Friday, August 25, 2006

Andha Naal Nyaabagam !

Just for your viewing pleasure, I have added the following photo in my old postings related to First Visit to IR house in 1978.

This is the tape recorder and the house I was describing there in that posting (I hope this shall be of his Santhome house)

Thanks to the person who sent this to me now and also to unknown gentleman who owns it.

Blog to continue soon and sorry for the delay.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Memories of DSM : Part-2

The Wonderland of WCM learning!

No doubt it was a struggle, but those practical learnings gave me a lot of happiest moments also when I succeed in playing those small bits and pieces!

Believe me, all I am talking about was very small songs only of Grade-1 and 2 level stuff, like learning about the melody line, the chord supports, combination of these in each hands, the staccato type songs, the counterpoint example, the different form of music like minuet, bourree etc etc!

However, it also opened my eyes that I cannot cross that ocean. Even 24 hours a day practice would not have been sufficient, whereas, I was only having a borrowed half-an hour per day.

But I utilized all the other available time in my control for the theory learning, and thus within the very first year I could finish upto Grade-4 level exercise books.

This encouraged Ms Mitra to recommend me straight away for level-4 theory exam of Associated Board.

When I finished that, again double jump to Grade-6 exam. Till that it was always 90 plus marks!

But the Grade-7 and Grade-8 (final) preparations took some considerable time and efforts of mine, having to do a lot of study stuff on form of music, history, etc etc and above all the Harmony theory. There I struggled a lot and exam was also not easy walk-over. Still with 70 plus I had to remain satisfied!

So in nutshell, for three and half years, it was a roller coaster ride from Grade-1 scratch to Grade-8 final on theory side!

And Nil show on practical side!

[It was a great anamoly and funny thing to happen and nobody would have been allowed like this in the DSM history. Somehow luck favoured in my pursuit, that's all I can say.

Honestly, even I would not have recommend anybody to do that, as theory and practical must go hand in hand!]

But finally when Mitra planned to put me on Grade-3 practical directly, I was already enough exhausted and enough frightened about practical exams.

That was further compounded by my office situation with threats looming about likely transfer to Himachal.

Finally when Penny shifted her job and her house was vacated, the whole dream episode came to a logical end!

Those practical (though left in half-way, and now in the final self-analysis, convinced me that, these were not worthy claiming), and the theory learnings still taught me a lot!

Learning never begins or ends ! It’s there with us all the time.

Only point is certain things we consciously, systematically do and other things unconsciously go on inside, within us, as and when we see or encounter!

Anybody who even blindly following IR songs and involved deeply for years, can easily be claimed to have already acquired many of these basic knowledge of WCM, though un-consciously.

You don’t know the terms all right, but you have already felt that and have registered in your mind and got it mixed in your blood.

What you are trying to do with such learnings is to systematically unravel it, assimilate it and consolidate the “skills” acquired.

Simple to say, but when you unravel mystery of IR, you end up awe-struck!

Singing a poem on moon is one thing, but if you travel in a spaceship and land on a moon and see around the universe, what you will feel is something beyond words!

This is what I felt about IR, during and after my learning of WCM.

Its simple, but not simple;

Its Small, but not Small;

You jump of joy of seeing it, but you cry of not getting it….!

It has started, but it goes on, it expands and expands….!

Think of the example of “Sevili” character from the film “Mudhal Mariyaadhai” who goes on running and running to reach and touch the horizon and gasping for breath..!

Through out the learning period, my position was like that !

When you thought of unfolding Raaja, he is again at a distant with his size further growing exponentially!

May be exactly the same thing IR might have also felt when he learned the WCM and Carnatic systematically and realized/felt the new opportunity of expanded infinite scope available before him when one wants to do the fusion of best of both world of WCM and CCM!

It is really the BIG.. BIG…BIG….. picture!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Memories of Delhi School of Music Period : Part-1

When I joined the Delhi School of Music (DSM), after depositing the first fees for the quarter, I was introduced to my teacher, Ms M Mitra.

An old Bengali lady, looked like a typical school teacher. Again that skeptical look and “OK-What-to-do-I-have-to-teach-you” approach, I could feel that!

After mutual discussion, I was allotted Saturday morning one single sitting of two hours from 7-30 to 9-30 am as the class session.

One good thing about DSM was, each class session, only one student for one teacher in one big room.

I was given one Bombay address from where I had to get through postal delivery some practical and theory books for Grade-1, which I got in a few weeks time.

It was then I learned about the perspective of the lessons and syllabus ahead.

Just for the benefit of readers, I am giving that following information/details.

The DSM is affiliated to Associated Board of Royal School of Music, London and all the syllabus and exams were to be followed as per their system.

Every six month, the exams are conducted all over the world. The papers set at ABRSM is distributed in all these exam centres and the written papers are sent to London for correction and results declared.

For practical exams, musical experts from ABRSM, London also visits on the exam date and allot marks based on the performance of the student.

At the “School” level, there are Eight Grades to be approached systematically alongwith the theory and practical exams.

Based on the progress of the students in the class room, the teacher and the Director of DSM select the students for appearing in the appropriate exams.

After Grade-8 of school level, further diploma, college, research level of music courses are continuing.

(Later I learnt that in UK, the two famous old Universities are Oxford and Cambridge. While Trinity School/College of Music is associated with Oxford University, the Royal School/college of Music is associated with Cambridge University. In case of Royal School/College of Music, The Queen is normally the Patron and hence the name “Royal” is associated with that.

As we know, IR attended the course of Trinity School of Music and got the gold medal in Grade-8 for Guitar practicals.)

I was totally astonished to know these details. I never thought of such a rigid, systematic approach with exams etc to be encountered by me when I joined the school.

My aim was simple, viz. I shall know what is WCM, so that I can understand and appreciate IR music well. Thats all ! Very narrow minded I was !

Anyway, having entered the fray, I shall utilize this wonderful opportunity.

Thus it started!

After attending a few initial classes, I realized that I was in a soup!

Though earlier I had some knowledge of harmonium and keyboard, I was able to play any single line melody with one hand. But, the real piano playing demanded two hands playing.

Even for Grade-1 level, even the nursery rhyme type of small four line songs etc, (which I started like a child), demanded high attention and practice to play with both hands!

Also, when you are an amateur player, you never bother about timing beats etc, and feel happy to play anything with any timing, with any mistakes etc and just enjoy yourself. But when it comes to learning, everything else matters.

More important thing is reading your notes, understanding and grasping what it is, then your fingers shall move to the corresponding position, play the notes, and play only for the duration required and keep on moving! For two hand two different notes, different duration etc etc! At a time synchronization of mind, eyes, hands etc are required!

It was hell!

Not only to me also to my teacher Ms Mitra! The way she gets angry and frowns and shouts, you suddenly feel like Tom and Jerry situation, with all your nerves and mind getting rigid and you feel like a small mouse!

At the age of 25, those were different experiences!

Really, my aim started shifting from learning the music as a hobby to “how to satisfy this old lady and survive the two hours of class every week?”

That means very vigorous practicing at evening hours at Karol Bagh Penny’s house.

But there also, you were having limitations of time and visitors distraction etc [how much I remained a “siva-poojai-karadi” in their daily routines is another moot point!] Anyhow, I had to do that!
Not only practicing for a particular class, but also to practice lessons ahead so that atleast my first time show will be “tolerable” to Ms Mitra!

Then it was really like “Avvai Shanmugi” (Chachi 420) running for me !

Start from Nehru Place office by 6 PM, 7 pm reach Karol Bagh, get freshen up, start running to Penny’s house and reach by 7-20 to 7-30, practice for 30 to 45 minutes, by the time dinner time starts, get out of the house and go to hotel, have food and reach back room by 9-30 pm etc!
Now I can laugh at, then it was not like that!

Poor Mitra had to suffer a lot with tension, and I used to mug-up the lines and played as-if-I-am reading from note book! That also she checked and suddenly will start from in-between-lines of the song!

Oh God, it was really a nightmare! Anyway, all these continued and I survived.

But one thing, I was very comfortable and Mitra also could not find any fault with me, that was my successful homework and easy show on “theory” portion of the music.

You see, at the age 25, if an “Engineering Graduate” attempted what a 5 year old can do, it must be easy, isn’t it!

The "Theory" lessons remained my USP !

I could use that for my survival and progress! Very fast progress indeed!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Nalla Manam Vaazhga !

"Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you."

A few weeks passed since then.

Though resigned to fate and put back all my efforts to receding memory, I had the pinch that I could not do that what I wanted!

I could not recall, how it happened that I shared these problems with one of my office colleagues Mr SG Iyer.

Here I have to explain my Karol Bagh story a little bit for continuity purpose. Our NHPC office was in Nehru Place at that time and I used to travel in the DTC point-to-point bus from Karol Bagh daily. Mr Iyer who was working in the personnel department as Deputy Manager then, also used to travel with me often in that bus.

In the evening or morning trips, usually, I was the one who normally accommodate the fellow standing passengers in my seat making the 2 member seat for three members. That needs a special technique to sit in a half seat and still I can comfortably sleeping the one hour or so journey to Karol Bagh!

Old memories never die!

It was during one such occasions, that, I might have shared my musical search and failures to Mr Iyer.

But to my astonishment, he said that he knew one another NHPC colleague in Karolbagh, in whose house he had seen an upright piano (a compact vertical shape piano version)!

Her name was Penny, a Goan Christian, who was also working in NHPC’s Personnel department and occasional traveler in my DTC bus. That was sufficient for me to surrender totally to him requesting him to introduce me to her.

That also happened soon.

When I met her and made my request telling the background, she was so gracious in accepting my request and asked me to come to her house so that the modalities can be discussed with her parents.

Mrs and Mr Williams, aged parents of Penny, were living in a normal rented house, which was just 10 to 15 minutes walk from my place. The piano was housed in an adjacent room to the main drawing hall, which is normally their dining room.

I asked for time slot daily between 7 to 8 PM in the evening, after my returning from office. They have agreed to that. With tears in my eyes, I conveyed my gratitude to them.

Once the piano arrangement is made, my school admission was made easy and I joined the school, in the immediate period, hope that was last quarter of 1985! Till 1989, I could continue that classes and school. I will write those experiences soon.

Certain things are part of your destiny.

How come one think of a far away land which you never though you will land up for a job, and one family who has not even seen you ever in your life, agree to your request of such musical requirement ?!!

I have no answers till date.

But, in my life, I owe them a lot !

No doubt they had to undergo some troubles also, due to this arrangement. Their evening privacy time to meet and discuss with their friends and relatives had some disturbances, with me practicing piano inside their house.

Daily when I tapped the door in the evening, they had to open the door and some time they postponed their visits just to accommodate me! Such instances were many! Nearly three years I could continue with such arrangement!

At a later stage, when Penny joined Maruti Udyog and shifted, that facility came to an end!

But by then, I had already completed my theory exams upto the 8th grade! Even though I could not fulfill my dreams of practicals, the way I wanted, but I could do a long distant travel with WCM theory learnings, just because of them!

Penny and Family !

I dedicate all my musical knowledge I had, to you three! Wherever you are, I pray that all the best and fortunes are bestowed on you all so that you can always share them, the way you shared with me during those period!

Delhi School of Music! The Close Encounter!

Delhi School of Music!

A lot of efforts like locating the phone numbers and then getting the addresses, nearly two week-end days spent in locating the address itself etc. forms the trivial information.

But when located the building No 8, Nyaya Marg, Chankyapuri, Delhi and I entered, it’s a dream like feeling.

The serene and calm atmosphere of its location, in Chanakyapuri, the sounds emanating from various class rooms in the form of piano, guitar etc, I was totally taken to a different world.

After waiting in the lounge and seeing various notice board information etc, I could gather some ideas about the school.

Its basically an elite school for the elite, particularly, cater to the foreigners/diplomats living in the Chankyapuri area of Delhi and the real Classical music lovers of Delhi society.

Visiting scholars/dignitaries and experts of WCM often found the Delhi School of Music as the basic cultural link in India.

Now, I was totally become conscious and fall into inferiority complex with questions like can I enter this school and can I have any qualifications to enter this premises?

The only answer, I was having at that time was : if I can understand IR and his music, certainly I can learn all these ! If IR with his background from village etc can do some wonders like that on WCM, can I not even learn and understand atleast what WCM is ?

I must do that come what may be !

I met the Secretary of the school and talked about admission details. With a skeptical look she asked me to wait and see the Director of the school.

After few hours waiting I could see the Director, Mr Palamkote, an old gentleman and backbone of that school.

Having understood my request for admission, he was polite and blunt in answering, saying that basically they take children of small ages for entry level classes!

I was totally flattened and my entire ego and self respect came down crumbling! How much I have lost already!

He felt, and of course right also, that, it will be difficult for an adult to start a course and also, working class people certainly will not give importance and only will result in drop outs.

After much persuasion and assuring him about my determinations to study WCM and efforts to find this school etc, he told about the fee structures etc.

However put a basic condition that I must find a piano first for outside class practicing! Only after that I shall approach him again for the admission matter!

Because, with fabulous Rs 250 plus / class kind of fees, with only two to three hours in a week, it is the duty of the student to practice themselves and come prepared for the class, otherwise, the whole exercise will be wasteful! That also true!

Now where to find a piano? Already knew about the expensive piano rates, who will have such piano and who will even hire that and how much it will cost me and can I afford to that alongwith those fabulous school fees?

With utter dejection I came out of the school!