Saturday, October 31, 2009

At National Institute of Technology Karnataka tomorrow

I have been invited to moderate a panel discussion on Bringing Foreign Universities to India and their impact on Indian Education at their Annual International Technical Symposium 'Engineer-Golden Jubilee Edition. This happens tomorrow at NITK, Surathkal.

The distinguished panelists are Dr. B M Hegde-Former Vice Chancellor of the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Prof n Prabhudev-VC Bangalore University, Professor K B Powar Fmr Secretary General of the Association of Indian Universities, Ms Caroline Howe - India Youth Climate Network and Kaustubh Thirumalai - Student Panelist.

I have been doing some reading on this one and asking a few people for their opinions too.

If you have suggestions/questions, please do let me know.

Latest Release - Poove Poove (Siddu +2 1st Attempt)

Aduet with Yuvan Shankar Raja, but Dharan's composition. Dharan happened to mention while we were recording that Mr Yuvan would be singing the song and I had been looking forward to hearing it during the release. The audio release was this morning at Sathyam Cinemas and it was like almost everyone in the industry was in attendance.
Dharan was fun to work with. There is an easy camaraderie and a rapport that is established when working with people your age. I worked with Dharan for the first time in this song and the MJ One More Time happened much later. (And just in case you are wondering I did not even get an opportunity to cross paths with Mr Yuvan on this song. So I wouldn't have an answer to how it was singing with Mr Yuvan)
I have personally loved his work in Laadam and Parijatham. And this is hoping that I will get to work with him again in the future. Let me know what you think of this song.

Voice of Tammannah in Kandaen Kaadhalai

Working with Director Kannan for the second time after Jeyamkondaan. I loved Jab We Met. And I loved being the voice of Tammanah. While listening to the pilot track I thought she is near perfect in her speaking and pronounciation of Tamil.
I caught a special show this evening and though I have said this before, whenever I hear a song or a scene that I have dubbed for play out on the screen, I am as excited and happy as I was the first ever time.
Please catch the movie in a theater near you when you can :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This Is It

There is a reason why MJ is called the King of Pop. He is the King of the stage, of the hearts he has set up permanent residence in, of performance, of pitch perfection, of singing, of music. And this is all that reaches my level of comprehension. There is so much more that others would know and much more that no one would never know. Just like they say - Genius can never be comprehended or understood.
After watching this feature, I wondered again on how easily and inappropriately we use words like Genius, Brilliance, Talent and several such compliments like that on pretty substandard fares. Its my humble opinion which has taken root even more in me, after this evening, that the words Genius and Legend cannot be used at the drop of a hat. I once noticed a talent show contestant call a very young playback singer a Legend. I could not but help raise my eyebrows. In the singer's defense they themselves did not accept the compliment. How did we all learn to just sprinkle such powerful words all the time? Being exposed to more such circumstances sometimes makes me wish for an era long gone, as I have written in earlier posts. An era where a compliment was rare. And when it did come we knew that it was, in material terms, like having struck gold. But to those who know, these words have neither parallel nor substitute.
Someone I spoke to happened to also say that we must measure the words we speak and make sure it is fitting whenever we speak them. We say that words once spoken cannot be taken back, we say its like shattered glass or spilt milk. The more positive allegory that I have heard a lot of people of the older generation say - equating the spoken word to pearls. To point out that words have value.
Coming back, I wonder what it would have been like if life had been kinder to MJ. We would have had him around longer perhaps. On a selfish note, someday I would have had the chance to see him perform live. More than anything else, it would have been a reminder to the world that this is not just it, but this is what Genius is all about. Perhaps more. But definitely nothing less.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something I missed - PS Thayir Saadham

The finish of every meal in such settings, as reminded by some of the commenters would be the final bits/morsels or what is literally polished off the vessel. And that is supposed to have wish fulfilling powers as we heard while growing up. Or it usually came with a blessing. When I was way younger, my granddad used to feed me sometimes. He, I thought at that time, was kinda slow. Or rather not as fast as paatti. Figured out, again in retrospect that he was just softer. But then he used to be the one saying "adikatti yaanaikutti". Paatti didn't bother about all those embellishments mostly. She would at times say dheergaayush. Once the ritual was over she would just circle the vessel/plate around my face and get up with an apppppaaadaaa. I have never heard that word that way from anyone else to this date.
And then there used to be times, when I used to come home from school angry, or would bawl. That would be paatti's cue to say pasi vandhurthu.. saadhatha kalandhundu vandhu adaicha seriya poidum. The interesting thing is the treatment used to be same for Periamma and my mom too. If she saw someone getting the least bit angry the next thing we had food fed in our mouths. Inspite of mom's resoluteness there used to be moments where the rare tear would escape her eyes. Not much would be spoken. But things would be OK after such a session, whether it was 4 in the afternoon or 11 in the morning. And this ploy worked every time. Lesson here I think is when angry/upset, eat. Eat healthy. You can work out tomorrow. I was a silent spectator to many such exchanges.
Paatti was not a great cook. Something or the other would not be right. But despite all that I craved for her weak kozhambus more than I would crave for a gourmet meal. When we used to say.. paattiiii kozhambu poarala.. idhu seriyala .. adhu seriyala.. but still eat nonetheless, paatti's standard response would be... yaen da kanna... seriyaadhaane panninaen.... And that would be our cue laugh. Then she would say enakkenna teriyum.. naan padikkaadha Jayam. Her name was Jayalakshmi. While we were in Mumbai, as a child I could speak only Marathi. Paatti could speak only Tamil. Nevertheless, God knows how we communicated. I still remember her teaching me the first letters in Tamil on a slate with flourescent green beading. Slate and Balpam.
Thatha was very English. A thorough Gentleman. I remember when he lost the power in his legs that he could only drag himself around when he wanted to move. He was 90 then. But when someone came home to visit, I remember his saying, I request your permission to excuse myself as my body does not cooperate as much as I would like it. Age has caught up. Our visitor was struck dumb for a minute and then he found his bearings. But thereafter, I found our visitor visibly straightening, posture correcting and gave a little more thought to what he was saying. during the conversation thereafter. That was another lesson learnt that day, we learn by example. No matter who/what/where the example is (from). Even at 80 Thatha was particular about walking from our residence in Besant Nagar to my aunt's in Adyar. Definitely about 4-6 kilometers if I am not mistaken. And he was extremely brisk. He was my hero. Still is. He spoke immaculate English, was a thorough Gentleman. I have heard people in my family say he had a temper too. But I don't remember any incident personally. The problem is when you grow up with a man like this and then you look around, most of the men do not measure up. Neither intellectually nor in bearing. A Kate and Leopold setting would work perfectly for me. Ah well.
It would not be rare to hear grandparents say they are having one foot in the grave. Or that its not long before they go and things like that. A lot of times, I have heard ladies in my family closer to their 70-s or 80-s wishing that they leave their mortal shell a sumangali.
In this case thatha would categorically, and at times, vehemently tell paatti that there can be none of this. And that he cannot exist without "my dear wife" as he used to refer to her often. Sure they fought quite a bit too. And then, paatti would also say enakku sumangali a poga vaendaam. Avara enna maadiri yaarum paathukka mudiyaadhu. Paravailla, She would say. Thatha had his wish. He was 92. Paatti was 81.
And in the recent Thayir Saadham episode, Maami reminded me of the traditional finish of the meal. With the last bit of the thayir saadham came the blessing, Maharaajiya, amoghama manasukkaetha maadiri vaazhkkai amaiyanum.
I write a lot of such things not only with the intent of sharing, but also with a selfish intent of immortalizing these memories. And that is why there are in the WWW. I might not be blogging forever but hopefully I would have a backup of all this. And it would serve to refresh my memory. And be a parent as my mother and grandparents have been.
One of the biggest traditions of transfer of knowledge is the aural tradition. Our country has thrived on it. For most of us who are blessed to have our grandparents around, even if some of the things they say might seem boring, they will be the memories that you want to refresh when you want that familiar warmth creep in to your heart. Your first award, your first achievement at work, the most of your first anything else has a tendency to pale in comparison. Listen to them speak. Spend time with them. And most of it is applicable to parents too. Our parents still have a first hand experience of the era gone by. And they have the wisdom transferred in them in most cases. And just as time takes people away from us, never to return, the only thing we would be left with are memories. And when you are reminded of them, its like you can see them again and can hear them again. And the blessing at the end of a meal is as real as you want it to be.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I wonder if I should start running a suggestion box for titles. I am running out of them. I can usually write passage after passage without too much difficulty. But then it all screeches to a halt when the time comes to fill up that ominous space following Title:

One of the reasons why my blog is still called What To Name It. When the time came to fill in the title block, Chinmayi Sripada is just as expected as expected can get. Musings is as common as coffee in Chennai. Any title suggestive of music would also be just as expected. And hence the very highly intellectual, erudite What To Name It. Just in case you think I am being highly kind on myself. Hark. That was sarcastic.

At times, I wonder on the people I know. On the transient nature of fleeting characters that play a certain role and leave. But then it doesn't leave me asking for permanency. Permanency with people is more than a rarity these days. But then when it does happen, its almost as if a near extinct creature has appeared in its entire glory in front of a wildlife photographer. And for a short while whoever in the world cares, rejoices that there is a possibility of seeing this being other than in illustrated books. Rejoices in the hope.

What makes some people special? What makes you remember some? A gesture? A Helping hand? An emotion that they made you experience? The wisdom they shared? The dreams that they make you see? The paths they reveal to you? As long as I am concerned it is sometimes one or a combination of these.

When I think of these people who I can count with the digits of my right extremity (coming to think of it, my left one too) it is not necessary that I smile when I think of them as greeting card writers have immortalized. It is not necessary that I know that they will be around for as long as time exists for us. It is not necessary that I can call them for a comforting word. To me it is the memory that they created that stored in my LTM directly. The specialness. The warmth it kindles when the memory plays out. The weird belonging I feel with the universe when I was there, and whenever I remember the incident.

For you - Even if you are blessed with people you can always count on, your pillars of support, the people you can call if in dire straits, I wish today, that you come across these people who make you feel detached and attached at the same time. Before you pooh-pooh this detached attachment as mumbo jumbo that you could/may/will come across in philosophical/new age spiritual literature, its a very real feeling. Its not unsettling. But its quite something. And it weaves into the tapestry of life yet another glorious skein.

Thayir Saadham

We visited family friends this evening and maami makes sure that we never leave their house without eating. Her way of making me eat is something I have never come across anywhere else except with my own grandmom. Maami reminds me of her in several ways. This evening, she decided she won't let me go without thair saadham and more molagai. And then she brought the thair saadam in the right consistency, settled down next to me on the table and told me simply "Kaiyila vaangikko". A lump rose in my throat. I remembered the time when my mom, my grandad and I would sit around paatti. Thair saadham would first be placed on the palm, a small kuzhi made, in which a bit of kozhambu would be poured and we would eat it. Those were the most beauteous of times. Simple pleasures are the most expensive. But then it was played out today again. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. And there was this warmth I felt which I hadn't in quite a while. My mom too has similar stories to recollect. She mentions of a kalka chatti in which the vathakozhambu would be made and the entire battalion of children and adults in the house would sit around one elder who was serving, talk, laugh, eat. And that was life. They lived.
Maama, is a very interesting man. He quotes whole verses from Bhartrhari, Kautilya, Upanishads and the Gita and says his memory is not as good as it used to be. I dont know what to say to a man who is rattling off passages at times, explains the meaning and then says his memory is dimming. He also said how some of the songs in the movies were a direct translation from these ancient texts. Made a mental note to start reading Bhartrhari for the beauty in his writing.
If you have the good fortune of being around your grandparents, treasure every moment. Get them to speak and listen to them. For they have a reservoir of wisdom that you and I cannot equal. True, there is no real measure of knowledge and neither can there be any comparison of the older and newer methods of knowledge or imparting it. But there seems to be a certain magic in the age gone by. And I wish my grandparents were around.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Lodging an FIR over the phone. Not sure whether this is really going to be a blessing or a human curse on the Legal system. Perhaps time will tell. I guess there are a lot more people now who will lodge an FIR on a whim especially with the amount of stress people are going through. Rational thinking is not as commonplace as it used to be. A disgruntled person for example, like they have shown in the movie Eeram, can, if this proposal of FIR over a phone call is accepted, lodge a false complaint on a perfectly normal person. And Mr I-Don't-Know-What-Hit-Me will have to run to and fro the Police station and later the courts. Someone told me, in India, the process is the punishment.
That said, if you haven't watched Eeram, you should. Especially if you are living in an apartment, it is for you. It completely replicates what happens in societies today and how low a 'normal' family can stoop to get the house they want.
Coming back, I am sure over a million traffic complaints will be filed over phone if the proposal is okayed. And God knows how many Judges will have to battle with that in the courts. The Judges, I hear are extremely overworked and overloaded all the time. This is recent knowledge to me but if this has been the case for several years now, I am amazed at how normal the Judges I have met are. With the number of professionals across industries complaining of stress and this and that and what not, perhaps we ll have to hand out awards to these Govt. officers who only seem to be hearing, seeing and are exposed to the worse sections of the society through their day, every day, 365 days a year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mehendi At Pondy Bazaar Road Side

A must try. Am highly impressed with their artistry and the amount of time that the Mehendi stain has stayed on my skin. I have tried it several times before with other professionals and even after a week now the color has neither faded nor scratched off.
Have been wanting to check it out for several days now and always wondered when I would make this time to get some Mehendi art done from these guys who say they are from UP.
And it happened during Diwali. And going by the number of steady stream of people, they already seem to have hit it off.
These artists are speedy and are very good. Take my word.

The Lost Symbol

Been reading this book and am a few pages into it. Must say I remind myself that I really love Dan Brown's work.
The recent Landmark sale helped to stock our library and we were able to invest in a diverse collection. Nandan Nilekani's Imagining India, It's Not How Good You Are Its How Good You Want To Be, A Spiritual Handbook on India, Audacity Of Hope, The Hindus - An Alternative History and a few more.a
Landmark is definitely one of my favorite haunts. God Bless Authors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blue Elephant and the Translation Industry - my two cents

A full fledged interview not talking about my singing at all.

It came in the online versions of The Hindu and the Hindu Businessline yesterday. Figured out I tweeted but didn't blog about it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Looks like

I am switching to tweeting like several others. At first it was tough for me to express myself with a 140 character limit. But I am learning the art of being succinct as opposed to the verbosity here.
Easier to tweet about a movie or anything else, sometimes.
And I write 3 posts talking of issues and some say my blog is a complaint box or I am being a pessimist. I have become negative. Shucks. I really wonder what makes people pass such sweeping statements of someone based on a simple post talking of an issue. And then there are people who say people who can raise their voices about issues and have the advantage of being heard easily because they are recognized in a crowd simply don't. Proves the age old saying true. You just cant satisfy everyone. But then that has not been my goal. And I am reminding myself again of the proverb that trying to please everyone is a sure way to failure. There are several goals and milestones that I need to achieve. I intend to continue evolving, learning; for the day I stagnate, I shall cease to exist.
There were several dozens of people who used to advise my mom from time to time on how exactly to bring me up. And now I sometimes chuckle when I think back and thank God that mom had the wisdom she had for not listening to all the well meaning people. She had been the truly remarkable, magical lady to have made plans that are way ahead of time. She has fulfilled half of them. The other half are just about to be fulfilled. Or rather the plans and goals to achieve keep growing. The so called well meaning society would not have let me be a musician. Why? They used to ask. Study. Become an engineer. Or get a BCom degree. Join a company. Assured income. Settle.
Settling - I realize now, is something I have never wanted to do. In retrospect of course. Why settle when one can strive harder and get that something worth spending time and energy for and that which is truly gratifying? Why settle at all? Mom reminds me all the more now.. once you are close to reaching the finish line, its time to set the finish like farther away. There is a lot more that she says to me, but too early to talk about all that.
What will be, will be. And I am what I am.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tenants and house hunting

Helping some of my interpreters find an apartment to rent out might turn out to be the most harrowing of the experiences I have had.
I wonder if there are laws and rights of tenants in this sometimes weird country called India. One - its tough to find bachelor accommodation. And then basic fittings like fans and lights are not provided for, for instance. Tweeting about it, I found others who said the house owners replaced a motor and made the tenants, who were girls in an IT company, pay. I remember once upon a time, when we were new in Chennai, the house owners replaced an electric meter and made us pay because the "refrigerator is from Bombay and that has spoilt the meter and has to be replaced". I am sure the electric consumption of that house is still counted on we funded.
While I was with Aahaa FM there were so many callers who complained that the apartment association is harassing them just because they are tenants. The stories they related, off air, made my blood boil. In most cases their respective house owners who were in other cities or countries also perhaps were unaware and asked them to handle issues on their and that they would support them. Some also said that the owners were great people. Some tenants even said the owners let these apartments for rent because of the almost goonda like acts of the apartment associations and other owners and they didn't want to subject themselves to such weirdos.
Now that there are a lot of individuals who live together in an apartment because they have relocated for work, house owners have found this to be the perfect chance to hike up the rates on rent to abnormal levels as I see them now for apartments that are only 250-500 sq feet in size. Some of the houses I helped my interpreters see don't even have a window and looks straight out of Slumdog Millionaire!! How did they build houses like that and how do they have the bloody gall to be so damn rude over and above that??
At the end of the day no tenant is living for free. If someone is paying for any service then it better be darn good. Or at least average. Now who lets Apartment associations decide that they can traumatize and harass people just because they are 'tenants'? Even a certain lawyer said, they are tenants and that's how things will be. So what if they are tenants? Don't they pay the maintenance? Don't they pay for their association get-togethers during festivals? And worst, some apartments have a lot of legal issues. So everyone is scared of talking. Perhaps these builders should be counseled to follow the law and not mess up the lives of those who have made them the rich guys they are now.
I am not sure how the situation in other cities is like. But Chennai definitely seems to be hyper greedy.
As for me, I'll take this opportunity to thank most of the landlords that we have come across personally and in whose houses we had lived in. They are the ones defined as good human beings, or perhaps they are angels compared to the devils of house owners around.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Guided tour around AVM studios

I have worked in AVM Studios for several years now, off and on of course. All of Super Singer was shot there. And most of the TV interviews as well. A couple of movies too were dubbed there. Sillunu Oru Kadhal and Modhi Vilayaadu. A lot of wonderful memories are associated with AVM. My first ever dubbing session and the first ever shot as a TV presenter were at the legendary studios.

I happened to request an appointment to meet Sri AVM Saravanan this morning in order to thank him following the State Award for Sahana. As I stepped into his offices it was almost like a stepping in to some other era. Photographs of every production of the AVM Studios, with the first in 1935, the vintage Ford motorcar, the wonderful microphones which have recorded the golden voices, the first ever camera, Sri AV Meyyappa Chettiar's passport, the dealer agreement with Ford for the car he procured, his spectacles, notes in English in his perfect handwriting, TC, Driving license, the first ever contract signed with T R Mahalingam... It was humbling to be in that building.

We met Saravanan sir as soon as we stepped in to the building and I was informed that he had sent a letter congratulating me as soon as the announcement was made but it had gone to an older address. The few minutes of spending time at his office would definitely be one of the most memorable ones in my life. The perfection, discipline and the sheer class that he exuded - I thought it is a bygone era. I saw all that in Sri AVM Saravanan. I was given another copy of the letter that was originally dispatched on the 29th of September and somehow I had this indescribably beautiful feeling when I read through the letter. I have heard reputed artistes of Tamil Cinema say that at one point in time it used to be tough to step into the premises of AVM studios. The words rang again in my ears today. Today was special. It was just not another trip into AVM for me.

As a 12 year old I had decided, with no two ways about it and giving no choice to the Universe, that I shall be a playback singer. And I shall work at becoming a singer of merit. My dream, the prayer was heard and in just about 3-4 years I stepped foot inside Rahman sir's studio. I know how much I have pined to be singing professionally. And prayed for the opportunities that have come my way thereafter.

After looking through history at the office, I happened to see the first day cover of the stamps on A V Meyyappa Chettiar and asked the office if I could have one stamp. And they gave me one for my collection.

Meeting Sri AVM Saravanan was also like another reminder to myself to follow old time values, discipline and protocol. I realized how important and valuable it is. And I thanked God for being blessed to do that I have always wanted to do.