Sunday, March 17, 2013

Burning embers

There are so many times that some people tell me (including a gentleman I used to have a huge respect for, who said Carnatic Music only is "gauravam" and that film music isn't) to sing more Carnatic music. I was awarded the CCRT scholarship when I was either 9 or 10 for Carnatic music and I was predominantly trained in this classical form. My mom's has learned from Dwaram Mangathayaramma, Smt D K Patammal and doyens like Sri K V Narayanaswamy, Sri V Krishnamurthy, Smt R Vedavalli, Sri Tiruppampuram Shanmukhasundaram while she was in Carnatic Music College.

After mom shifted from Bombay to Chennai in 1990 because she couldn't give me the time she wanted to, in teaching and otherwise, if she continued in Bombay, we shifted to Chennai. My grandparents were here and it was easier on them to shunt between my aunt's house and ours.

Mom taught me for hours each day and in between she was involved in a couple of projects. During this time was I sadly saw the darker side of some musicians who were revered, celebrated and deified. I saw how my mom's work, Aalaap that she initially did for Aurobindo Society - a glossary on Indian Classical Music (released more than 10 years after the project was completed), was plagiarized in front of her eyes before Aurobindo Society could release it. 10 years is a long time :)

I saw how the musicians who worked with my mom on her project, told my mother that, X was copying her work. Verbatim. Nothing a single woman could do. She had no 'power'. No influence.
I saw mom go through blow after blow, threat after threat to be the ghost writer for musicians who wanted to tour the world and take the name while she would have to script, train and do everything behind the scenes - for neither credit nor financial compensation.  Somehow despite all the strong arm tactics mom received the Senior Fellowship from Dept of Culture, Govt of India on Temple Traditions and Culture. And we survived.

And then one day, a not so fine day for mom, I turned to her and said I shall no longer sing Carnatic music. She was shattered. Definitely. But she let me choose my music and found ways to teach me Hindustani Classical. I went to on win the First prize in Ghazal in 2000 when I was 15 from All India Radio. And the silver for Hindustani Classical music in 2002 (or 2003. Not sure of the year).
One of the greatest reasons for my not singing Carnatic Music remains a man who happens to be a grandfather. Lauded as a genius. Guru of Gurus. Musician of Musicians. It was a sense of both anger and pride that I shall not draw anything from his 'glorious' name to be what I am today. Incidentally when he died, they had to keep talking about me and claim that I belonged to that lineage. It was quite an irony. Karma works in strange ways. :) Every once in a while my mother would remind me of my duty and say that I must meet him and all that. The last time I did his advise "artistes should not marry" and said "I suggest you not marry". Quite a blessing that ;)
Incidentally, he had a love marriage :) In the 1950-s I shall presume. His wife was also a musician and was originally from Trichy. Mom says I have taken after a lot in some of the work that I do. I heard she was an excellent artiste and an outstanding cook.

Of course there is no question about this man's genius or his capacity. But no matter what his genius, he cannot hold a candle to my grandad Tirumalai Iyengar, as a human being. Anyway I hope Mr Musical Genius' soul will rest in peace.
But an even greater reason was the fact that I had seen and met so many Carnatic musicians who were terrible human beings that I realized I would never be able to do a namaskaram. Or praise them. I would have had to, if I had become a mainstream Carnatic musician. 

After these amazing musical greats buried my mom's career she devoted herself to training me. 
And I went into a field where their venomous influence could not reach or perhaps God decided to intervene, even if they did. 

An industry where I have found more compassionate, better human beings and creators than I have met in the Carnatic Music industry. An industry which respected women like mom and I. And I have had the most dignified, lovely career here.

So I talk about my mother. Write about her. And shall continue to. And this is also why I keep saying, whenever I win an award, that Rahman sir/Mani sir giving me an opportunity in Kannathil Muthamittal was like the light at the end of an extremely dark tunnel. A tunnel where every light was the light from an oncoming train. 

Is life easy now? Definitely not. But it's good, whatever the trials and tribulations. For many of us life is about swimming against the current most of the time. Advantage would be, we'd have super strong arms, legs, cardiovascular health. And toned bodies. Good only, no?

And to you the reader, I wish for you that you never have to endure the life that my mother endured and that you never see your mother suffer as I had to. Did I tell you how many times I have heard 'master musicians'  suggest suicide is the only way out for us? No? OK. That will be a different story for another day. 

Enough for today.

P.S.: I did start writing about mom earlier on this blog. It was quite haphazard with dates being all over the place. There has to be a difference between professional, cohesive writing and blogging by me no? :p 
I ll shall soon start a separate blog chronicling whatever she wants the world to know about perhaps in a slightly better fashion. I have no idea how to write a biography though.


Jayanthi said...

It is shocking to hear that people who are regarded as genius can have a totally different attitude unknown to many. Why do you choose to be discreet with the names of such people? You should publish their names so that the entire world will know the true colors of somebody regarded as 'periya methai' or so...
I understand your mother may not get her opportunities back but then some justice will be done.

Akila said...

Kadavuley, yenna oru kodurvamaana vaarthaigal antha manithargal idam irunthu. Ipadi yellam kuda manusanga irupangala nu thonuthu. That too coming from Carnatic musicians. Show them Chinmayi. Like you said in one of your blog post may the fire stay with you, may you show them what you are capable of. God bless you.

Naresh Manohar said...

I wish to be her son in my next birth... and yeah,, you too as my sister,, akka.;-)
Naresh Manohar

Sowmya Gopal said...

You should actually write a biography of your mom, not just for telling people the hardships, but also the survival story - am sure it will serve to inspire many more who are probably going through the same thing. It would be even better if it served as a lesson to these 'master musicians' - even if you do not name them, they know who they are and if they had an ounce of dignity left, they would repent for what they did !

AAR said...

Who understands carnatic music.
Its just like Sanskrit. Just for caste identity it is kept alive.

sadanand said...

life is a journey of ups and downs... its a race where people try to smother others to leave them behind and wining the race. trust is one such thing which can be trusted, believing our self is what takes us to next level of life...

Anonymous said...

Suggestions to "commit suicide or not marry" from anyone for that matter shows their Dark Hearted Immature Personality. So why bother to keep such embers burning in your Heart and lose your peace of mind?!

The Only question that now remains is How long are you going to keep carrying those embers from the past?!...Are you Going to Quench it and cool down with this one blog or are you going to carry them and wait till some kind of a Volcanic explosion to happen?... Peace is a Matter of your Choice alone.

I Wish that you let go of all those bitter memories and always be in Peace with a Hearty Smile like that of Janaki Amma.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

Creatures! Just let go of all the Hatred and your prejudice for people, for change alone is permanent. Just Forgive, Love and give a Hearty smile and move on...

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Vijay Aditya said...

I have been a great admirer of your work from long back and i do know that your humbleness comes from a deep struggle you have endured.
I applaud your amma's struggle towards empowering you at times where everything seemed so vague. Not many have the courage to support their offspring at times when people make it their personal mission to degrade and humiliate others.

Quite shocked that someone suggested suicide, i totally agree with what you mentioned-tough times always make you better.

Thanks for being so tough, trust me we dont know each other personally nor do you know most of the people who admire your work. But there is always one connection with your music, for us professionals in various fields or for daily wage employees your music is a great source of relief like many musicians alike.

Finally, Thanks for being an inspiration to learn different languages.

Vijay Aditya said...

I am a great admirer of your work and i always understand and respect the fact that whatever you are presently is only after a great struggle.
I applaud your amma's love and struggle to empower you at times when everything seemed so vague and some people made it a personal mission to humiliate or make life miserable for you.

I totally agree on you mentioning that troubles only make you tough(if we decide to face them that is.

Thanks for being what you are today, thanks for the music and for inspiring me personally to learn languages and reminding that there is no end to learning.

Unknown said...

It's hell of a life for woman. Respect you and your mum. Cheers live a life you want.

Raghupriya said...

Having known your Mum while studying in India in the 80's and having accompanied her to record some interviews down south, I can personally testify to the hardships she endured and I can sense and feel your anguish. I am therefore so very much pleased that life has turned in the way that it has for both of you and may it just get better and better!
You have inherited her cooking ability it seems! because I still remember some mango pickle she made that really tasted quite amazing.

Do give her my regards. Rathakrishnan

Anonymous said...

hi Chinmayi,

Amazed there i'm first to comment here..I believe there are good and bad ppl in every walk of life. As a music fan and somebody who loves ur singing...I would definitely wish to hear you sing carnatic songs as I know you sing with gr8 sincerity and devotion. there are many godmen in every religion who are not good...but that doesn't mean we stop praying :)

Anonymous said...

Always admired your spirit.
just one thing which I hope you will not get offended .Loved your stage presence and the attire you choose for each event...but the last few times there's something wrong with yr wardrobe...the dress you wore and you tweeted the pic(with prakashraj) this is def not your style....sorry for even commenting on it.The other dress was the one wore for arr interview.
Certainly I don't know if you have a new stylist but def this is not chinmayis style.
not because it has a western trend because you look good with a western outfit well.


.. said...

the way u love,adore,respect and role-model padmhasini ama, is just too cute and stunning.btw, amma, also told in her tweet once, im her adapted son. Feels bliss. Yes, everyone faces tough times. Everyone has a bitter pinch in their progress. But when u come across ur dear one's suffering, u r in a confused state. Do i even have the right to console u? Nah. I havent achieved much. But as an unborn brother/fan im obliged for being ur well wisher for i wholeheartedly wish u sooooper duper victories in days ahead. But one point, the pains always have an answer. To me, u are slowly getting answered.

Happy cheers "sahana girl".

Anonymous said...

I do not know to write/express more than this, I will pray for two good souls as long as I pray to God/ I have memory power. Swasthi Swasthi Swasthi.

Ashok Boinpally said...

What a sweet song, Titli in Chennai Express. Stunned.

Thanks a lot, Chinmayee ji.