why i am happy…



this is a photo taken one year ago.
the two boys on the right are mine, and

i didnt know whether to keep this find of mine, under personal and be silently happy… or click publish on my blog …

and so i have been quiet this year, enjoying the music and being inspired.

the story is about an old couple. the man is a retired army officer and his wife is a popular carnatic singer and scholar.

and how they gave of themselves, their home and their life’s work to train students to live, to teach and to love music.

when i went into the “gurukulam” , a photo of which you see, i saw only a battery of rules
1. women must be in a sari, girls must wear pavadai, kurtas for boys
2. a visitor must be served by a student of the gurukulam– welcomed, seen off and politely served a tumbler of water on a tray
3. music is learnt by listening and silence
4. there’s nothing like singing under a tree
5. learning to make a masala chai and a dal tadka is also part of the training
6. no science please — no science after standard 10 if you are serious about music. the girls go on to study BA music or BA Sanskrit. Some students are working on their PhDs. Several have won scholarships. Many sing regularly in kutcheris and the All India Radio.
7. your evenings are for music — 6 pm to 10 pm will be spent in the gurukulam
8. students as young as 7, learn to answer the phone by prefixing their conversation with a traditional “namaskaram”, they answer calls that the musician auntie gets, fix appointments, teach a music lesson to a junior, do a ‘thoppukaranam’, sweep the floor, and are on their toes …
9. and the couple dont charge a single ruppee for their labour of love

i saw the students bustling with a certain joie de vivre, their eyes sparkling, and their smiles cheery and laughter loud..

this is where i wanted firstborn to learn music, i thought.

i was interviewed by the old colonel for an hour and a half, and then he said “no”.

nope. firstborn doesnt fit into the gurukulam scheme, he said.

I wailed
even if i didnt want the music training from maami (as everyone calls the famous musician), i wanted the army training from the maama (old colonel)– dust the mats, spine straight, throw a ball, repeat a tune, repeat again, again, learn a a sanskrit word , serve water to the guests, see them off and a million other things under his watchful eye.

nope, he said.
firstborn doesnt fit in …

and i wailed loudly.

but there is a spot for firstborn he said. He can join the “music class” only — twice a week, taught by maami’s student in maami’s way.

so that’s where we are now.
A year of music — trained in maami’s scholarly but simple way

not from mayamalavagowlai
but from the 5 note ragas that have distinct voices
mohanam, suddha saveri, amrithavarshini…

daatu varisais, alankarams, jathi swarams and small songs in those ragas.

and music is not a music class without chanting, says maama.

and firstborn now know adityahrudayam and the mahishasuramardini stotram

and a few words of sanskrit

and to jam with firstborn, i extricated my own veena from a forgotten cobwebby place to make more music…

we listen to maami’s lilting training CD in the evenings, and in the car…

It’s a beautiful musical ride so far. I still feel that firstborn would benefit from the gurukulam training, under maama’s watchful eye — even if firstborn doesnt take up music for life…

and my recent moment of motherly pride came when firstborn , unprodded, unbidden, identified the raaga of a karadi tales rhyme — ma “that’s valachi”


22 responses »

  1. Loved this – that your boy is learning all this wonderful stuff, that you are jamming with him, that there are people like the old colonel and gurukulam maami in this world. I felt a warm glow after reading this.

  2. He identifies Valacji? Whoa. Talented boy. I can imagine how proud you must be. .And you play the Veena? How about posting a duet of you and the boy?
    Looks like a lovely place to learn music.
    Why “no science, please” though? What is music if not a medley of frequencies of longitudinal waves that resonate when matched with the frequency of the receptor? Being music focused is great, but the apparent antipathy to science (the phrase “no science, please”) sees a little, umm…cultish?

    • this rule is only for serious students of music, who want to have a career in music fulltime, and are willing to spend XXX hours in the gurukulam and get the training.

      i see maama’s point, LG.

      and i am sure you see it all around you… like i was mentioning to TPL
      children who are studying in the higher secondary taper/pause/stop off their music — especially the ones who choose science — since they cant cope with both — it looks as if science is making the “no music” rule.

    • most mothers had a problem with that rule… 🙂

      and it appears, that maama even rejected the renowned Prince Rama Varma, 15 or so years ago, when he was scouting for a guru and wanted to choose mami…

    • the no science rule is wonderful i thought — science and cbse is way way way to monomaniacal for me…

      and if you look at it the other way, children who are studying in 9, 10, 11, 12 taper/pause/stop off their music — since they cant cope with both — it looks as if schoolwork is making the “no music” rule.

      yep… to answer the last q. the kids in the gurukulam DONT get to be that much at home… but that;s why it is a gurukulam

  3. mim, In my family, boys were forbidden to pursue music, probably for the same reason, boys generally groomed to be engineers. My grandfather’s reasoning was that music would be so distracting that the boy would be unable to focus on studies (synonymous with science)

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