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Saturday, October 6, 2007

A music concert

28/09/07


Today evening, I attended a Hindustani concert organized by IIT madras music club. The concert was by Smt.Lakshmi Shriram, wife of a respected faculty in IIT madras. Last week, the same music club had organized a flute concert by famous artist Smt.Mala Chandrasekhar witnessed by single digit crowd. Hence, with no great expectation about the audience, I entered the MBA seminar hall, which to my surprise was packed with people. A mischievous thought crept into my mind “How come so much crowd for a not so famous person, especially after such a poor attendance for Smt.Mala Chandrasekhar. I thought, perhaps the vocalist might have invited all of them to attend and fill the hall”. I can't stop thinking stupidly; so I accepted and digested my thoughts and settled in a nearest cushion chair dressed neatly in a romantic red fabric. The stage was too big for the three, vocalist, harmonium player and the tabla player. The vocalist, who have already crossed her thirties was a tall lean figure draped in a dung coloured silk sari. The harmonium player, who was around 50 covered himself in a purple coloured kurta and pajama (if surf excel marketing get hold of him, they may use his kurta to show the whitening power of their product by labeling it as “before washing with surf excel”). To avoid my acrid criticism on whiteness, the tabla player sat there inside his saffron coloured kurta.

Inside the seminar hall, with black board background, the lean vocalist was singing with one of her folded legs perpendicular to the other, in a typical pose of Hindustani recital, allowing the big bellied tambura to rest in between. The pure sound of “shrudi” crawling out the moments following the vocalist’s slender finger plucking the stretched strings of tambura filled the air; a joyous feeling also spread along, like a fragrance of ‘cycle brand’ incense sticks in the study room, or like a tint of elachi in the evening tea. The ambience was softened by the cool breeze spit by the 2+ ton A.C machine. In the cozy cool atmosphere, I think even the dead skin of animals stretched in tabla also started hibernating; not yielding to earnest efforts and hammering of tabla player. The fine technology in the A.C started sucking more air than it pumped resulting in lack of air for harmonium. The harmonium player forced it to inhale and vibrate the swaras; I think poor harmonium was suffering from asthma like my ‘appa’; it was really suffering to breathe between its bellows.

Smt.Lakshmi was singing wonderfully; her beautiful vocal cords strainlessly reaching the fine gamakhas and swaras; I sat spellbound for some time. The nuance and finesse in her undertaking the greatest art was really appreciable. I don’t know anything about Hindustani music, other than my cousin’s bhajan “Krishna na diwani”, bhimsen joshi’s one old album and title song of “om namah shivaya”, I haven’t heard much to mention about. Normally, whenever I hear some good carnatic music, say by Sanjay subramoni or Aruna sairam, I imagine myself singing with them. Believe me, with shut mouth and complete silence in yourself and in pure imagination you can really feel like producing great music; silence is that much powerful. But, in this occasion, when I tried to imagine, my mind conflicted with my conscience, “stupid, don’t even imagine that you can twist your vocal chords like this”, such a powerful delivery in the decent silent crowd, generating heat to beat the A.C.

However, despite her great delivery, I felt some sense of incompleteness. Well, as an idiot, incapable of expressing my views in the technical terms, I would like to compare her with masters like Bhimsen Joshi or Abdul Karim khan. Well, she’s definitely not equivalent to great men like Joshi. It would be a sin in my part even if I attempt comparison. Had she been at least 1% equal to them, she would have been proportionately famous like them, about which I think she’s not. But, since I don’t have any other choice, I shall continue comparing. I would say that Joshis swaras and brigas are like a free turbulent flow; like a rocket piercing the blue sky challenging newtons gravity with its escape velocity. Whereas Smt.Lakshmi’s flow is like an intermittently choked flow, may be like electron flow in a high resistance wire. Something, something was missing. I dare not to identify as shrudi, may be something else failing to fill the gaps. I felt her like a new cyclist driving zig zagly without balance in a supposedly straight line. I may not reflect the reality as whatever I’m detailing is based on a emotional impact she made on my mind.There is a reason in my describing it as an emotional touch; I found Hindustani music sinking in my emotions than the carnatic music. Well, I would like to take an anology, if I take an investment brochure, I may dwell upon the better performing sectors, share market prices etc; but if the same thing is handled by my handsome nephew ‘ayush’, he would have wondered about the advertisement and bar graphs and would appreciate only those soft unimportant aspects. Similarly, I, an idiot in the technical details of Hindustani can’t enjoy the core Hindustani music, but can attempt to talk only about the boundary impacts it generates. I was telling that the vocalist was lacking some inexplicable details. But, so what? A humble music lover like me is like a hungry beggar; quite contented with any food, whether a swiss chocolate or previous day’s food demanding bio-degradation. It’s good to be an innocent hungry music lover like me, because

  1. you are happy with any music you listen to
  2. your expectations are either nil or very low
  3. any music appears new and above all
  4. You can’t find any technical mistakes in any music.

I’m happy in being dumb in music. After all, I can appreciate the musician wholeheartedly instead of finding faults. After enjoying the aalapana, meera bhajan and kabhir bhajan, I left the auditorium longing for the next opportunity to listen some good music.

A book review

A book review

I wanted to do some light reading and after half an hour thorough search, found the thinnest book of IIT library between two other fat books. I was reading Nirad Chaudhri's "Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse". This is the first book of Nirad Chaudhri for me; though this was written in his ninety ninth age. For that matter, owing to my very poor reading habit, any book I read will be my first book of that author's. Usually, whenever I start a book, I open a dictionary before opening the preface of the book. Unfortunately, this book was opened when I was traveling and handicap without a thesaurus.

I thought it is a light novel and tried with enthusiasm. First few chapters of the book were very vague to me as I had no clue what the book is about. But one good thing about the book is that the author in every chapter explained all the meanings of the important word he uses and also the meaning he applies in the chapter. The three horses in the book represent individualism, nationalism and democracy and its influence in the fall of western civilization. In the initial few chapters, the author talks about his ideas, assumptions and lot of quotations from French books. There lies significant reference to the great "Pascal's" quotations. I was really amazed when the author talked about second law of thermodynamics and evolution of universe in a placid way.

The short book crisply dotted lot of aspects of decadence of western civilization. However, the author has quoted his earlier publication to fill many of its pages. While Chaudhri discusses about the factors of society and culture influencing the decadence of the civilization, I more or less felt like an usual old man's lament "in our days it was like that.. and the current generation have ruined". Of course, it is not nice in my part to make such an abrupt comment as the author have stated after his years of observation. But, still the reason for my comment on the author geriatric behaviour is because of his generous reference to India's culture in terms of its Hindu undivided family etc. If someone goes through his book, he/she may get a feeling that India's cultural decay doesn't demand so much worry as that of the western civilization. In fact chaudhri's observation on people's poor attitude towards family, sex, money etc is applicable to India also. In fact, I was expecting the author to charge on India's loss of tradition due to western civilization and also to discuss the question of how to preserve the tradition under the influence of western domination, which itself is under decadence. Chaudhri's reference to Bengali women and Hindu family gives me a feeling that Chaudhri loves India close to his heart. But a great lover should be equally pained by the decadence of its families and society. The author was discussing about sexual harassments, robbery, poor democratic government, crime etc. in Britain to a greater extent and lesser reference to India.Though there was one complete chapter to discuss the decadence of India, i felt it was not comparable to authors description of britian. Author accused people and culture of Britain than the government for England's decadence whereas somewhat reverse case for India.


One great thing about the book was the interest it creates in reading. I was actually disappointed when I understood that I was venturing into some serious discussion by Chaudhri. The artistic way of the great scholar's account on western civilization mixing individualism, philosophy with the early twentieth century history is great. One very evident fact bubbling through out the book is the author's vast knowledge in the area of the topic under discussion. The author's account gives a feeling that this topic is close to his heart and one could feel his personal emotions peeping out.

Another specialty worth mentioning is the language used. It is not a book where the author tried to vomit all the words he had mugged from websters. He used a very simple language, but difficult words decorate the passage only in appropriate places, driving the full impact the author expected. It is a boon for people like me as it is difficult to look at the dictionary ten times for a single line. Similar style I have appreciated in R.K.narayanan's works too; very simple yet powerful with tough words coming in between only in appropriate locations. I would like to point out a concept of strengthening mechanism in metallurgy. In metallurgy, it is a general practice to introduce some obstacles inside a metal to decelerate the micro level material movement, thereby increasing the strength of the material. Similarly, the tough words in appropriate places strengthen the image of the reader on the greatness of the author.

If you are interested in one century old history and also interested to talk about western civilization, it is a concise and interesting material to read.

My favorite lines in the book

"it is one of the disputable fact of history that friendship between nations is fragile, while hatred is ineradicable. In respect of strength, love can never be equal to hatred".