Thursday, December 30, 2004

Her [Master's] Voice

MS Subbulakshmi with daughter Radha
Originally uploaded by bharath.

On the 11th of December 2004, the world of Carnatic Music lost one of its best singers of all times. Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi popularly known as MS, and as kunjamma to people close to her, had left the world of mortals to stay immortal in all the households which start with her suprabatams and sahasranAmams everyday.

All this quite well known to most people who are inclined to indian music and culture and all that, what is more interesting and not very well known is that MS was also a accomplished vainika (vINai player) and also knew to play the mrudangam. She was known to lead a very simple live even beyond being an international renowned icon of indian culture and heritage. She was one who lived to give for charity amongst people who give away to chartity from their earnings. Her Life was very simple. She did not possess anything beyond essential needs. She was never known to have been lavish in anything. Anything she did from cooking, to cutting vegetables and doing anything at home had a perfection attached. Always dressed in neat plain silk saris with elegant borders, specially made for her, covering her shoulders with the saree, combed and tied hair with a string of jasmine or rose or some other fragrant flower around it, perfect circular kumkum and vibuthi on the forehead, bhakthi and bhavam in the music, that was what defined MS. In the earlier days, there was a special blue colour which was used to dye her silk sarees and this colour is even today called "M S Blue". It belongs to the most primitive set of 8 colours in which sarees were available in those days. (refer pic for the colour)

With everything else perfect, how could the music not be? Her music was one which never slipped off sruthi. Her pronounciations were perfect and the way she would split the lines to suite both the notes to which it is sung and the meaning was just right. She had a knowledge of quite a few indian languages, in which the carnatic compostions are all written. She also sang a lot of bhajans, abhangs and rabindra sangIth in her concerts.

MS was shaped to what she is known today, by her husband, T Sadasivam. MS was a perfect 'pativrata'. She did not even think what her husband did not tell her. From what she wore for her concert to what she would cook for food to what she sang in her concerts, it was decided by him and guided by him. He was responsible for her apprearing in films. She acted in the lead role in four films over a span of ten years. He made her choose concert career and leave the film industy. This man was completely responsible for all that we listen today. MS was a rebel and flee from her mother's residence to seek cover with Sadasivam who eventually married her. Without him, MS would have under her mother's guidance turned into a true follower of one of the oldest jobs, the indian society is known to have had. Behind this successful women there did exist this man who was instrumental in it all.

Though MS has left us all down here, She will continue to live in her Music.

MS Subbulakshmi as Meera in the film with the same name, released in 1945 in tamil and in 1947 in hindi.
Originally uploaded by bharath.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Forest Dark

About a couple of weeks ago, i had gone on a nature walk in IIT Madras campus. What was unusual of this one is that it was in the night. There were about a dozen of us who were going on this walk with half of us being iitians. Dressed in full with shoes on and equipped with torch-light all of us were ready to explore the campus by night.

It all started around 6 pm when the trees at the stadium where having fruit bats visiting them and eating their pods, flowers and fruits. There were quite a few people going through their daily routine at the stadium. After sitting down for sometime listening to them for a while, we just got to below the bridge which connects the stadium to Delhi Avenue. The place was filled with Frogs and Toads of all varieties and all of them making hell a lot of noise all over there. We found quite a few of them all around the place as there was water till there, thanks to recent rains in the city. There were even holes where one would expect snakes to live not to mention mongoose, though we couldn't spot any.

Then back to the stadium, we could hear the night herons and see them flying above us in search of food. This is were things got interesting. We decided to walk on a forest path. This is, i am told, one of the many paths that are there all over the campus. This particular one starts right next to the Gallery of the Stadium and leads us right into the Durga Temple office. We were quite sceptic of wearing footwear and going into the premises but we could not go around the area as it was fenced and too thick a forest cover. We just sneaked thro' close to the walls to in the shortest possible way to another part of the temple where the path continued.

The path started right behind the main shrine of the temple and went on with a hand pump and the temple dump yard on either side. Here is a tree which needs a mention. This tree has a creeper wound around it. What warrants the mention is that the creeper has grown thicker and stronger than the original tree and they both now look like a twisted rope coming out of the ground. They stand tall upto about 5 feet and then the tree branches out while the creeper, creeps back to the ground.

Then we had to climb to a geographically elevated area, where the path continued into the forest. Not far, we could hear waves of water in the Campus Lake. We saw many exotic plant varieties which are natural to this part of the Globe and useful also, beyond being beautiful. This path was on the Lake bund and just led into the lake on the one side while the other was dense forest which was a bit marshy due to recent down pour. After walking a few meters we came below a huge tamarind tree. The tree is so huge that even two guys cant completely hold the tree's trunk. I bet the tree is one of the earliest inmates of the campus. below this tree towards the forest side was a small patch of cleared ground with lots of stumps all in marshy soil with foot prints of deer all over.

Further down, the path was narrower and led us to another Tamarind Tree of the similar kind. We took at deviation into from the main path towards the lake side, to a well and a place where one can sit and watch the lake fully. Along this path is a large ornamental bamboo bush which looks really amazing. The lake which was recently deepend apparently so deep that when full, even three lorries kept over one another on the bottom of the lake will not be visible. This place so good and very relaxing with trees all around you and water to a long distance in front of you. The wind that blows here and the sound it makes with the trees and the water is just divine. I believe one can actually walk around the lake thro' this path.

It was late enough for us to come back and with a heavy heart we started retracing finding other plants which we did not take not off while going. Back to the temple, and the stadium, we could more Frogs and Toads on the ground. We could see many more bats now, of course, with help of torches. There were hardly any people in the place and time for some fauna to use the place. While walking out of the stadium, we could hear a barn owl and did spot a owlet on a tree after much adieu. Then at the end there was a majestic male spotted deer near the stadium entry point where we finished off the walk.

It was one nice experience and i presently am wondering if i can do more such trips around campus. The only disturbing thing, was the presence of empty 'Pan Parag' and 'Hans' packets below the tamarind trees. I was atleast saved not finding some other remains of man's spirited explorations. After all, i have started to wonder as to which part of the campus is really not disturbed by homo sapiens for free usage by other living organisms?!?!?!?!?

PS: Campus residents reading this blog are requested to kindly consider exploring such parts of campus of course with a request not to tamper with nature in any way

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