“Hear, hear” and the clinking of a glass is what we can relate to, the moment one talks about a Toast, thanks to English movies. Well it does have a relevance and a difference with what I am going to write about. The relevance is, the name toastmasters was adopted from the event, where one toasts and then gives a speech during weddings. The difference is everything else.

Somehow or the other, until a month ago I had ignored every invitation I got for any Toastmasters’ club meeting. Either because of timings or just that I seldom access that mailbox. One such event I went to because my sister’s friend nagged me to.

First session, as an audience, it looked like some church proceedings full of formalities. Still, I managed to walk in to a few more – and now I have already won an extempore talk, organised a part of the session and even delivered a “prepared” speech.

One needs some getting used to the jargon, initially. Then things will start to fall in place. Like it did for me. I also got acquainted to a new bunch of people, all united by the will to come out and speak / lead. More your friends, the merrier, ain’t it?

Another good thing is, one gets a lot of opportunities to do a variety of things. This includes anything from keeping time, introducing people, observing speech patterns, extempore and prepared speaking, evaluating those speeches, and overall governing. The club gives unique names for all these task doers and collectively calls them “role players”. And these roles can be assigned to different members during different sessions. One thing is definite – you will get to talk.


That is all for now. Looking forward to more interesting time with the club; so I shall write soon. Thanks, CSC Chennai Chapter Toastmasters!

– Until next,


Arbitration vs Mediation

“It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps the justice alive.” LJ Earl Warren

The concept of Conflict Management through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has introduced a new mechanism of dispute resolution that is non adversarial. A dispute is basically ‘lis inter partes’ and the justice dispensation system in India has found an alternative to Adversarial litigation in the form of ADR Mechanism.

Above link is a case of employee being terminated for being unproductive. The associate sued for wrongful termination, but was denied arbitration by the court as the contract of employment had already been terminated by the employer. The employee had continued working under an implied contract at will even after the termination; however, the earlier terminated contract was only considered.

As opposed to arbitration which is done by an arbitrator instead of a judge, and thus replaces the litigation process, mediation is relatively quick and inexpensive way of settling a dispute. There is no need to wait until a dispute results in a lawsuit and is sent to mediation by a judge. Pre-lawsuit mediation is becoming more widely accepted as a sensible way of resolving disputes before they turn into litigation.

Here is a similar case that I came across of employee termination that was settled outside court. The employee Rekha, who worked as a Senior Cargo Assistant in an XYZ company, was absent for work for a total of 317 days in the last three years. She had not produced any valid medical certificate. A mail was sent from the head of the department asking explanation of unauthorised absenteeism. Following which a mail from the head of HR stating that if explanation was not given in writing in 48 hours, the matter will be disposed off on merits. Both the letters did not get a reply.

Then a letter of termination was sent which was returned back. When she was emailed asking for a new address, she replied back that all her absence were informed, and she had submitted medical documents. Rekha then got back with another mail saying that she had other reasons to avail frequent leave. “The work atmosphere was not healthy for a female employee, and there was insecurity at work. In the past, I request you to transfer departments. I wish you give me another chance to prove myself as one of the best employee in the organization.”

As in the previous case, since the employment was terminated on grounds of continuous unauthorized absence, and no response from the employee, arbitration would have been denied. Here the company decided to settle the case by pre-lawsuit meditation.

Rekha’s claims of transfer request and insecurity at work were not able to be proved. However, considering her work experience of 8 years with the company a gesture payment of 2 months’ remuneration along with full and final settlement was made upon her acceptance of the cessation of employment.

images from the internet

Is copied art mine?

An artist Deva had drawn a sketch of the music composer Saint Thyagaraja and published the same in his art blog hosted by blogspot on February 9th 2011. The blog did not have restrictions in downloading the photo from the internet. A book, Pancharatna Kritis of Thyagaraja in Ghana Ragas was published in December 2013 which had the sketch drawn by Deva on its cover page. Also, the name / signature of the artist had been removed in the cover page.

Deva was enraged that his creative work was used without his permission and that they had edited his name on the sketch as well. He wrote a mail to them, but there hasn’t been a response ever since.

The photos were taken from my mobile camera, and edited using mobile app
The photos were taken from my mobile camera, and edited using mobile app

Meanwhile, let us review if this was a case of copyright infringement?

From the Copyright Act, 1957, Chapter III – 14: Copyright means “(c) in the case of an artistic work,- (i) to reproduce the work in any material form including depiction in three dimensions of a two dimensional work or in two dimensions of a three dimensional work; (ii) to communicate the work to the public; (iii) to issue copies of the work to the public not being copies already in circulation; (iv) to include the work in any cinematograph film; (v) to make any adaptation of the work; (vi) to do in relation to an adaptation of the work any of the acts specified in relation to the work in sub-clauses (i) to (iv);

This needs to be looked at in 3 levels:

  • Ownership: Establishing the work is protected under the copyright, exists – The blog still hosts the scanned copy of the sketch and the original sketch is in possession of the artist.
  • Copying: The alleged infringing act falls within the scope of exclusivity offered for that work – Copying can be proved by inference. It can be inferred that the book publisher has in fact copied the Deva’s work from the fact that the publisher had access to the the art work through the internet and from the similarities between the cover page and the blog post. The rationale behind this is that given the sufficient opportunity that the defendant had to copy the plaintiff’s work in addition to the striking similarity between the two works, the evidence in hand is indicative of copyright infringement.
  • Improper Appropriation: The act is actually infringing in nature – There is substantial similarity between the two works and the book was published 2 years after the sketch was posted on the internet.

The artist Deva signs his sketches in a particular way and there is evidence thus in all his artworks. This work of visual art can be identified thus by the signature of the author. However, the book cover did not have the signature in the location as in the original. Could we call this a safety measure from the publisher?

Even Google, which owns blogspot (where the blog was hosted), says that the content uploaded is still Deva’s own. “Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

Psst… Ennala post dhan poda mudiyum, varanjavanga dhan case podanum! What to do…

– Until next,


Degree Coffee

Thanks for that lovely introduction Kaushik (whose post you may find here). We, as a part of the Chennai Bloggers Club are doing the “CBC Tablog 3” and this post is a part of the same. CBC is a Facebook group of bloggers related to Chennai which started out as a vetti group but now brings out the voice of Chennai! This tablog is about a blend of traditional and mordern Chennai.

I would like to start the post with something I say quite often, especially in a conversation with a non-Chennaiite – “my city has one leg in tradition and the other one in trendy times; and hence she will move at her own pace…” Probably that is how we have blended and made a unique culture for ourselves.


The same place where filter coffee is to die for, also has long queue in Starbucks.

Where upanyasam is popular and performed in English.

People wait till the clock strikes 12 to drink at a party, because that day was new moon’s.

Fridays are casual wear days at office; but for some it is an extra-formal-saree day.

There is an online registration and booking to get appointment with astrologers.

We celebrate Dhoti day; we also celebrate Valentine’s day.

That is Chennai to you🙂

The next in the series is Madhvi, who writes at She is a marketeer by profession and and has a passion for singing and writing; she writes in genres ranging from fiction to questions and ringing bells.

– Until next,


P.S: It is quite probable my next post might come up for the next tablog!

Aboard a Raft

Rafting is the same as boating in an inflatable raft. Since the terrain is a slope, the gravity pulls the water slightly faster. Of course it is safe.

Well if you are still not convinced by the previous line, then here goes – white water rafting is an outdoor activity of using an inflatable raft to navigate different degrees of rough water, in order to thrill and excite the raft passengers. That is more interesting isn’t it? This is how it will be, the first line was just what I told to convince my parents😛

When my friend Bhavia told me that she was going on this weekend trip to Chickmagalur with an all women group organized by F5Escapes, I decided to sign up for it as well. They had told us that rafting was an optional activity, so we pay for it separately and that the activity might be cancelled if the river is flooded. And thus, I was a little skeptic when we got into the van that took us to the rafting area.

We had a guide named Sunil who had been brought from Manali for his expertise in rafting. We were given life-jackets and a helmet and some initial instructions on how to sit, what command meant what action – forward pedaling, stop, backward pedaling. Right when we started rowing, Sunil splashed water on all of us; was it because he wanted us to get wet and accustomed, or because we were talking about how bored kayaking should be, not noticing he wore kayak as a pendant, I wonder.

As we rowed and rested, Sunil told us about his experiences and about the rivers he had rowed in India. During the conversation, a friend Jal suggested to him to not make her get into the waters. Lo! He made just that happen. Pushed her in first. Poor thing, it took her a few minutes to recover and discover that she was back in the raft and everything was alright. Motivated, we all got in. Though, I refused to believe that the life jacket will make us float and that we can’t drown even if we try to – eventually that is what happened. By the time we came to calmer waters again, I was more than eager to get in and float!

If you check out in Wikipedia or sites on rafting, you will get to know that there are grades given to white water, based on the difficulty; ours was a grade 3 stretch of river, which means there will be smaller waves and drops but it requires considerable maneuvering. Maybe that is why Sunil resorted to other ways to make things interesting. He turned the boat to face the current, and asked us to row forward. I thought I had heard the instruction wrong. Come on, won’t it be against current? But this was right next to a small drop and we were supposed to row to the swiveling water and then the boat will automatically bounce back once we stop rowing (hope you get the picture). It took me a while to figure this pattern out, but we managed to do this successfully in 2 out of 3 attempts!



Thanks to F5Escapes for planning and making this trip happen; thanks to Bhavia for pulling me into this; and thanks to the like-minded women who came along and made it memorable.

– Until next,

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