Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Are we there yet....

Road trips are fun. You are not stuck to a rigid schedule. No lines to stand. No security guy frisking you. No fear of a $100 tag if you want to carry the stuff you think you would want. I can go on. Road trips are for sure fun.
But they can be a little less fun if there are kids with you and if they start the ubiquitous ‘Are we there yet?’ chant fifteen minutes into a multi hour drive. Keeping the kids occupied isn’t easy. More so if they are of different ages and see choosing a movie as a chance to irritate each other and the parents.
I find puzzles and word games to be an effective diversion tactic. When the kids were young these used to be something simple like saying a word starting with the last letter of the previous word and making it a little more complex, as time goes, by asking them to choose a category and say words relating to that category.
This Thanksgiving, we had an eight hour drive and I had thought up some games based on some radio game shows. The kids found it interesting and so I thought I would share it with y’all.
Dis or That
The answer always is a word that contains the phrase Dis. The clue has to be in two parts – one referring to the meaning of the whole word and one about the part without the Dis.
For example, ‘a drama would be for all to see’ could be a clue for the word ‘Display’. A drama referring to the word play and when Dis is added, it becomes display, which is for everyone to see.
‘This month was a let down’ turned out to be Dismay. The Dis phrase need not come as a prefix always. ‘The black time machine’ was Tardis.
Anagrammatically yours
This game is about getting two words based on a given clue, with the condition being that the two words should have the same letters in different orders. A simple one could be ‘X-ray the containers'. The answer to that would ‘Scan the cans’. ‘The citrus fruit’ would be ‘Lemon Melon’. Or ‘an endless pond’ would be ‘a loop pool’.
The Addiction
This is a variant of the previous one, where a letter is added to one of the answer words to get the second one. ‘The bad Satan’ would be ‘The evil devil’. ‘Light beer’ would be ‘Pale ale’ and ‘a slice of your organ’ would be ‘a sliver of your liver’.
The most liked one was in the form of a question – ‘What would the car salesman say when you don’t want to buy a car?’ The answer, of course, is ‘Please lease’! The elders liked ‘Russian financial crisis’ which ended up to be ‘Rouble Trouble”.
The game started with the kids but drew in everyone in the car and was, for sure, good entertainment. There are variants you can have of adding a letter to the first word and jumbling to get the second word or switching one letter for another and so on. The kids really loved the variations. They cracked some of them right off the bat while some others had them stumped. When the answer was revealed, it was a face palm moment for them. While I was giving the clues first, it didn’t take long for the kids to come up with their own clues. And they had some interesting ones too.
I strongly recommend you have a bunch of clues on you when you start the car for the next long trip.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint (Psalm 6:2)

Perumal Murugan and TM Krishna need no introduction to those in my social circle. But in case someone does, here you go.

Photo Courtesy: Internet

Perumal Murugan — a poet, author and scholar. While his books have had good reviews, he shot into national and global prominence due to the controversy around his book ‘Mathorubagan’. He was hounded by his detractors to the extent that he vowed that he would not write anymore, an act that was reported as literary suicide by global media. Writers, Tamil and beyond, along with many others stood behind him and supported him during this controversy. An equally vocal group called him out, as defaming the town, Tiruchengode and slandering the local deity, and asking for a ban on the book. The state High Court, not only provided relief to him but also used this incident as an opportunity to advise the Government how to handle such controversies. Hated by the Hindutva group.

Photo Courtesy: Hariharan Sankaran

T.M.Krishna — singer, writer and activist. Enfant Terrible of Carnatic music. Outspoken to a fault, he has been vocal about many taboo subjects in music, such as the role of caste and religion in carnatic music, and the behind the scenes machinations in the sabha culture. His opinions on non-music topics also attract quite polarized views. His recent Magsaysay award generated a lot of opinions on him and on the topics, he writes about. TMK has written in support of Perumal Murugan and also shared a stage with him in a literary event. Hated by the Hindutva group.
If you have ever wondered what would be the result of a collaboration between these two, you don’t have to wonder anymore. In a recent concert, TMK sang as virutham, a poem penned by Perumal Murugan. The simple yet deep poem reflects the struggle that Perumal Murugan is going through and fittingly appeals to the very same Mathorubagan to alleviate him of his pain. TMK for his part, has sung it with the emotion that such lyrics deserve. With a lovely selection of Ragas, he has brought out the feelings of the poet very well and followed it up with a very apt song — ‘Maadu Vazhi Maraithirukkudhe’.
The lyrics of the virutham are
முடியாத துயரில் நான் மூழ்கிக் கிடக்கின்றேன்
மூர்க்கம் சூழ்ந்திட மருகித் தவிக்கின்றேன்
விடியாத இருள் போதில் வெகுதூரம் கடந்து
விரைந்து வந்து வந்து இளமை வலுவோடு
படியேறிப் படியேறிப் பாதம் தோய்ந்தவன்

படும்பாடு பார்க்கப் பார்வை திருப்புநீ
மடியேறு முகமேறு மலர் போல வாடிடும்
மனமேறு மருள் நீக்கு மாதொரு பாகனே!
And you can listen to TMK’s rendering, published here after taking necessary permissions.

So what the collaboration of these two has delivered is a beautiful poem in supplication of the Lord and a soulful rendering of the same. A result, that should be celebrated by the right wing Hindus. But am sure, the personalities behind the work is what would matter to them and they would miss appreciating this beautiful work of art and sledge it as usual. Par for the course.
While the rest of us, should not waste any time and lap up such a wonderful treat!
Title: Pain and a prayer to alleviate it is universal and I found this particular verse from Bible to be quite apt — Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. (Psalm 6:2)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oven Roasted Spicy Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts — a vegetable everyone loves to hate.
Eaten raw, it has a bitter taste that puts off many. And if boiled, it becomes mushy and has a smell that rivals rotten egg and is universally hated. So much so that it is called BS in short! However, there is a way to make this vegetable taste good. Really, there is. But before we get to that let us take a grammar lesson. (It is never any other way with me, isn’t it?)
Why are Brussels sprouts spelled with a capital B, instead of just brussels sprouts? Because the modern version of the vegetable is said to have been grown mainly in Belgium and its capital Brussels got its name attached to the name of the vegetable. Therefore, it is always spelled with a capital B, at least by those who are conscious of their grammar.
Although from the family of cabbage, BS are actually bud like formations on a central stalk and hence are called sprouts denoting small growth. They contain high levels of vitamins A and C, folic acid and dietary fiber, and can help protect against colon and stomach cancer. Would you believe there are more than 100 types of BS and that they are all equally hated! :)
Now to the recipe. The best way to cook these little devils is to slow roast them in an oven. But a twirl in olive oil, add a dash of salt and pepper and roast, simply doesn’t cut it. We need to spice it up a bit to make it tastier. And what do we need for that?
  • Brussels sprouts (obviously you need it, duh!). Trim the base, cut into two halves, wash and dry them.
  • Olive oil (be generous)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sriracha Sauce or better, Sambal Oelek
  • Thick yoghurt
  • Garlic Powder
  • A dash of turmeric powder
I dont measure my ingredients but estimate them and just add. So you need figure out the amount of the powders needed, based your own experience and taste palette.
Step 1 — Mix all of the ingredients other than the BS, in a large bowl. Once they are mixed well and form a paste, add the cut BS pieces and mix them into the paste. I suggest using your hand to mix them and get the marinade into the folds of the sprouts. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes. You are allowed to pull a couple of leaves and eat when the sprouts are marinating. Go ahead, try.
Step 2 — Line a baking tray with foil, spray some oil on it to prevent sticking and arrange the sprouts in rows, cut side down. Extra marinade can be poured over the sprouts.
Step 3 — Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees F and roast the sprouts for 20 minutes.
Step 4 — Turn over the sprouts so that they will evenly cook and roast them for a further 20 minutes.
Step 5 — The sprouts taste best when the outside is crispy and the inside is well roasted. So broil them for about 5 minutes. The aroma of the slightly burnt sprouts is divine. It is a wonder that the same sprouts smell so bad when boiled. Once you have the outside crispy, it is time to take them out of the oven. Serve and consume right away.
I wanted more spice and so served myself the sprouts topped up with some homemade spiced coconut powder (Thenkai Milagai Podi). You can try your own mods.
Bon Appetit for a plateful of BS!
PS — For those friends of mine who are into Paleo Diet, this is sure paleo friendly!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

When you do see, why don’t you observe When you do hear, why don’t you listen…

When I wrote a post on the reactions to TM Krishna getting the Magsaysay award, there were two points I had mentioned among others.
The first is that the Bhakti aspect of the music is very Hindu based and had very little to represent other religions, if at all.
And the second point was that whatever be the views of TMK be, as a musician he is excellent. There are people who mix his views with his art and are unable to appreciate what he has got to offer through his music because of their opinion on what he writes or speaks. I never understood that particular stance.
It was a surprise this morning when I got hold of a song TMK had performed in a recent concert of his. He had taken a very popular tamil song on Allah and had rendered it as a classical Carnatic Music composition. This covered both of the points I had mentioned by bringing in a popular composition on Allah and delivering it as a very beautiful Carnatic song.
The rendition of this song by Sri. Nagore Hanifa has been a favorite of many and if you have not listened to it, you should hear it first.

Am providing the lyrics for those who may be interested.

அல்லாவை நாம் தொழுதால்
சுகம் எல்லாமே ஓடி வரும்
அந்த வல்லோனை நினைத்திருந்தால்
நல்ல வாழ்க்கையும் தேடி வரும்
பள்ளிகள் பல இருந்தும்
பாங்கோசை கேட்ட பின்பும்
பள்ளி செல்ல மனம் இல்லையோ
படைத்தவன் நினைவில்லையோ
வழிகாட்ட மறை இருந்தும்
வள்ளல் நபி சொல்லிஇருந்தும்
விழி இருந்தும் பார்ப்பதில்லையோ
செவி இருந்தும் கேட்பதில்லையோ
இறையோனின் ஆணைகளை
இதயத்தில் ஏற்றிடுவோம்
இறைதூதர் போதனையை
இகமெங்கும் பரப்பிடுவோம்

TMK has sung this as a very beautiful, soothing Behag. And one that is as good as Behag can get. If someone is not listening to this track because of the lyrics, the loss is theirs. I have listened this many times ever since I got it and I am overjoyed every time not just because of what the lyrics are but because what a lovely Behag this is.
I am happy to share the joy with you all, after obtaining necessary permissions.

PS: The title is my translation of a couple of lines I love from this song .

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

மையப்புள்ளி, மெரீடியன் பின்னே மாலன்!

வெளியூருக்கோ வெளிநாட்டுக்கோ போனோமா, அங்க எடுத்த படத்தைப் போட்டோமா, போன இடத்தைப் பத்தி நாலு வரி எழுதினோமான்னு இருக்கிறது நாம எல்லாருமே பண்ணறதுதான். எங்க துளசி ரீச்சர் மாதிரி ஆட்கள் போன இடத்தைப் பத்தின தகவல்கள், வரலாறு கொஞ்சம் மெனக்கெட்டு எழுதுவாங்க. இப்படி எழுதும் போது கொஞ்சம் முன்னப்பின்ன ஒரு தகவல்பிழை இருந்தா, அதைச் சுட்டிக் காட்டின உடனே அப்படியா, அடடேன்னு சரி பண்ணிக்கலாம்.
ஆனா இதுவே ஒரு பத்திரிகையாளர், அதுவும் மூத்த பத்திரிகையாளரா இருந்தா மேலெழுந்தவாரியாக இல்லாம கொஞ்சம் முனைந்து வாசகனுக்கு தன்னுடைய அனுபவங்கள், அதன் பின் இருக்கும் தகவல்கள் என எழுதி படிச்ச ஒருத்தனுக்கு படிக்கிறது முன்னாடி இருப்பதை விட படித்த பின் அந்த இடத்தைப் பற்றிய அறிவு கொஞ்சம் அதிகமாகி இருக்கணும். அது அவர்களோட கடமை. எல்லாரும் இப்படிப் பண்ணறாங்களான்னா இல்லை. எழுத்தாளர் எஸ் ராமகிருஷ்ணன் அமெரிக்கா வந்துட்டுப் போன பின்னாடி எழுதினதை எல்லாம் படிச்சு கொஞ்சம் கிண்டலும் பண்ணி நிறைய வருத்தப்பட்ட காலமெல்லாம் உண்டு.
ஆனா அவரை எல்லாம் ஒண்ணுமே இல்லைன்னு பண்ணிட்டாரு பத்திரிகையாளர் மாலன். மாலன் சமீபத்தில் லண்டன் போயிருக்கார். அது குறித்து லண்டன் குறிப்புகள்ன்னு ஒரு தொடர் எழுதிக்கிட்டு வரார் போல. இன்னிக்கு அதோட பத்தாவது பாகம் படிக்கக் கிடைச்சுது. நீங்களும் படிச்சுடுங்க - https://www.facebook.com/maalannarayanan/posts/10153695285991744
பதிவு காணாமப் போயிருச்சுன்னா, இந்தப் படத்தைப் பார்த்துக்குங்க.

படிச்ச உடனே மிகுந்த அருவருப்பு, ஒவ்வாமைதான் வந்தது. பெரிய எழுத்தாளர், பத்திரிகையாளர். இப்படி ஒரு அபத்தக் களஞ்சியமான கட்டுரை ஒண்ணை எழுதி இருக்காரே. ஒரு தப்பா ரெண்டு தப்பா எடுத்துச் சொல்ல? போன இடத்தில் படிக்கத் தரும் தகவல் குறிப்புகளைப் படித்து இருந்தால் இப்படி எல்லாம் எழுதி இருப்பாரா? அல்லது அறிவியல் பற்றி எழுதறோமே, ஒரு முறை விக்கிப்பீடியாவையாவது படிச்சுட்டு எழுதுவோம்ன்னு படிச்சிருந்தா இப்படித் தப்பும் தவறுமா எழுதி இருப்பாரா?

முதல் வரி

/உலகப் பந்தில் மேலிருந்து கீழாக, அதாவது வட துருவத்திலிருந்து தென் துருவத்திற்கு ஒரு கோடு போடுங்கள். அந்தக் கோடு பூமியின் மத்தியில் ஓடும் பூமத்திய ரேகையை ஓரிடத்தில் + போல ஊடறுக்கும் இல்லையா, அதுதான் உலகத்தின் மையப் புள்ளி இல்லையா? /
வட துருவத்தில் இருந்து தென் துருவத்திற்கு கோடு போட்டால் அதுதான் உலகத்தின் மையப் புள்ளியா? இதை இல்லையா இல்லையான்னு வேற கேட்கணுமா? இல்லைய்யா இல்லை. உலகம் ஒரு உருண்டை. இந்த உருண்டையின் மேலிருந்து கீழ் வரை கோடு போட்டால் அது உருண்டையின் எந்தப் பகுதியில் போடப்படும் கோடு என்பதை பொறுத்துதானே அது மத்தியில் இருக்கும் கோட்டை அறுக்கும்?
இந்தப் படத்தைப் பாருங்க.

வட துருவத்தில் இருந்து தென் துருவத்திற்கு எத்தனை கோடுகள் வரையப்பட்டிருக்கு? இந்தக் கோடுகள் அத்தனையும்தான் பூமத்திய ரேகையை அறுக்குது. அப்போ அறுக்கும் அத்தனை இடங்களும்தானேய்யா மையப்புள்ளி? ஒரு புள்ளி மட்டும்தான் மையப்புள்ளின்னு எப்படிச் சொல்லறது? அது மட்டுமில்லை. உருண்டையின் மேலிருக்கும் புள்ளி எப்படிய்யா மையப்புள்ளி ஆக முடியும்? அது உருண்டையின் உள்ளேதானே இருக்கணும்? இந்தப் படம் மாதிரி.

மொதல் வரியில் இவ்வளவு பிரச்னை. சரி அடுத்த வரிக்குப் போகலாம்.

இரண்டாவது வரி

/அந்த மையப்புள்ளி லண்டனுக்கு அருகில் கிரீன்விச்சில் இருக்கிறது. /
அடப்பாவி. பூமத்திய ரேகை எங்க இருக்கு, லண்டன் எங்க இருக்கு? நீங்களே பார்த்துக்கிடுங்க.

இந்தப் படத்தில் Equator என்ற பெயர் கொண்ட கோடுதான் பூமத்திய ரேகை. லண்டன் எங்க இருக்கு தெரியுமா? மேஏஏஏல United Kingdom அப்படின்னு எழுதி இருக்கு பாருங்க. அந்த நாட்டின் தலைநகரம்தான் லண்டன். குடுத்த குறிப்பைப் படிக்க வேண்டாம், விக்கிப்பீடியாவைப் பார்க்க வேண்டாம் ஆனா பூமத்திய ரேகைக்கும் லண்டனுக்கும் என்ன சம்பந்தம்ன்னாவது இவ்வளவு படிச்ச மனுசனுக்குத் தெரிய வேண்டாம்? எழுதும் பொழுதே என்னமோ தப்பா இருக்கேன்னு தோண வேண்டாம்?
தமிழில் உச்சரிப்புக்கேற்ற மாதிரி எழுதணும்ன்னா அவர் சொல்லும் இடத்துக்குப் பேரு க்ரெனிச். அதை க்ரீன்விச், சேண்ட்விச்ன்னு எல்லாம் சொன்னா அந்த ஊர்க்காரனே முழிப்பான். இங்க அப்படித்தான் சொல்லறாங்க கேட்டுக்கிடுங்க — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-FdjOUH5h4 . போகட்டும்.

அடுத்த வரி

/(அப்படித்தான் நினைத்தார்கள். ஆனால் பின்னாளில் செயற்கைக்கோள் மூலம் பார்த்தபோது உண்மையான மையப்புள்ளி இப்போது மையப் புள்ளி எனக் கருதப்படும் இடத்திலிருந்து 306அடி கிழக்கே தள்ளி (கிரீன்விச்சில்தான்) இருக்கிறது எனக் கண்டுபிடித்தார்கள். ஆனால் தொழில்நுட்பம் இந்த அளவு வளர்ச்சி பெறாத நாட்களில் இவ்வளவு நெருக்கமாக கண்டுபிடித்த்தே பெரிய விஷயமில்லையா?)/
306 அடி கிழக்கே. இதை எங்க இருந்து பிடிச்சாரோ தெரியலை. ஆனா நான் படிச்ச இடத்தில் எல்லாம் இது 334 அடி கிழக்கேன்னுதான் இருக்கு.
இதைக் கண்டுபிடிச்சது பெரிய விஷயமா? பெரிய விஷயம்தான். ஆனா இதுதான் ஆதியில் இருந்தே Prime Meridian எனப்படும் முதனெடுங்கோடா என்றால் இல்லை. இதற்கு முன்பே பல கோடுகள் இதைப் போல கிழக்கும் மேற்கும் சந்திக்கும் இடமாகக் கருதப்பட்டன.
வடதுருவத்தில் இருந்து தென் துருவத்தின் வரையான தொலைவை எடுத்துக் கொண்டு அதில் சரி பாதி தூரத்தில் பூமியின் மீது குறுக்குவாட்டில் ஒரு கோடு போட்டால் அதுதான் பூமத்திய ரேகை. அந்த கோட்டின் எந்த புள்ளியை எடுத்துக் கொண்டாலும் அதிலிருந்து வட துருவமும் தென் துருவமும் சமமான தூரத்தில்தான் இருக்கும். ஆனால் நெடுவாட்டில் இப்படி ஒரு கோடுதான் சரி என நிர்ணயம் செய்ய முடியாது. அதனால் எதாவது ஒரு கோடுதான் ஆரம்பம் என எடுத்துக்கொண்டாக வேண்டிய கட்டாயம். பல கோடுகளை பயன்படுத்திப் பார்த்து 1884ஆம் ஆண்டு அமெரிக்காவில் இருக்கு வாஷிங்டன் நகரில் விஞ்ஞானிகள் கூடி முடிவு செய்ததுதான் இந்த க்ரெனிச் அருகே வரும் கோட்டினை 0 பாகைக்கோடாகக் கொள்ளலாம் என்பது.
இதை வைத்துக் கொண்டு இதுதான் மையப்புள்ளி, இதுதான் உலகின் மத்தி என்று எழுதுவதெல்லாம் ஜல்லி அல்லாது வேறெதுவும் இல்லை. இதைத் தாண்டி என்னால் இந்தக் கட்டுரையைப் படிக்க முடியவில்லை. என்னென்ன குண்டுகளை எல்லாம் புதைத்து வைத்திருக்கிறாரோ. இதில் ஒரு நண்பர் 2020ஆம் ஆண்டு மாலன் எழுதியதால் இந்தக் கட்டுரை பள்ளிப் பாட திட்டத்தில் சேர்க்கப்படலாம் என பயமுறுத்துகிறார். பாவம் குழந்தைகள்!
மாலன், நீங்க உலகம் பூரா சுத்தி வாங்க, படம் போடுங்க, குறிப்பெழுதுங்க. ஆனா தகவல்கள் தரும் பொழுது வரலாறாகட்டும், அறிவியலாகட்டும் இப்படி பொறுப்பில்லாம எழுதறதுக்குப் பதிலா எழுதாமலேயே இருங்க. உங்க மரியாதையும் கெடாம இருக்கும் உங்களைப் படிக்கிற ஜனமும் தப்பான தகவல்களைத் தெரிஞ்சுக்காம இருக்கும். நன்றி.
ஆனால் இப்பொழுதுதான் ஒன்று புரிகிறது. தமிழில் சில அரைகுறைகள் எல்லாம் ஏன் இப்படிப் பொறுப்பில்லாமல் எழுதுகிறார்கள் என எண்ணி இருக்கிறேன். அவர்கள் எல்லாம் இவரிடம் தொழில் கற்றுக் கொண்டவர்கள்தான். முன்னேர் எவ்வழியோ பின்னேர் அவ்வழி! தமிழ் வாழ்க!!

பி.கு: பதிவில் சொன்னபடி எங்க ரீச்சர் பாடம் எடுத்திருக்காங்க. அதையும் பார்த்துக்கிடுங்க. இவரை போடுங்கப்பா சாகித்ய அகாதமி கமிட்டியில் - https://www.facebook.com/gopal.tulsi/posts/10207432414551101

Friday, July 29, 2016

TM Krishna gets Magsaysay award!

And this has created a lot of discussions in social media. There has been a surfeit of posts in my timeline questioning if the selection of TMK for this award has been truly on merit. There have been multiple reasons put forth as to why this selection is not right. 


The first criticism has been, his stand that Carnatic (I have not gotten used to spelling this as Karnatic and the citation has used yet another variation - Karnatik!) music has become exclusive for Brahmins is not true and that it is a very inclusive art. My friend Jataayu has written an acerbic post on why this is wrong. In this he says,

/What is this 'lack on inclusiveness'? The Sabhas had accorded highest respect to the likes of Rajarathinam Pillai, Dhandapani Desikar and Madurai Somu etc., all 'non Brahmin' Vidwans. The concerts are filled with the Kritis of 'non Brahmin' composers like Puranadara Dasa, Kanakadasa, Arunachala Kavi, Muthu Thandavar, Swathi Thirunal etc. etc. Renowned art historians like Kapila Vatsyayan have recorded how every Indian classical art form transcended caste orthodoxy and rigidity of the regular society and operated on its own rules based on the spirit of Hindu spirituality and Bhakti. Carnatic Music is also no exception to this. There might have been individual cases of discrimination and non inclusion by certain persons and certain institutions - but the way the citation attributes this to the *art itself* is wrong and deserves condemnation.

However, the citation itself says "Karnatik music started centuries ago in temples and courts but was subsequently ‘classicized’ to become the almost exclusive cultural preserve of the Brahmin caste – performed, organized, and enjoyed by the elite who have access to it."

Is this art form inclusive today? From my understanding the answer is sadly no. It is learnt, performed, appreciated and administered only by the Brahmin community. If there is anyone involved from outside of this community, they would be more of an exception to the rule. 

Take the list of the performers that Jataayu himself has mentioned. Is there anyone current in that list? What proportion of Sangeetha Kalanidhis, especially in the last 50 years, are Brahmins? If you leave out the Nagaswaram and Thavil artists (who are under rated beyond belief anyways) would there be anyone of non Brahmin background, who has reached pinnacle of the art in recent years? Sadly, the answer is no. And if we were to talk about non Hindus, the list would be basically be zero. 

Even students of the art today have been only from the Brahmin community. The reason clearly is lack of exposure to this art form amongst others. Kerala, with its emphasis on learning this art form in school has been trying to make this form available for everyone and might have produced a handful of non Brahmin performers. In states like Tamil Nadu, this art form has been labelled Brahminical and has been actively discouraged. I do not know what is done in the music college and its likes in Tamil Nadu. 

All the composers that Jataayu has mentioned have all sung about Hindu Gods and today this music is almost uni-dimensional in the Bhakti format. It is only the Sanjay Subramaniams and the TM Krishnas who are trying to bring in varied compositions be it from Tamil classic literatures or from other languages. I am yet to see someone sing anything on social issues or even the Bhakti aspect to include other religions. Where is inclusiveness here? 

Should we talk about administration of this art form? Gone are the days when this art was practiced in temples and other public places and was accessible to the public at large. Stories of Rickshaw pullers listening to Mani Iyer and refusing to ply till his concerts are over are history. Today this music has gone into the firewalled zones of sabhas and it is exclusively managed by Sabha officials, who determine when and where, who can perform and who cannot. Stories of fledgling performers paying their way to get on to the schedules are plenty. Should we take a census of who runs these sabhas these days? Inclusiveness? My foot! 

The popular refrain to this is, who stops anyone from coming in to listen or learn this art form. It is open to all. Does that solve anything at all? Like any art form, there will be an audience and there will be students only when they are exposed to the art in some way or the other. Unless there is constant exposure, there will be no appreciation. Has the previous and current generation of performers and administrators done anything to take this art form into the demilitarized zone? No! So let us not cheat ourselves into believing everything is well and good with this art form and that anyone who is questioning the politics of the art is doing it with an ulterior motive. 

I came across a post by musician and musicologist Radha Bhaskar bemoaning how the Brahmin community is not interested in Carnatic music anymore and how naive is it of people to think that the community is all steeped into it. I have this urge to explain that the view Carnatic music is dominated by Brahmin community does not equal to all of the community accepting it using Venn diagrams. The tone of the post clearly shows her feeling that this music belongs to the Brahmin community first and then to the masses. The very fact TMK is so vociferous in condemning. But again, it is he who is beaten up in the comment section of this post as well! Talk about a maththalam getting it on both sides. 

Better Candidates

Another friend, Sudhakar Kasturi, has had a spate of posts ever since the award was announced and most of which can be ignored as they have very little substance. But in one post he has given a list of people who have done immense work in archiving village art forms and have never been winners of the Magsaysay award. I can only say I can add a dozen more people or a hundred more, who are worthy of the award but have not been awarded. And that would be true of any award. Should I go ahead and list the greats who have never won the Sangeetha Kalanidhi award and suggest that the people who have been awarded have been done so because of lobbying and lobbying alone? Is there any merit in such arguments that are done just for the sake of arguing? Tsk!

TMK has been vocal against the current government and leans quite far left in his thoughts and this irks many. These are the people who come up with conspiracy theories that these are all part of a grander plan of foreign entities trying to break up India. While I am not a favorite of TMK’s political leanings, I would stay further away from these crazies. 

And finally we come to a set of egotists, who can never think of any awardee to be the right candidate unless they are the awardee or if the awardee belongs to their inner circle. The prime example of this is Tamil Author Jeyamohan, who has written a very stupid post about this award. This is not the first time he has pooh poohed the choice of an award committee and won’t be the last time, knowing him. 

He goes on to say in his first paragraph that he has no idea on what premise this award has been given and if it was for musical abilities, TMK is a sub average performer who cannot be heard the second time. This only portrays his lack of appreciation for Carnatic music as even someone like Jataayu has condemned him for this statement. And if he has read the citation, he would have been clear that this was not for his musical abilities. 

Jemo himself, states that in the very next paragraph, that this award is not for the musical abilities and ‘thinks’ it is for just the articles that TMK has written. The rest of the article just goes on in this same manner. While the entire post can be shred line by line, it is not worth the effort and some of his previous posts would show his double standards in such matters. 

He ends with this line - "சமீபத்தில் மிகக்கூசிய ஒருதருணம் இது.” I just have to say that, I felt this exact same way, that Jeyamohan, whom I consider as one of the foremost writer of fiction in Tamil today has come down to this level. This too shall pass! In the same vein, I should say I loved this post from another friend and a writer in his own merit, Era Murukan - https://www.facebook.com/ERA.MURUKAN/posts/1211345282222436 😃 

My Views

  • I agree with TMK’s views that this art form has become synonymous with just the Brahmin community and there is a need to break this shackle. 
  • I have witnessed first hand on what TMK is trying to do in this regard and I am appreciative of his efforts. Especially through the Svanubhava events, I have witnessed some art forms which otherwise I had no access to and found myself enthralled by them.  
  • I have been to some of the concerts he has taken to fishermen villages and I have seen the attendees happy not because they are able to appreciate the art but because they felt included. 
  • His lectures on introducing Carnatic music to someone who is not familiar with the art form is very educative and he has delivered such lectures to a variety of audiences including school students. I personally know of people who have taken up to listening to Carnatic music after these lectures. I know he is not alone in this but he is not just about writing columns in 'The Hindu’ as well! 
  • Sumanasa Foundation, mentioned in the citation, helps music students from rural places and bring music to special children as part of their therapy. Laudable causes indeed. 
  • I do not feel it is wrong for a performer to experiment like he does on stage and agree not every experimentation would be to the liking of everyone. But it is his freedom to do so and I do not think the art would suffer from it. 
  • His political views are not to my liking but does not take away his efforts in highlighting the problems with the Carnatic music and trying to change it. 
  • I know what he speaks in the open is what a lot of his colleagues would accept in private but do not want to acknowledge publicly. It is the outsiders who are so angered and refuse to accept the need for any changes. 
  • I do not know of any standards to determine if he is worthy of the award or not. The Board of Trustees have chosen him for the award and I congratulate him for the honor and wish him the very best to take his effort in bringing Carnatic music to the larger world. 

  1. Jataayu’s post on Inclusiveness - https://www.facebook.com/jataayu.blore/posts/658222277664308?hc_location=ufi
  2. Radha Bhaskar post on propagation of Carnatic music - https://www.facebook.com/radha.bhaskar.14/posts/1738532063065868
  3. Sudhakar Kasturi’s post on better candidates - https://www.facebook.com/sudhakar.kasturi.165/posts/10206093413128236 
  4. Jeyamohan’s condemnation of this award selection - http://www.jeyamohan.in/89307#.V5uWtWXELdT
  5. Jataayu’s criticism of Jeyamohan - https://www.facebook.com/jataayu.blore/posts/659431087543427