R Venkataramanan

R Venkataramanan

R Venkat's Blog

R Venkat's Blog
"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu



Sunday, June 19, 2011

The story of a school and it's legacy....

Sir Pazhamaneri Sundaram Sivaswami Iyer (Tamil: பழமநேரி சுந்தரம சிவசவாமி அய்யர்) KCSI CIE (b. February 7, 1864 - d. November 5, 1946)[1] was a prominent lawyer, administrator and statesman who served as the Advocate General of Madras from 1907 to 1911.

Sivaswami Iyer was born on February 7, 1864 in the village of Palamaneri. He had his schooling in Palamaneri and graduated from Presidency College, Madras. Sivaswami Iyer studied law and practised as a lawyer serving as the Advocate-general of Madras Presidency from 1907 to 1911. He also served as a member of the executive council of the Governor of Madras and as a member of the Council of State. Sivawami Iyer died on November 5, 1946 at the age of 82.

Sivaswami Iyer was also active in the Indian independence movement and presented India's case before the League of Nations. He was a keen connoisseur of arts and library science.

I was gifted to study in the school that he founded in Thirukkattupalli,from class 6 to class 10........this school was like Harvard for most of the village lads including me who came from nearly 20 villages around.......infact the two strongest group of students came from Vishnampettai & Onbathuveli......I am glad to have been the one who started a Varagur line in this school,which was traditionally dominated by the other two groups.

Irrespective of all the differences whenever there was a reason to celebrate for the school.......all of us used to indulge in a tasty South Indian cuisine from Arya Bhavan and Badam Keer from JRS sweets.

Hail Thirukkattupalli !!

R Venkat's - Doctor Patient Relationship – “It’s like a tree, allow it to grow”

Recently we had Amitav Ghosh launching his book “The River of Smoke” here at Kolkata and there was a nice cover story about the event in the Graphiti section of “The Telegraph”. Among many things that the author spoke, one thing that he mentioned just struck me and that was when he said ,”Writing a book is like growing a tree, you need to give it that time to blossom” well Amitav is an avid gardener himself, so no one would know it better than him. But I was trying to draw a parallel with his comment in what’s happening in medical profession today…every other day we have news out in media talking about various instances of medical negligence and the innovative ways that current age medicos adopt to fleece their patients. There was one such news piece which spoke about the manner in which a 17 yr old young lad had expired out of pancreatic ailment, for which he was admitted in a reputed hospital, but the doctor attending him had gone on a vacation without assigning appropriate attention in his absence. The problem lies with the system, the so called corporate compulsions and the targets that are set by the management goons in most of these premier health care hubs. On every instance the doctor or the other allied health care professional is pushed and pulled to extreme level of volume game, as a result end of the day the doctor is left tapping his laptop or PC calculating the number of patients he had seen or the surgeries he had done, instead of really contemplating on the quality of care rendered.

Fortunately we still have a few rare doctors who not just treat their patients but also look at them with a humane approach. I know personally a few doctors who instead of taking consultation fees from their patients, even give them money for purchasing their medicines if they realize that they lack resources. Might be that’s one of the reasons our generation might atleast survive another Tsunami or an Earthquake.

Let this Tree Grow and Blossom without hindrance….but the reality is there are more reports coming in media about the mangoes getting injected with Calcium Carbide to ripen them much faster!!

Essh….ki awosta….

R Venkat - RVR

Thanjavur Kalyanaraman - He loved to experiment by LAKSHMI DEVNATH in The Hindu

Throughout his life, Thanjavur Kalyanaraman ceaselessly endeavoured to unravel the mysteries of his Muse.

Father Srinivasa Iyer sighed as he saw his eldest son Kalyanaraman emerge from under the car, eyes bright with excitement, and exhaust pump in hand. Spark plugs, pistons and exhausts seemed to have succeeded where the seven notes had failed. Srinivasa Iyer and his wife Ammani Ammal were amateur musicians but passionate about the art. This was a huge genetic mishap or so Srinivasan had concluded, prematurely.

Daughters Visalakshi and Saraswati took to music passionately and as they sang, the spark in young Kalyanaraman was kindled. Before long, Thanjavur S. Kalyanaraman’s presence was felt in the world of Carnatic music.

At Madras, (where he had shifted from his domicile, Aravangadu) illness prevented Kalyanaraman from taking the final year exams at the Presidency College. He refused to take the exams in September. Kalyanaraman was a proud man — a pride that, in later years, as a performer, prevented him from actively seeking performance opportunities. He also instructed this principle to his students: “If you don’t have kutcheris, work as you would do in an office. Efforts never go waste.”

Tutelage under GNB

Periappa N. Ramachandran, Kalyanaraman’s host at Madras was a music rasika. Many musicians visited his house. One day, Kittamani Iyer, a music teacher, heard Kalyanaraman sing and said, “His voice and style are akin to that of GNB’s.” Without much delay, Kalyanaraman was escorted to GNB’s house.

“What’s there for me to teach? You’re already singing so well.” The large-hearted remark from GNB evinced a level-headed response from the youngster. Lessons commenced and before the end of one year, Kalyanaraman was providing vocal support to his guru. In 1949, he gave his first solo concert at Gokhale Hall. Guru GNB was in the audience, beaming his approval at the individualistic touches, Kalyanaraman was imparting to his bani.

In 1984, a review from a Bombay newspaper applauded, “He (Kalyanaraman) is not a musical parrot singing what he learnt from his guru.”

Over the next four and a half decades, music gave Kalyanaraman peace but not satisfaction and he ceaselessly endeavoured to unravel the mysteries of his Muse. From this approach followed pallavis in vivadi ragas like Tanaroopi and Sucharitra rendered further challengingly with Grahabheda (modal shift of tonic) and nadai (beat) variations. He popularised 36 ragas that eschewed ‘Pa’ but used both the varieties of ‘Ma’ and presented lecture demonstrations on them.

Hindustani ragas were presented with “The Ustad touch” as the Hindustan Times enticingly captioned one of his concerts. Accompanists, stalwarts in their own rights, went on record to say, “If it is a Kalyanaraman kutcheri, we have to be alert.” Kalyanaraman, on his part, was vocal in appreciating his accompanists. The man was reputed to be straightforward but his music was not. It was ‘vyavahara laden’ (replete with complexities). The buzzword was, “If it was easy, Kalyanaraman would not do it.”

“What is this forceful inhalation and exhalation that I hear?” Sister Subbulakshmi switched on the lights to see her brother, palms placed on abdomen, doing a breathing exercise. “Shhh, I’m trying to identify the originating position of the seven swaras in the human body. Hasn’t Tyagaraja in his ‘Swararagasudha’ suggested that?”

Kalyanaraman subjected his voice to various experiments. He was incensed when he heard Hindustani musicians describe Carnatic music in disparaging terms as “Besur” (off-pitch). “They don’t understand our anuswarams,” he would defend but nevertheless he continuously worked on methods to improve sruti suddham. He wanted to bring out as a book all the techniques that he devised. The book remained a lasting desire.

But he taught unflinchingly to his students all that he knew expecting nothing in return but devotion to the art. To the apathetic, his behaviour was stern. “Place this between your lips and practise akaara,” he commanded thrusting a three-inch long stick into his student Brinda’s hands. And come back only if you can produce a neat one.” “He was a difficult teacher to learn from but he would also analyse if anything had gone wrong with his teaching,” wife and student, Bhushany reveals. “Perfection was the goal and no effort was too much to attain that.”

Kalyanaraman’s musical experiments fructified as original varnams, kritis in rare ragas like Madhuri and Vanathi, tillanas and ashtaragamalikas.

In the ragamalikas, the ragas proudly revealed their names but the composer chose not to affix his mudra to any of his creations. He tuned the ashtapadis of Jayadeva only in Hindustani ragas, incorporating his unique touch. After all, wasn’t Jayadeva from Orissa? Kalyanaraman’s recitals of these included fast-pace taans too. Listening to his disciple sing Suddhananda Bharati’s ‘Nilayam Onru Enukku Arulvaai,’ GNB walked up to him and demanded, “Teach me this and give me the notation.” And that, one supposes, is the final word.

Notating songs was another of Kalyanaraman’s strengths. He brought out as a book the notated compositions of GNB. Kalyanaraman’s CV lists barely a couple of awards, one of them posthumous. But to him music was, by itself, rewarding. His tambura never stopped resonating.

The night of January 9, 1994, as he went to bed, Kalyanaraman suggested to Bhushany, “Begin your forthcoming radio recital with the song Gananaayakam.” These were almost his last words. At 1 a.m. Kalyanaraman woke up with a severe chest pain and asked for some water. A few seconds later his wife gently touched him on the shoulder and asked, “Are you feeling better now?” Silence prevailed. The tambura continued strumming in the background.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Short Story by Venkataramanan Ramasethu - “Sankar from Gandarvakottai is missing”

In life we miss a lot of people and if that’s your school friend it does goes deep within you and hurts you for rest of your life. Lucky are those who get an oppurtunity to have a feel of village life and city life both in ones life time and I deem myself certainly lucky as I had this chance of having my school education at a village in interior South India, a place surrounded by the serene Cauvery, lush green paddy fields and of course the most hard working and passionate people who are bound with emotions and sentiments. It was a real adventure walking through paddy fields nearly 4 kms to reach ones school without any of those well polished imported shoes. The only sound to listen would be the chirping of black cuckoo’s and not Black Berry’s. Those were days even if one longed for another life may not be assured to have. We had this great gang of myself and eight of us from all adjoining villages going together to school by walk and returning back in the evening, having a splash at the Cauvery, enjoy some hot&soft Idlies with pudina chutney and kara kuzhambu by Vadivu Aachi.

We had Senthil, Muthu, Maheswari, Kamala, Jamuna, Sankar, Kalaiarasi & Karthik.I was called “Samy” of the gang as I belonged to this well known Iyer family in the village, I still have no clue why they used to address me by that name. I was the unofficial tution teacher for most of them and I should say the teaching skills that I acquired in that phase are of great help even today!!Infact there was this teacher Srivani in my village who always had this problem with me as I was luring away all her potential students!!

Among our group Sankar was slightly different; he was moody and used to go through this feeling of fear whenever we had the exams. He kept me in high regard as I used to spend a lot of time with him discussing lessons everyday and helped him with his home work. His father Mayandi was a worker who used to work in the paddy fields and his mother Ranganayaki was a housewife. She was such a fabulous cook infact the Nattu Kozhi Kuzhambu was a regular in my secret food menu every day, which I used to have with my friends.

Surprisingly I found a lot of changes in Sankar’s behaviour off late which disturbed me as his good friend and one day I just asked him, what was wrong. The answer was just a blank stare full of uncertainity, though I could see that drop of tears in his eyes. I asked him what was wrong and I promised him that I would do everything possible to help him.Sankar used to believe me blindly, he used to joke occasionally saying that he might take tutions from me if need arise to learn not just the perfect way of living but also dying. I used to get firm with him and advise him not to entertain negative thoughts within. Now on this occasion when I felt that my good friend was upset with something, I said him to shed his inhibitions and speak up.

Sankar said that off late his parents were fighting more often and very recently his mother had walked out of the house and had been staying with her parents and that his father was in to alcohol and used to beat him while back at home. Then one day suddenly it happened that Sankar was not attending school for more than a week and this started disturbing me a great deal. I asked Kalaiarasi as to if she had any clue as she hailed from the same village Gandarvakottai and it was around 6 kms from my village. Surprisingly she had no information about his whereabouts and she mentioned that their house was locked for nearly a week.
A few weeks later Sankar’s father came to our school in a drunken state and was talking with our class teacher Haran Sir, I could hear him saying that his son was missing from home since one week and if the school could give any clue about his last interactions and whereabouts. The plea was promptly rejected as his father was drunk; rather he was not allowed to even speak for a while. But I could listen Sankar’s father saying repeatedly may he be allowed to speak to me as Sankar used to mention that I was his close friend.

Days went by very fast and I shifted to Chennai a couple of years later and got absorbed with my education and career. But occasionally thoughts of Sankar and those school days used to linger on and off in my mind. I am not sure what happened to Sankar, my good friend….years have rolled on but I do feel that maybe I could have told Sankar’s father that it was the family unrest that led to his son going missing. Twenty five years later as I am writing this I wish my friend is fine and happy some where in some corner of this beautiful world.

Sankar....you might have gone missing from our lives, but here is a friend who is missing you from the heart and I wish I had given you a few tutions on how to take on life with a positive optimism and not run away from the situation. Amidst so many wishes for you I sincerely wish may you have a friend like me who would want you to be happy and successful.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why I hate.. Rajapaarvai

Recently read this article in The Hindu....brought back some nostalgia....

The movie I hate is Rajapaarvai. I am a film student and remember what my lecturer told me on the first day of my course. He said we are all cursed, we will never be able to appreciate a film the way we used to because we will only be looking at the shots, the cinematography, the mise en scene, the lighting and the continuity and that we’ll never be able to appreciate a movie as it is. One movie that broke this curse was Rajapaarvai. But I hate it because it made me cry. I’ve always wanted to direct and act and I always keep an eye out for transitions. Rajapaarvai had beautiful transitions that any filmmaker would envy. And how can you forget a blind Kamal Haasan so beautifully describe a girl in that song ‘Azhage azhagu devadai’ and Madhavi will actually draw everything he says. When he says ‘Koondhal vannam megam pola,’ she draws a cloud. She draws a ‘kelvi kuri,’ a question mark for the ears, and the end product is really funny — what a beautiful mix of romance, reality and humour!