Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bangalore Sangeeth Utsav 2012

3 days of high culture – classical music and dance performances back to back, from accomplished artists. For those who lived near Malleshwaram or had the time or both, this was an opportunity not to be missed.
I live very far away from Malleshwaram, far for someone who commutes by public transport, but I had the time and of course, the interest.
I was perhaps one of the first ones to buy a ticket online, for the first day; I had to choose a day and it had to be the one, when Vidyabhushan of Udupi was performing.

Fortunately for me, the event started late and I reached just when Kadri Gopalanath had started playing the saxophone.

The saxophone, of all the instruments, is rarely played on the stage as far as I know.
I have not heard much of the saxophone, but what echoes in my ears, clear and loud, is the rendition of the song ‘Nanati Baduku’ in raga ‘Revathi’, my favourite of all ragas, many years ago, in my little village of a few hundred people, during the annual car festival of Lord Venkateshwara, as we walked behind the procession or Utsava of a deity alongside the artists who played the saxophone, all of us barefeet. Was it kadri Goaplanath then? I don’t remember.

I entered Chowdiah already in love with the Saxophone, hoping I would get to hear ‘Revathi’ again.

I am not qualified to be a critic hence won’t say much. There are a few pictures and a few points...

Revathi was not played, but there was ‘Hamsadhwani’ as I entered, followed by other pieces, familiar to me. There was a full-fledged ‘Bhajare Manasa’ in ‘Abheri’ and I enjoyed the short ones rendered after the felicitation.

The Mridangam, allowed to perform solo and in Jugalbandi with the Tabla towards the end was a little too loud and aggressive I thought.

It had been a Friday and unfortunately, the hall was almost empty, with only the front rows occupied in addition to a few seats here and there.
There was moving camera that was an eyesore to the audience and must have been a distraction to the artists.
The Emcee (Monita Bala) was a misfit to the occasion and even offensive on account of a few points (more on this in the next post). We were lucky that the acclaimed Kadri Goplanath performed for us despite the above.

And yes, we must have more of Saxophone performances in the arena of classical music, for its sheer power, clarity and malleability.

An interesting trivia: Vocalists usually practise with an instrument, like the violin. I am given to understand that the Nadaswara, of all the instruments is the most challenging to a vocal artist practising with it. Nadaswara is not really an instrument but a category of instruments which includes the Saxophone.
Very rarely, artists practise with the Nadaswara; those, with the aim of training their voice to perform incredible feats; but very soon, they lose their voice. Sanjay Subramaniam, I am told practises with the Nadaswara.

Next, there was Bharatanatyam performance by two dancers accompanied on certain pieces by other artists.
If I know a little bit about music, I know even less of dance.
The piece on ‘Navarasas’ interested me. Shringara, Hasya, Roudra, Bheebhatsa, Shanta, Karuna,...

The two main artists could have been more synchronized in their steps. I could also see that when they performed as a group, one of the artists, now and then looked at the other dancers to be sure of her step.
But it’s alright, dances, especially group dances are a delight, what with their colourful costumes and their chiming anklets.

After lunch break, we had Vidyabhushan with his troupe.

What a golden voice! How soulful!
His renditions are not strictly classical, but he sings with ‘Bhakti’, a devotion so total, that it cannot fail to invoke devotion in the listeners and take them closer to God.
Also it cannot fail to receive appreciation from the more puritan of classical musicians.
His ‘Pillangoviya Chela Krishnana’ is his most popular song. I was sure that he would sing it, but he had other songs for us.
When he stopped, I wished he would go on for another hour, even the whole day.

The camera was mounted on an even longer arm and had grown long and uglier.
Fortunately, we had a different Emcee for the noon (and evening) who spoke words not only appropriate for the occasion but also lyrical, musical and words that revealed talent.

The stage was now being prepared for Bharatanatyam by Vani Ganapathy.

I looked forward to her performance, for I had heard her name (who hasn’t?) but never seen her dance.
It was a long wait, almost an hour long, before the stage was prepared, the musicians took their positions and she appeared. Using a cassette would have been quicker but perhaps having musicians singing live had other advantages.
Whatever may be the case, waiting time should be minimal, for people start leaving the auditorium one by one and also it has a cascading effect on the next performance in the programme.
I had wanted to sit through Manjula Gururaj’s singing – the first few minutes, but had to leave, as it was getting late.

The first piece by Vani was Krishnashtakam. As I said before, I understand every little of dance, but there are sevaral things I really liked about Vani.

Soon after the first piece, she was at the mike, saying in very clear terms that the moving camera was a big distraction, that she had not been informed about it, that she would like the event team to stop the distraction at once.

Assertiveness and self respect are impressive attributes.
The urban population which has very poor exposure to high culture needs to be taught how to treat classical artists – to give them due respect, to look up to them with humility, reverence and gratitude, to show sensitivity in maintaining an atmosphere conducive to performance of high art and not treat them like any other professionals who have been paid to perform a job.
The camera was not simply a technical point, but it showed an attitude of irreverence and insensitivity, not to mention ignorance of high arts and the decorum practised therein.

The audience, by now tired of the huge instrument flying all over, gave her a resounding ovation as if thanking her for voicing their own grievance.

But I wish she hadn’t forbidden us from using our cameras to take pictures or video recordings. All of us, having come so far, having braved Bangalore traffic, having sit patiently through performances we understood, liked and others that we didn’t, the least we can take back with us are a few pictures, a short video or two – as a memory, as a souvenir.
Asking us to be careful about the flash going off, that’s certainly agreeable, but to deny pictures?
Copyright is never a gracious thing, according to me.

Another thing I liked about her was her speaking to the audience in between pieces.
Apart from helping her achieving personal connect with the audience, it served a very important purpose.

Most of the people, even those who understand classical music well, do not understand dance, the mudras and other nuances.
Vani, before every performance, stood before the mike, and explained with mudras what she would be depicting with her dance, where they had taken choreographical liberties, what the story was all about, how many characters there were etc. And this really helped us understand her dance and follow the story that was being told.

As far as I know, dancers usually do not explain their act to the audience and sometimes, throughout the performance, the audience (most of them) is clueless as to what they are witnessing.

It would be most helpful if every dancer, in the manner of Vani, helped the audience better appreciate their performance and their art.

The treatment of 'Aadisidal Yashode Jagadoddharana', a song in raga 'Kaapi' that all of us have heard, was interesting. The character of Purandaradasa was introduced in the performance, shown arriving at Yashoda's home, being amazed at how Yashoda had tied Krishna up and his asking Yashoda to release him.

It was time for me to leave and I walked to the bus stop, song in my heart and dance in my step.

It was a day well spent, a day of fulfillment and my gratitude to all the artists.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ha Ha Therapy - Dr. G. Lakshmipathi

It was late 2007 or early 2008 when I attended a humour-laughter workshop in Coimbatore. One of the sessions was by Dr. Lakshmipathi. After the show, as I came out I saw the gentleman outside the hall, with some of his published works and I bought 3 of them. This one, ‘Ha Ha Therapy’ was hilarious.

There are 26 chapters, one for each alphabet. Every chapter begins with quotes on the subject of the chapter by all sorts of luminaries.
The situational humour is there of course. But the humour brought out by rhyming words, phrases and lines was really good.

This is not a book review, but some of the lines that I noted. There were many others, but I could not type more than this...


Man knows how to cry from birth, but you need to learn to laugh.

It’s amazing the little harm that they do, when the little harm that they do, when you consider the opportunities they have – Mark Twain

Please do not throw cigarette butts on the floor, the cockroaches are getting cancer.

Daydreams are the gaseous decomposition of true purpose – Henry Haskins


There must be something to acupuncture after all! How many sick hedgehogs and porcupines have you seen in your life? Or a sickly cactus for that matter? – Dr. Omaguchi, Ecobiologist

Acupuncture – some points have as many as 17 names and some names are just pointless.

Chinese yellow emperor wrote a treatise on the subject – found today in great libraries of the world, mellowed and yellowed with time.


Inside every fat man there is a lean man rearing to get out. And inside every ft woman, there is a lean man wanting to get in

She spent more time on her bed, halving her work, doubling her nutrition, ending up a repository of cellulite with overall consistency of a waterbed. She would move at the speed of continental drift and settle on the examination table looking like a capsized hippopotamus.

His was a lifetime of conflict between invoice and inner voice with the former stifling the latter.


Too much commotion about motion...

It is a pity that today in urban India, ‘attached families with detached bathrooms have been replaced by detached families with attached bathrooms...


In death, one should cause minimum disruption to the lives of family and friends. Dying in places far removed from his usual habitat, or disintegrating into unwholesome bits on a highway, or dying of unnatural causes with symptoms off murder will reflect a selfish inconsiderate attitude and should be discouraged.

Death should be sudden.
Dropping dead cuts down costs dramatically 9versus prolonged illness). The body looks fresh and more attractive, and there are more genuinely sorry people at the funeral. A long and patient wait for a man’s demise gradually erodes the emotions and promotes a dry funeral.
Suicide has its advantages but the mess made by a large number who attempt this and fail miserably is alarming. Wrong choice of poison, under-dosage, poor quality rope, abysmal marksmanship, poor judgment of water depth, and proximity to good critical care facilities. At the end of all that fuss, you may end up in an ICU, with dribbling tubes, wailing relatives and trailing police.

Accident prone guy
Raju. When his mother was rushing to the maternity hospital in labour in an auto, the vehicle had collided against the hospital ambulance ...He was born premature and a power failure in the neonatal unit had nearly cost him his life...At school, as he was training in first aid, he had lost two toes of his right foot when a heavy first aid box fell on instructor in the first aid course had broken Raju’s nose with over-enthusiastic demonstration of mouth to mouth resuscitation. After his electrical engineering course, during which he had suffered seven electrical burns, he went to work in Arabia as an electrician but had to return disabled when a camel fell on him. He remained client to a variety of medical specialists including a dermatologist when he developed allergy to an anti-allergy cream. He even consulted a gynaecologist when he consumed his wife’s hormone tablets for two months by mistake and suffered hot flushes on stopping the tablets. He fell off a stool when trying to hang a medicine chest on the bathroom wall injuring a thigh. When he applied a hot water bottle to it, the bottle ruptured and he ended with a scalded thigh. He decided to end it all and lay down on a railway track. But alas, engine drivers had gone on a strike and train never arrived.

You can always get some quick post death fame by carefully choosing your last words, ‘Marylyn Monroe, here I come’ could lead a variety of reactions at the funeral from frank derision to utter jealousy; ‘Goodbye Latha, I love you’ could be especially remarkable, if your wife’s name is Sujatha. ‘I have left the 70 sovereigns in...pfft...pfft haaa...’ could lead to a thorough cleaning of the entire household including the attic, something you had been asking them to do since two years.


As opposed to humans, Gods are most happy when incensed. They cease to fret when fumed.


To eat is human, to digest divine

These hints are only for visitors to India from countries west of Bulgaria and east of Alaska and a handful from Minsk. They are not for visitors from countries with names ending in ‘stan’. The latter are a hardy race whose food habits are fundamentally like ours (many of them are fundamentalists) and have antibodies to local germs and most of their neighbours.

Tips for foreigners visiting India
Insist on bottled water freely available in containers of very thin plastic looking like elephant condoms.
Avoid chutneys, pickles, rasams,..any item with green chilly...a few sips will make you feel like an internal combustion engine and can make your abdomen luminescent in the dark. Especially beware of a dish called Gongura popular in Andhra; made from spinach and radioactive waste, it can take a bit of your enamel with it.
Dhokla in Gujarat looks like sponge, has the consistency of sponge, tastes like a tongue depressor, leftovers may be used to clean the sink and as a diaper in an emergency.
Naan – tenacious bread that needs vigorous chewing before it will stop chewing back and surrender.
Food on Indian Railways – made of menopausal vegetables – petrified potatoes, dessicated tomatoes and ossified onions.


Many learn homeopathy by reading books. Learning medicine from books is like making love by post. Can be most frustrating unless licking a stamp titillates you.

Questions a homeo doc will put to you – do you like winter or summer? Do you like sweets or savouries? Are you afraid of the dark? Do you like mornings or evenings?

There will be no physical tickling or poking. He will charge you very little and sometimes nothing at all. That you addressed him as ‘doctor’ is more than anything money can buy.


Abandon hope. You will feel much better.

There are machines and gadgets to breathe for him, pace his heart, empty his bladder, evacuate his bowels, masticate and digest his food, move his muscles and do everything short of deciding which organs to donate.

There are a large number of hazards inherent in procedures like punctured stomachs, ruptured spleens, fractured ribs, deflated egos, inflated bills. All these are part of the game and nobody complains except insurance companies.

Ours was a love marriage. I thought I had married a personality. I ended up living with a character.

Gossip was her gospel and giggling was her Gita. She would make extra marital affairs sound like grave international news and inter marital tiffs sound like a sports item. She was the president of the local ladies association, a sort of clearing house for the town’s gossip.

Do you know anything more exasperating in life than waiting for a bedpan?
Yes. Waiting for someone to take it away after use.

---drugs are added, diagnosis gets multiplied, opinions are divided, patient’s bank balance gets subtracted...

Institutions are said to have a defibrillator near the cash counter to resuscitate collapsing relatives (that will be a separate bill please)

...It will be much cheaper for me to expire than to inspire...

...he had a surgery for an obstructing prostrate and that had been a great drain on his liquidity...

...he refused to eat baby corn because he felt he was committing infanticide...


It is the highest creatures that take longest to mature and are the most helpless enduring their immaturity – George Bernard Shaw

In Denmark, when I was a boy my father came home and found me in front of a roaring fire. That made my father very mad because we did not have a fireplace –Victor Barge

In spite of everything that we do for our children, most of them grow up normally and end up as agreeable adults...

Breakfast like a king, lunch like a commoner and dine like a beggar...
A cosmetic error of cosmic proportions... instead of moisturiser applying piles cream on her face

A guy stroking the statue of a female nude in a museum...attempted statutory rape

We paid for his movie ticket on the condition that he would tell us about what he did in the cinema with his girlfriend – his own experience acting as a stepping stone to our sexes...


What men call gallantry and Gods calls adultery is more common where the climate is sultry – Lord Byron

Vatsyayana – there are remarkable things about this author that should raise an eyebrow or two if nothing else...he wrote the book when he was old man when making water takes precedence over making love ...he lived in holy Benares where most visitors came to spend their last night not first night...public enthusiasm was more focused on cremation than creation...

Khajuraho – the only town in India where the youth go to the temple with genuine fervour.

Widows were encouraged to remarry. This turned out to be a wrong move and ‘Sati’ had to be introduced a little later basically to prevent large scale murder of husbands.

In Madras, sexually explicit behaviour was discouraged to the point where sexual instinct almost became extinct.


A specialist is someone brought in at the last minute to share the blame.

The secret of success is to be like a duck. Smooth and unruffled on top, but paddling furiously underneath.

It is the responsibility of the media to look at the President with a microscope but they go too far when they use a proctoscope.

He generally operates with the dispassion of an airhostess demonstrating safety equipment.

Life is short, art long and opportunity fleeting – Hippocrates

An admirer of a specialist – ‘my piles bleed for you sir’. After successful surgery, she had gratefully hung his portrait on her toilet wall.

The chauffer was so well groomed – the driver had a driver to drive his own car

In the lecture hall, this great surgeon came down to becoming an anaesthetist. He was so boring, during anatomy classes, even corpses yawned.

He was active in surgeons associations, like a dietary fibre. Difficult to digest but essential for moving a motion.

Surgeons bore me because surgeons are boring.

He excelled in communication by body language besides six Indian tongues. His waiting room was filled with rich women patients who had functional disorders with no organic basis, women who felt their ‘heart beat in their teeth’, ‘pains in their hairs’, ‘palpitations in their buttocks’.

He had seen very old movies in which Victor Mature was called Victor Immature.

Specialist in neonatology – a lifetime devoted to babes and boobs.

Reason to diet – your longevity is inverse proportion to your width.

A woman bedecked with diamonds and pearls looking like an inverted chandelier.

He would prescribe drugs as available as Penguin milk.

He was of a shy disposition and chose to become an Obstetrician. This meant not having to meet the patients face to face!

He had trained in England and was a master of the understatement. About a patient brought in almost exsanguinated with a hemorrhage he would say, “she doesn’t look too good, does she?” it was like saying Sahara desert is ‘a little gritty’.

Conditions in a hospital – some of the bandages had seen service as towels with Rommel’s army in the desert in World War II. Wiping your hands on these towels after work abraded one’s hands, and we called it the ‘Irritable Towel Syndrome’!

New eating place...over decorated dim is mediocre, very have to read the menu card from right to left so that you will be forewarned on what it is going to cost you...

Jealousies abond...cut throat competition among ENT surgeons, have spinologists stabbing colleagues in the back, pulmonologists breathing down their bosses’ neck, ophthalmologists scratching each other’s eyes out and diabetologists feeling very bitter...


He who sings, frightens away ills –Bernard Shaw

Music is the vapour of art. It is to poetry, what reverie is to thought, fluid is to liquid, and what is ocean of clouds to ocean of waves... Victor Hugo, 1840

We often feel sad in the presence of music without words; and more often than that in the presence of music without music – Mark Twain

Human beings are all innately musical...if the majority does not express this talent by breaking into song, it is not due to any ecological considerations, but only to avoid physical injury from those around... singing in the bath is an unrestrained expression of an instinct, as behind locked doors the singer feels safer...
Even the mentally retarded are known to respond to music, and MTV watchers will agree that some of the mentally retarded can actually produce music and often land a grammy award...
Singing a lullaby to quieten a cantankerous kid or frighten it into submission...
Music therapy has been shown to improve gait in stroke victims (at least to walk briskly to switch off the TV)...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Everest Calling - Gorakshep to Kala Patthar

At 4:30 in the morning or so, I woke up with abdominal cramps. If it was any other, time and place and situation, I would have stayed in bed. But not that day. I would scale the hill until I saw Everest and some more.

Half way up, as the panoramic view became beautiful, the pain became unbearable. I wished, oh how I wished, that I could simply lie down there.

It was cold. As I took out the half full bottle of water from my pocket, I realized it was turning into ice, and the liquid I managed to gulp was very cold.

I trudged on, one step at a time, like a soldier who had been shot, turning back nevertheless to look at the beautiful surreal blanket of clouds that had covered the valley below, to look at Everest that was now rising into our field of view from between its two neighbouring peaks, to look again and again at a ray of sunlight that snapped into two at the summit of Everest.

Nandu’s Ibuprofane (Brufin) saved my life that day. Nandu and Ravi deposited me on a rock and moved on, exacting word from me that I wouldn’t move. I sat crouched, talking to Krishna (my then favourite God), pleading with him to let me go, let me climb higher, please. He heard me. After 20 minutes of resting, I got up feeling much better and climbed up.

The unrelenting Nandu was up above, hands folded before him, looking down at me like an angry schoolmaster, and delivered his speech of admonishment as he saw that I hadn’t kept my word.

He asked me in all seriousness to make a commitment to him that I would not move from my station. Too weak to protest, I said yes. After that I had to walk slowly ahead like a spy trying his best to follow someone without arousing suspicion.

Its amazing how hot it became as the sun rose higher and higher. The light was blinding and I could feel the heat scalding my skin.

I climbed higher. By this time, several people, now on their way down from the summit, confirmed that beyond a certain point, the view was not to change.

For those of us who had chosen to climb Kala Patthar, the day ahead was going to be longer than for the rest. So I decided after much dilemma, to stop climbing. Half of us or more had chosen to stay back and not climb Kala Pathhar.

I turned around and stood facing Everest. The mountain just behind us, Pumori, diametrically opposite to Everest, I saw was more beautiful.

In fact, of all the peaks in the panorama, Everest was the least beautiful. How ironical, I thought.

But then, that one before me, beautiful or no, was the tallest on earth and I was standing before it, beholding it; being one among the very few people in this world who get to do that.

We were told that we were lucky. Those who had climbed Kala Patthar a day before us, two and three days too, had only see a veil of clouds where Everest should have been and waited for the veil to part, in vain.
Yes. The bunch of us were lucky. Not everyone who reaches base camp chooses to climb Kala Patthar and not everyone who climbs it gets to see Everest.

The mission had been accomplished.

But I wished then as I wish now I had been able to summit Kala Patthar. But then, there was a writ. And it had to be honoured.

The last one is a panorama I have created with much difficulty, by stitching together using MS Paint, separate pictures I took with much care, turning on my heels, from right to left, trying to keep the camera at one level.


Thats Everest in the centre, coming into view...

Everest...look what its doing to light...deflection...

Peach coloured Pumori. I heard this one is actually more difficult to climb than Everest.

These black stones, rocks are why Kala Patthar is called so...

Kumbhu Glacier...incredible geological formations...

Wow...looks like a loving hand smeared its face with cream...

Here is the my click on it...