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.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Organizations I support

I'd like to introduce 17000ft Foundation run by Sujata Sahu.Read up about them here I intend to volunteer this summer. Sujata left the corporate world to help educate kids in Ladakh. Sujata and her organization was introduced to me by Prasanto who is a Green evangelist. Tech writer, analyst, and is Building India's 1st TERI GRIHA green home.

I intend to help Sujata help raise funds for this year and in the future. If you can donate/volunteer, please do.

From the beginning of my career I have raised funds for so many charities which would usually mean singing for free that I started joking if I all the concerts I do are without payment, I ll soon have to do a concert for the cause of Chinmayi ;)

I have been and shall continue to be associated with a couple of organizations that are introduced to me by friends/family I know and trust.

Sujata needs to raise funds for the kids in Ladakh and I shall be helping her in my own small capacity. If you would like to donate / help raise the funds her organization needs via social media / volunteer please be in touch with them.

Another organization that I have been supporting, that helps kids and tribal women in and around Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh is Ahambhumika. I came to know about Ahambhumika through Gul Panag.

Do help or volunteer as you may deem fit and please help spread the word.

Thanks in advance.