Saturday, January 20, 2007

Friday night

10 pm.

The call I've grown to expect hasn't arrived. My curiosity (or is it anxiety?) piqued, I ring.

"At my friend's place. Will call you in an hour".

Second evening in a row. I shouldn't jump to conclusions, however...

I decide not to wait. In any case, it's late, and I haven't had dinner yet. A quick googlechat confirms that Aniruddh is awake and game for a drive on ECR. To top it all, he invites me to eat at his place.

So I'm off to Tiruvanmiyur. Comfort food: rasam s'Adam, puLikAchchal, javarisi vaDAm, yoghurt. What more does one need?

In the car, I turn on the shruti CD. We head south.

Aniruddh sings a lovely periAlwAr piece in nATa pallANDu pallANDu.

Next it's kAnada, with yenna solli azhaitthAl varuvAyO. Quite appropriate, I think to myself. I follow up with vIra hanumatE naMO namah.

By this time we've passed VGP and are approaching the toll gate before Mahabalipuram. I turn left into some Nagar or other. Fortunately the street takes us directly to the beach. Parking inches from where road meets sand, we lower the windows. Rich tones of the tambura recording slice through the still air. We then sing kalyANI. E tAvunarA is a song I haven't sung or played in a long time. Following this, it's mangaLa dEvatE in mArgadEs'I.

We see four men approaching in the rear view mirror. I hastily roll up the windows and lock the doors. It's 12.30 am. One never knows. But it's only a group of friends out for a walk. I feel rather ashamed.

It's time to head back. bRndAvana sAranga and svAminAthEna samrakShitO'ham suggest themselves, as I U-turn back north. D (2 kaTTai) shruti being a tad high for my voice, I explore the lower octave, and the notes of amRtavarShiNI blend nicely with the kAkali niShAda and antara gAndhAra overtones of the tambura. tAna, then AnandAmRtAkarShiNI.

Tiruvanmiyur is here. Dropping Aniruddh at his place, I head home.

The promised call has not arrived. At this point, it doesn't appear quite as upsetting.

I light a votive candle and place it in the aromatherapy candle holder. Ylang-ylang suffuses the room and envelops me in a heady calmness.

I sleep, soothed.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pongal o' 97, 05, 07

Catching up with Austin friends Sriraman, Shakuntala, and Rohit, I heard about the icy weather that has everyone holed up in their homes today. Reminded me of the ice storm in Texas on Pongal day, 1997:

boiling pots / sh
ivering cowboys
tamil nadu
harvest festiv
pongal arom
vermilion and sugarcane

bright saris
bullock carts


ice storm
frostbitten leaves

sleet on roads

skidding chevys

offices close
weather forecasts

Fast forward to Pongal 2005, my first in India after fifteen years of my US stay, and the last time Amma was able to celebrate it with kOlam, pongal and puja. We had just learned of her liver metastases over the new year, but she had taken the news very bravely.

Last year, Amma was too ill to celebrate Pongal and remained mostly bed-ridden.

Jan 15, 2007:
I was home most of the day, and took a walk in the evening to New Woodlands on Radhakrishnan Salai for an early dinner, around 6.45 pm. The flyover between Music Academy and Woodlands was all done up with lights, as was the gas station near Nilgiris. I walked back via TTK Road and Deivasigamani Street, past the vinAyaka temple outside Prof. SRJ's home, and the s'rInivAsa perumAL temple in Lakshmipuram.

Later at night, Aniruddh visited on his way back from the Book Fair: I dropped him back in Tiruvanmiyur and spent some time parked by the beach catching up with Ram, and listening to Bombay Jayashri's trayI - Tripura and the Trinity (2005, Rajalakshmi Audio). hiraNmayIm lakshmIm in lalitA and s'rI kamalAmbA in Ahiri are the most tranquil and soulful pieces in the collection.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

what listening to kIravANI can trigger

Listening to my recording of rAga kIravANI this Sunday morning brought back memories of my last Christmas-New Year break in the US, and sent me excavating my iPhoto archives.

The year transition was 2003-2004, shortly before my return to India in Feb 2004. I had gone to spend that break with Lars in Portland, Oregon.

I had taken my veena along from Austin: the idea was to leave it with him for safekeeping and as a keepsake. I arrived on Christmas with the veena safely ensconsed in its much-travelled wooden case.
Despite being tinged with sadness at my imminent parting, it was one of my nicest breaks ever. Lars, ever the gracious host, plied me with homemade pizza, my favorite raisin cookies from Fred Meyer, and wines from the northwest, Chile and Australia.

I also got to drive up Interstate 5 to Seattle to meet up with my friends Mala and Vega.

Back in Portland, we took night-walks through the Christmas-lit neighbourhood where children played with snowballs, made snowmen, and skateboarded on the slush. The starkness of barren branches and backyards laden with snow...

... was offset by the warmth and vivid colours of Lars' studio, where I spent several hours recording for an audio CD Taanam on Veena, my way of bidding adieu to my veena and making it feel at home among Lars' guitars.

We recorded using basic condensor mics on Lars' iMac onto Cubase, and Lars also captured some video footage for a test DVD made using iMovie and iDVD.

We also designed a CD cover...

And, yes, veena did appear to be at home among its European-origin cousins...

I did get one more chance to see Lars and veena, when I visited them in mid-February 2004, en route India. But that's a post for another evening...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Jan 2, Tracy visit

This evening I got to catch up with friend Tracy Thottam, who is visiting India from Austin. It was great seeing her after a period of nearly three years!

Back then, she and I used to be involved with Saheli, a pan-Asian group that provides peer counseling and referrals to survivors of domestic violence. She is also the artist who hand-painted the mirror shown here: a parting gift when I was leaving Austin...