Age 6 to 7 years-
"PRACTICE LIKE A DEVIL, PLAY LIKE AN ANGEL."
My father who is my first Guru - "Practice like a devil, play like an angel! You must physically and mentally strain yourself while practising, there's no option. You have to find happiness in the pain. These are healthy pains - 'Vidyaathuraanaam na sukham na nidhra....' (in the quest of knowledge one must give up comforts and sleep..). Only when you practice so hard you'll be able to control this difficult instrument. Bring it under your control, master it!" His words used to send the adrenaline rushing through my veins.
THE PRACTICE OF KALPANASWARAMS-
I stopped playing and looked at my father hesitantly.
He prompted, "Mmmm...keep trying."
I said meekly, "I am not getting it correctly. If you show me the thalam with your hand I will play correctly."
He smiled, "Being in your comfort zone doesn't mean practising. Stretch your imagination. Keep the correct thalam (rhythmic count and cycle of the particular thalam) within yourself, in your mind. You should not look for outside assistance. They could mislead you by showing wrong thalam. Learn to be self-reliant. Even in life, never look for assistance or ask for anything from anybody."
I was nervous. I didn't want to commit mistakes in the one-avarthanam kalpanaswaram and cut a sorry figure in front of my father. I always felt rewarded by his appreciative smile. He was never verbal in his appreciation. In rare occasions his 'very good', used to make me feel like a Queen.
My father said encouragingly in his gentle tones, "It's ok if you make mistakes, that's how you'll learn. But try not to make mistakes."
I tried to feel the rhythm within myself and started playing the one-avarthanam kalpanaswaram test. Indefatigability- that's the keyword to success. I got it after many trials.
In time I understood that by keeping the beats within oneself the player is filled with a sense of rhythm and rhythm gradually becomes an extension of the player. Every cell in the body tunes itself to the rhythm and literally throbs with rhythm!! The added advantage is that one is able to give undivided attention to the music and the Veena when rhythm becomes a part of oneself.
"Now increase to many rounds of avarthanams (rhythmic cycles) and play that korvai perfectly. All by yourself."