Tuesday, July 14, 2020

YET ANOTHER DIMENSION!

MY HUSBAND, E.V.RAMAKRISHNA, MARINE ENGINEER

AL MAQAL PORT, BASRA, IRAQ

JINNAH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, KARACHI, PAKISTAN, MAY 1980 
My bindi and white colour organza saree with sky blue colour designs attracted open stares from passengers in the transit lounge of Karachi airport. . Realizing that I presented an uncommon sight of a typical Hindu woman in the crowded airport full of Pakistanis I tried to quieten my racing heart beat.
My husband and I were headed to Basra, Iraq to join the shipping vessel, M.V.Prabhu Gopal, a bulk carrier. My husband was taking over  as second engineer in the vessel M.V.Prabhu Gopal which was berthed in Al Maqal Port, Basra, Iraq.
Oblivious to my discomfort, my husband was in a serious discussion about his work with another officer who travelled with us. A whole lot of crew and engine/deck side officers travelled with my husband and myself to join the vessel in Basra. It was actually a big group of crew and officers in which I was the lone woman.
The flight from Mumbai to Karachi was exhausting after the sleepless night preceding it. I was hungry and longed for hot rice with my favourite vegetarian dishes. Trying to shake off the tempting images of food I reached into my handbag for the packet of cream cookies I bought in Mumbai airport.
I shifted restlessly and after long procrastination I gathered enough courage to get up from my seat. Feeling nervous and shy of all the attention I attracted I lowered my gaze to stare intently at the floor till I reached the ladies' restroom. My back prickled as I sensed  curious stares from everybody. There were few women inside the restroom. Trying to conceal their curiosity they turned to smile at me politely and I smiled back nervously.
After what seemed like an expedition I sat down next to my husband with a great sense of relief.
Shortly afterwards the boarding announcement came crackling on the airport speakers and we got up to board the flight that would take us to Baghdad, Iraq. The flight duration between Karachi and Baghdad was roughly around 3 hours.
My heart skipped many beats in excitement. At the same time a sense of fear ran up my spine at the thought of my bindi and saree. I couldn't find solace in the repeated assurances of shipping agents and other officers that everything would be fine and Iraqi authorities in Basra port would not question me about my saree or bindi.  

BAGHDAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT 
The airport looked more like a palace with lovely wall designs in the sprawling halls with high ceilings. It was a culture shock for me and I temporarily forgot my hunger as I stared at the tall, handsome women walking elegantly in the airport. I had never seen such well built and tall women. The female ground staff of Baghdad airport had heavily made up beautiful eyes and fair, clear skin. Most of the women passengers were covered from head to toe in their traditional attire.

Waving at our group exuberantly a friendly shipping agent rushed towards us. After exchanging pleasantries he directed us towards the lounge where we were served hot, delicious tea and biscuits. I drank in my surroundings with my eyes, fascinated by the Iraqis and my surroundings. I gazed at the large glass-carved doors on my side. Outside even the sky presented a different picture, or was it my imagination?! I had never seen a sky so purplish orange!! It looked enchanting. Till date I haven't forgotten the strange colour of sky at 2pm in the afternoon!!

THE BUS RIDE
Our group boarded a bus specially arranged to transport the engine/deck side officers and crew to join the vessel, M.V.Prabhu Gopal in Basra. 
It was an old, non air conditioned and very badly maintained bus that rattled its way through the desert like area between Baghdad and Basra. To make matters worse the road was not a proper one. The uneven and rough stretch made the bus jump up and down. We were almost thrown out of our seats by the heavy jerks of the bus and had to hold on to the seat for fear of falling all over ourselves. The heat and dust that invaded the bus worsened the agony of the travel. 
I was close to tears with hunger, body aches and tiredness. My husband's consoling looks at me and loving gesture of holding my hand reassuringly through out the ride acted as a soothing balm.Despite the discomfort of seating and travel I was keen to look outside . There was a stretch of white sand everywhere with palm trees and hut like structures here and there. I saw women fully clad in black carrying pots filled with what I thought was water. 

The ride took nearly 4 or more hours. Loud Arabic music blared from somewhere within the bus. The audio had a surround effect and I could not find the speakers.
I tried to divert my mind from the pain of jumping along with the bus by concentrating on the Arabic music that pierced my eardrums. My first challenge was to find the "Sa Pa Sa" of the tune. For the life of me I couldn't identify the scale nor the rhythmic pattern of the Arabic song. I made a mental note to play Arabic music on my Veena sometime in future.

AL MAQAL PORT, BASRA, IRAQ
At a point when I thought I would collapse the bus glided to the gateway of Basra Port. The place swarmed with Iraqi military personnel. We were guided to the ship, M.V.Prabhu Gopal amidst tight security. 
The huge vessel berthed on one of the jetties of the busy harbour of Basra posed another challenge. The prospect of climbing up the steep gangway onto the ship in a saree made me cringe. I opted to be the last one to climb with my husband climbing closely behind me. The steps were oily and slippery and I held the pleats of my saree taking care not to trip on them. Midway and at an alarming height my steps faltered and I gasped loudly!   A hand reached out to me from the person ahead of me. I clung to the hand for dear life and managed to reach the entrance of the ship. Entering the ship I rejoiced in the air-conditioned coolness of the ship. Steadying my breath I thought to myself with a smile - 'yet another dimension in life'!!
GANGWAY 


                                   



Saturday, July 4, 2020

PAADA DARSHANAM...PAAPA VIMOCHANAM......




   MAHAPERIYAVA 

 Early 90s, Kanchi Mutt-I looked around bewildered, as devotees ran past me whispering, "seekkaram, seekkaram"...(hurry, hurry....in Tamil). The person from Kanchi mutt office (forgot his name) rushed towards my mother and myself. My mother asked him anxiously, 
" What's happening?"
"Periyava (Mahaperiyava) is giving Darshan right now in His palanquin. Everybody is rushing there, I'll find a place for you to sit, please meet me there." He rushed off without waiting for our response.
My heart skipped a beat. My mother and I hurried towards Mahaperiyava's palanquin (placed on the way to Mahaperiyava's present Adhishtaanam/Brindavanam).
By the time we reached the palanquin the place was jam packed with devotees, many of the ladies were in madisaar and gents in dhothi/angavasthram. 
My mother and I somehow found ourselves standing right in front of the palanquin, at a reasonably close distance. In front of us many devotees were seated on the floor. My mother and myself happened to be in the first row of devotees who were standing.
The palanquin was shut and devotees were waiting with bated breath for the palanquin to open. The pin-drop silence despite the large gathering was overwhelming. The heavy under currents of intense devotion bordering on fascination was almost palpable. I felt goosebumps all over my body. The entire atmosphere was so charged, and the synergy so high that there was a surreal quality to the moment.
 I realized that I was sensing absolute divinity even before the doors of the palanquin were opened and Mahaperiyava showed Himself. His powerful vibrations seemed to reach out to touch each and everybody around the palanquin.
"That man is calling you" the person next to me said, pointing to someone.
Feeling strangely disoriented I looked in the direction he was pointing to.
The Kanchi mutt administrative staff who told us he would be arranging for my mother and myself to be seated was gesturing to me wildly from a corner of the palanquin. He was asking us to come to where he was standing. 
I looked at my mother, "Amma you go if you want, I want to see Paramacharya from here."
My mother, her gaze never leaving the palanquin shook her head negatively indicating that she wanted to remain in the same place.
Looking at the Mutt person, I smiled politely and gestured that we wanted to remain standing in the same place.
Suddenly the silence was shattered by a loud chorus of gasps from the huge number of devotees who were gathered there.
I turned my head to look at the palanquin. The doors (or was it a cloth screen....? I don't remember..) were opened by vedic pundits.

 Inside sat huddled against the back frame of the palanquin, a frail and delicate figure in saffron robes. The morning sun's rays matching the colour of Mahaperiyava's robes  rushed into the palanquin, to cast a golden hue inside the palanquin...In the golden light, the pale, fair and wrinkled skin of Mahaperiyava shone like molten gold and His eyes were sharp and brilliant like precious gems. I was struck by the contrast between His frail, delicate structure and the power of wisdom that emanated from His eyes. 

"Amma!! Kamakshiii... Thaaye!! Ammaaaa......." cries and excited gasps of devotees filled the atmosphere. A few started to cry loudly. A woman cried out loudly, her voice quivering, "Kamakshi, Thaaye, Ambikaye, Ammaaaa....!!" Few men and women were chanting Hara Hara Shankara Jaya Jaya Shankara in low, emotionally charged voices.

All around me people were  whispering and gasping their prayers fervently... yet there seemed to be a stillness to every passing moment. Time seemed to stand still. Somehow Lord Krishna's "Kaalosmi (I am Time)" flashed across my mind.  When Time stood still God came to the fore!! I understood that the omnipresence of God could be felt by each one of us who were gathered there!                        
Mahaperiyava was moving His head slowly from side to side, His calm and serene gaze taking in the crowd which was gathered  around Him. In between He weakly raised His hand and some times both hands in gestures of blessing. Whenever Mahaperiyava lifted His hands the cries of devotees grew louder, their cries rose and fell in accordance to the smallest movement of Mahaperiyava, like an orchestra of musicians performing to the signalling hands of a music conductor!! I was afraid to even blink my eyes for a moment as I didn't want to lose the treasured sight of Mahaperiyava. I was drinking in every detail of the Darshan and realized that my two eyes or any amount of time will not give me the satisfaction of actually registering His awesome Presence.
At one point Mahaperiyava shifted uncomfortably and stretched His legs exposing the soles of His feet to the gathering.
At the sight of His feet devotees started to wail loudly,"Paada Darshanam Paapa Vimochanam...!!!!!" Many devotees started to strike their own cheeks in devotional fervour.
"Amma...Kamakshi...Paada Darshanam Paapa Vimochanam....Thaaye...!!" I realised that my cheeks were wet with tears, I was shocked that I was crying without my knowledge.
A saffron-robed devotee seated in front of me (I noticed this devotee in saffron robes from the moment I stood there. He exuded a powerfully divine aura and seemed like a very advanced practitioner of the spiritual path) suddenly got up from his sitting position to stand up. A vedic brahmin went upto Mahaperiyava and pointed to the saffron robed devotee.Bending down reverently he whispered something in Mahaperiyava's ears. Mahaperiyava focused His gaze on the saffron-robed devotee standing right in front of me and lifted both His hands as a blessing. Standing right behind the saffron-robed devotee and yet visible to Mahaperiyava's gaze, I felt convinced that His blessing Hands were also directed towards myself and my mother....On this day of Guru Poornima....

Friday, June 26, 2020

SARASWATI VEENA - 16

                                                         GODDESS SARASWATI

Resonance of original acoustic Saraswati Veena comes from pure Jackwood, the grains of which absorb the prana shakthi (life-force energy) transmitted by the player.
Electric 'Veena' used by magnetic mike depends on mike system for its sound (due to the magnetic mike's inablity and incompetence in picking up Jackwood which absorbs the life-force energy of the player)  and that too only in terms of volume while failing to convey the true tone of Veena.
Smaller size electric Veenas are used (the veena dandi is so small that the frets are narrowed down offering  scope for super-fast left hand movements) for gimmickry. The player exploits the abnormalities provided by the smaller size Veena in playing crazy speeds very easily (which is restricted on the normal sized Saraswathi Veena). 

In the absence of integrity in clearly distinguishing between acoustic and electric Veenas ( like in the case of electric and acoustic guitars), today,it has become the responsibilty of a Veena lover to distinguish between an acoustic and electric Veena. An electric 'Veena' player uses the abnormal facilties provided by an electric 'Veena' to his/her advantage for example by a)producing sound through left hand alone and without plucking with right hand or b) rendering incredibly speed/fast/jump notes on a small sized electric Veena. Such perks are offered by the electric 'Veena' and often misinterpreted as player's expertise in instrumental technique.
Similarly an acoustic Veena's lack of artificial smoothness like that of an electric Veena  apart from certain natural  imperfections like external noises and hand movements (fret noises) are purely instrumental features and not to be considered as flaws in the rendition of the acoustic Veena player.


The above artifacts belong to the period of Mahabharatha. Likewise the original Saraswathi Veena is from the ancient era and vedic times. They are meant to look and sound rustic. They are not processed.
In simplified terms it's pulihara/puliyodarai versus pizza.
(About tantriks to be continued in Saraswati Veena-17)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

VEENA UNPLUGGED




                                                     GEETHAGOVINDAM

Monday, June 15, 2020

VEENA UNPLUGGED

SHE'S NOT THERE BY SANATANA- 

Please use headphones
LOCKDOWN BLUES- LOVING THE KARAOKE WORK RECORDING MY FAVOURITE HINDI FILM SONGS- COURTESY- VEENA JAGAN JAS AND M.J.JABARAJ!!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

VEENA UNPLUGGED

KINDLY USE PHONES FOR CLARITY

Please use phones
The first video clipping is a crudely done karaoke recording ( karaoke on one mobile and my Veena recording on another mobile) of one of my most favourite songs. Due to tuning the Veena to the high sruthi of karaoke I had to play on high tension string and on the top frets with just one finger. This enchantingly emotional song composed by A.R.Rahman has touched a raw nerve as I 
grit and bear with the lockdown. I count every second to see my girls..... my daughters Deeptha and Haritha, granddaughters Shreeya and Shreeja. Missing you!!

Friday, June 5, 2020

SARASWATI VEENA -15



GODDESS MEENAKSHI

"She looks so cute, my God.... too cute!!" 
I looked around, confused, "Who?!" 
"Meenakshi Amman!!" There was a look of sheer awe, joy and fascination on his face.
"You mean Goddess Meenakshi?!" I asked him in bewilderment.
"Ya!!" he nodded vigorously.
I quickly glanced at the poojari (of a famous temple near Chennai) standing next to me. The poojari nodded in agreement. It was the poojari who introduced me to the tantrik before the conversation started. 
"Cute?!" I felt a twinge of resentment at the word "cute" in describing the Goddess. Before I could react the tantrik threw another shocker, "Kamakshi is not like that, She's ferocious, like Kali! But Meenakshi... oh God....She's damn cute!!" He exclaimed in joy, recalling the vision. 
While I was struggling to digest his choice of vocabulary in describing the Goddess the tantrik diverted my attention, "You people see the main idol (moola vigraham) in temples whereas we tantriks feast our eyes on the actual core form which is subtle and a few inches in front of the main idol."
My eyes grew wide in wonderment, "You actually see the Goddess?!"
"Not in the big form but in a miniature form, full of light and life, pulsating and moving, in colours, in light..."
I once again glanced at the poojari who quickly nodded in agreement. 
"Wow!!" I whispered, the sense of wonder I felt was overwhelming.
I couldn't believe that this less than ordinary looking man was a tantrik in the first place and that he had the ability to see the Goddess in Her sookshma (subtle) form.
The poojari interrupted, "He can also scan everybody's auras and he is an expert in measuring the ascension of kundalini in any person". 
"Wow" this time the tantrik got my full attention.
Looking grim all of a sudden the tantrik said, "People need to be aware of their spiritual potential and be wary of their energies, the kundalini energy can be stolen, you know?"
My brows knit in consternation, "Stolen?! How??"
The Poojari told me with a smile, "There's a lot about this subject, please come home for some coffee, we will discuss."
A TANTRIK IS SOMEBODY WHO'S WELL-VERSED IN RELIGIOUS TEXTS, RITUALS AND PRACTICES. IT'S A VERY POSITIVE THING. LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS WORLD, EVEN TANTRA HAS A FLIPSIDE TO IT. THERE ARE PRACTITIONERS WHO USE TANTRA FOR NEGATIVE PURPOSES AND DON'T BAT AN EYELID IN CAUSING HARM TO A HUMAN BEING IF/WHEN NECESSARY IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THEIR DESIRED TARGET. THESE PRACTICES ARE COMMERCIAL TOO AND RITUALS ARE CHARGEABLE AND CONDUCTED ON BEHALF OF SOMEONE ELSE FOR A COST. 
SPECIFIC YANTRAS, MANTRAS, BEEJAKSHARAS AND ARTICLES ARE USED IN THESE PRACTICES. IN THE WESTERN WORLD SUCH PRACTICES EXIST AND ARE KNOWN AS 'BLACK MAGIC'. 'VOODOO', 'SPELL' ETC.  THE OUIJA BOARD WHICH IS USED IN CONTACTING SPIRITS CAN BE INCLUDED IN THE CATEGORY OF NOT-SO-RELIGIOUS PRACTICES. 
IN INDIA THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TANTRIKS. A TANTRIK CAN LOOK LIKE YOUR GUY NEXT DOOR, A GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE, A BANK CLERK DRESSED IN PANTS AND SHIRT. THEY ARE NOT LIKE THE ONES SHOWN IN THE MOVIES, SPORTING A LONG BEARD, A THICK MOUSTACHE, FIERCELY GLOWING RED EYES, DRAMATIC LOOKS OR A GUTTURAL TONE TO MATCH. HE COULD BE A PEDESTRIAN WALKING PAST YOU ON THE ROAD, THE EYES ARE GENERALLY KEEN, OBSERVANT AND INTELLIGENT.



Friday, May 29, 2020

SARASWATI VEENA -14

GODDESS SARASWATI

In continuation of Veena Sutras -9, "The other side of the coin - how else is Veena used as a carrier of negative energies?"
First and foremost how to prevent negative energies from entering the aura of your Veena?

Before anything else it's of utmost importance to make sure that the player's pranic energy which is contained in the instrument is undisturbed and pure. The following steps have to be taken in order to maintain the exclusivity of one's Veena.

1) As far as possible try not to let anybody to 1.play, 2.carry or even 3.touch your Veena.

2) Of all the above points number 1 is most significant and has to be implemented at all costs as there is this danger of infiltration of different energy, whether good or bad.

3) Female Veena artists to avoid playing, carrying or touching the Veena during the 4 or 5 days of their menstrual cycle. This causes disturbance of the purity of energy within the Veena. Apart from this the player's exertion of abdominal muscles while playing could lead to excessive bleeding and weakening of the uterus.

4) Point 3 causes serious blockages in the functioning of kundalini.

5) To remove drishti (nazar) of the Veena after every performance by circling the instrument with rock salt and lighted camphor (thrice anti-clockwise and thrice clockwise).

6) Before acquiring Veena, finding out whether the wood is pure Jackwood or not. A clairvoyant has the ability to feel the types of energy and wood of the Veena by merely gazing at the Veena, or even by running his/her hands over the instrument.

7) Using a dowser by a practitioner is also recommended. This will ascertain whether the Veena contains negative energy or not. Can any Veena contain negative energy? 

This brings us to the topic of Tantriks who use Veena as a medium for attracting (vashikaranam) and black magic.

Please note that the above points are not applicable to electric 'Veenas'.

   



Tuesday, May 26, 2020

JAYAM- 2015 (Tamil Nadu Music and Fine Arts University 2013-2016)

Documentary on Veena Vidushi, late Smt. Ranganayaki Rajagopalan who received the JAYAM Award in 2015. 

MUSICAL PRAYERS FOR FOUNDER/CHANCELLOR (TAMIL NADU MUSIC AN FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY 2013-2016)








   First video- Teaching staff, students and myself rendering Sri Thyagaraja Pancharatna krithis as musical prayers for our Founder/Chancellor when she was hospitalised (in October, 2016- Tamil Nadu Music and Fine Arts University).
From 2nd video and photographs- Veena performance in Madurai Sri Meenakshi Temple on Vijayadasami, 2016.
Mridangam- Sri.T.R.S. Manikandan, Ghatam- Sri.B.Hariharan Babu. 

FEATURED POST

YET ANOTHER DIMENSION!

MY HUSBAND, E.V.RAMAKRISHNA, MARINE ENGINEER AL MAQAL PORT, BASRA, IRAQ JINNAH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, KARACHI, PAKISTAN, MAY 1980...