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Vol. XXVIII No. 20, February 1-15, 2019

Our Readers write

The faces that sing

Yet another Music Season has gone by giving ample indication of the fact that the Bhakthi-drenched tradition of Carnatic music is fully alive and kicking. While many of the veterans were seen fading into the sunset, a rich crop of youngsters from both within the country and from the USA has proved beyond doubt that they are here to carry the torch left behind by their illustrious past masters.

While music itself has been carefully packaged and expressed with great enthusiasm, risible nerves have been continuously tickled by a whole spectrum of gesticulations, calisthenics, acrobatics and mimic gestures to accentuate the vocal effect. Where they have failed to translate their vivid imagination into music, the artistes have tended to draw graphic designs in the air, cup the mike and do a Tai ichi act to virtually sustain the momentum. Sometimes arms are wildly swung flail-like, left and right, and the artiste almost jumps out of his seat!

The contemporary and upcoming artistes are to be richly commended for their musical abilities, but they need to see their own video recordings to realise how their miming gestures distract audience who had come to appreciate their music and not to gaze with amusement at their exaggerated contortions and facial angularities which are made even more grotesque by unimaginative lensmen with highly sensitive lenses doing unnecessary close-ups!

Advances in sound technology and sophisticated voice amplification systems have already caused musicians not to tax their lazy vocal chords these days! Moreover, the heavy scheduling of concerts already takes a toll on their vocal chords (you can see artistes attending other concerts with woollen scarves fully protecting their throat!). The inadequacy in certain vocal exercises is made up through humming, falsetto and wistful glances into the heavens!

In earlier times, the main artiste alone gesticulated to the sound engineer to adjust the errant mikes; today every accompanist is seen desperately pointing out to his mike and monitors for redressal, leaving the confused engineer in a quandary! The result? A whistling piccolo sound pierces the system, indicating flaws in the balancing of the console!!

It is hoped that soon enough the Seniors will wake up and exhort their disciples to give up the “Punch and Judy show” and concentrate their energies on delivering good music.

V. Kalidas

Concerts and combos

Yet another lively music season has come to an end, with moments of ecstasy and disappointment depending on a discerning listener’s expectations, mood and form of the musician, ambience, behavioural pattern of the sound system, active support of the accompanists and so forth. In as much as one felt elated after the conclusion of the season, drawing up a balance sheet of the plus and minuses in the concerts, the epicurean among them also would have done a similar exercise of his experiences in the canteens attached to almost all sabhas.

Talking concerts and canteens as two sides of the same coin, you would recall the good old days when Carnatic music was patronised by bigwigs like zamindars, miradsars and such who organised grand music concerts of the vidwans in the limelight in those days, before a select, invited audience. Such katcheris had no rigid rules or format, a musician who had specialised in a particular raga would render it, with such elaboration as far as upto his manodharma would permit him to. This would go for seemingly interminable long periods, at times deep into the night.

Many musicians, who were blessed with a sense of humour embellished their conversations with puckish wit, at times wry humour. No other reported incident than that of Ariyakudi’s repartee would serve as a shining example. At the conclusion of one such scintillating concert of his, his host proffering a salver heaped with gifts said, “Sami sang very well today. In fact it was better than last year’s.” The razor sharp Ariyakudi, ostensibly cut to the quick, shot back tongue in cheek, “I am singing as usual every year. May be your appreciating faculty has increased since then.” (Naan eppodhum polaththan padindu irukken. Avvidaththile dhan rasanai adhigamyirukku or words to that effect.)

Doyen Ariyakkudi is referred to as the formulator of the present kutcheri pattern, harnessing the unbridled enthusiasm of the performer, having no concern for time or the taste of the listeners. And so, as per his design, we have a lightning fast varnam and a quickie to begin with – both meant for the accompanists to interface and coalesce, then an alapana, a kriti with the concomitant trimmings like swaraprasthara, niraval and so forth, a ragam thanam and pallavi, that may include a ragamalika towards the end, a thani to showcase the virtuosity of the percussionists, and one or two thukkadas from his repertoire.

Like the music concerts which have come into a pattern long back, the sabha canteens are yet to catch up with the other eateries. The combo has come into vogue. One who has taken idlisand vada, may not go in for dosa or pongal, unless they are very young and are blessed with zinc-lined stomachs that permit trouble-free digestion. The combo, invented by the culinary craftsman whose name is not surfacing, like the true inventor of Ashoka Halwa mired in controversy, is a blessing in disguise. Served in a circular stainless steel plate, it includes Rava Kesari or Pineapple/chikku pudding, rice pongal, a small medhu vada, a companion of pongal, one piece of idli, a mini rava dosa in the shape of a crescent, coconut, onion chutney and sambar as accompaniments that give outside support. Last but not the least filter coffee served in a mini tumbler-dabara set.

Will the sabha canteens go for such convenient combos or others of futuristic innovation so that customers coming from the auditorium will have something of many things, like they have in a present concert, unlike their counterparts of the distant past who had an earful of only a select few?

J.S. Raghavan

Freebie suggestion

The reference to freebies offered to the public by the Tamil Nadu Government (MM, January 16th) took me back to the free cycle scheme launched by the then Chief Minister Jayalalitha. I wrote a letter to her pointing out that cycles were being given even to those who had no need for cycles. As I found that it was not well-received, I again wrote to her how the scheme could be a job-providing one. As one million cycles were being given every year, I suggested that ten assembly units might be started in districts, each of them manufacturing about 400 cycle a day. We could get the frames from Madras’s T.I.Cycles, the premier manufacturer of cycle frames. (Now, most of the freebies are obtained from other States at exorbitant costs.) In every school, a service centre could have been opened to attend to minor repairs. Similarly other freebies also can result in some production and service centres. If such actions are taken, no fault can be attributed to freebie schemes.

S.S. Rajagopalan
30,Kamarajar Street
Chennai 600093

Relief for the dog

A tidbit for typewriter enthsiasts from Deepak Mukerjee ( forwarded by Geeta Doctor (

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog – has for long been the sentence with all 26 letters of the alphabet.

No longer. Here’s the new replacement; and it is shorter (dipsomaniac’s delight too!):

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

What a relief for the dog !

Improving quality of nursing

I welcome timely article by T. Rajagopalan (MM, January 1st). There is mixed appreciation from a particular section of the public as well as complaints made in several instances by senior citizens on the nursing services provided in the ordinary as well as speciality hospitals in Chennai and other places in Tamil Nadu. It is pointed out pertinently that in the case of 100-bed teaching hospitals, there should be a minimum of 20 nurses. This is not only in the case of nurse-teaching hospitals attached to a medical college but generally applicable to all functioning hospitals. The low ratio of nurses attending on patients in several hospitals is seen in Chennai as well as in other districts

I have a personal experience. When I was attending on an advanced aged relative, who needed to be looked after during nights also, I admitted him in one of the renowned hospitals in Trichy. I noticed there was no nurse to attend on him after 9 at night. When I brought this to the notice of the chief doctor, he said there was shortage of nurses and this was the case in all other hospitals in Trichy and I should admit him in a hospital in Chennai.

Regarding the training of students taking up nursing as a profession, it is necessary they should be taught hospital rules, technicalities in the procedures adopted in the hospital and other methods on attending to patients. I was in Vellore with my family for a long period. I was life member of the Vellore branch of Indian Red Cross Society and also served as the Honorary Secretary for three different terms. The Dean of the College of Nursing of Christian Medical College Hospital (CMC Hospital), Mrs Achamma John, was the Joint Honorary Secretary serving with me and she told me that there were 420 beds in the hospital and nearly 300 nurses were students of the Nursing College attached to the hospital. She said lectures relating to laws on adoption, marriage, road accidents claims, rehabilitation of the discharged patients who needed further care and attention were arranged once in ten days by inviting senor lawyers to the college. Apart from this refresher courses were arranged making them visit different wards with the senior nurses.

P.S. Subrahmanian

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