Friday, October 16, 2009

Campaign for Open Minds

Launched October 11, 2009, the Campaign for Open Minds is one of the many efforts to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in India. This online campaign is a response to the alarming surge in attempts at conversion therapy and other negative reactions to increased visibility of LGBT people, following Delhi High Court’s historic July 2 2009 decision decriminalizing homosexuality. There are three open letters, and readers are invited to sign the one most appropriate to them:
  1. If you are a healthcare professional (doctor/nurse/counselor/mental health professional/medical social worker/ hospital administrator/public health scientist/researcher) in India or of Indian origin, please consider signing the letter opposing conversion therapy and supporting non-discriminatory, appropriate, and ethical treatment and healthcare for LGBT people.
  2. If you are a supportive parent, sibling, or friend of an LGBT person in India or of Indian origin, please sign the letter to express solidarity with your loved one(s) and register your opposition to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
  3. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, please sign the letter promoting the visibility of our diverse communities, and appealing for non-discriminatory treatment from our family and friends, healthcare establishment, media, educational institutions and workplaces in India.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vijayadasami 2009

The books snuggle in their new shelves, and the veenas steal a quiet moment together...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

bansuri on the beach

Quietly, reluctantly, I drag myself out of bed as the sun's rays diffusing through the curtains and the loudspeakers blaring from the auto-stand Pillaiyar temple jointly remind me it's time to prepare for the festive day.

Stepping outside to tie the coconut frond toraNams on the door, I note with pleasure that my considerate neighbours have already drawn a kOlam for me.

I'm treated to a delicious lunch, complete with my favorite okra curry, at my aunt's home. There, I delight in the antics of my kid nephew Goutham visiting from Bangalore; he of the limpid eyes and angelic smile.

Back home, I offer hastivadanAya namastubhyam in lieu of shlokas, along with arka (Calotropis) flowers and arugam (Cynodon) leaves to the Ganesha purchased last night at taNNiturai market near the Anjaneya temple in Mylapore.

During class with Kalpakam teacher, I simultaneously revel in and struggle with the anupallavi line Anandadam tam Ekadantam of mahAgaNapatim vandE in tODi.

I catch the last fifteen minutes or so of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia's open air concert at Besant Nagar beach, an event in connection with the Times Chennai Festival. It is raining, and Panditji has an assistant holding up an umbrella. It is beautiful to see them perform, framed against the black sky punctuated by lightning streaks, pausing only to wipe their instruments dry. A backstage view is below.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

gAna vana mayUrI

Kalpakam teacher turned 87 today, Aug 15, 2009. During the veena lesson I had an opportunity to record her playing the Dikshitar kRti gauri girirAja kumAri (see video below). The imagery of the epithet gAna vana mayUrI struck me as being ideally suited to mAmI herself. Here's wishing her a happy birthday and many more years of blissful wanderings in the gAna vana.

If you have a slow connection click on this link to be taken to an mpeg version on

Lyrics below courtesy Translation and transliteration here.

गौरि गिरि राज कुमारि
गान वन मयूरि गम्भीर कौमारि

दूरी-कृत दुरितेऽति ललिते
दुर्गा लक्ष्मी सरस्वती सहिते
शौरीश विरिञ्चादि महिते
शाम्भवि नमस्ते पर देवते

नव चक्र स्वरूपावतारे
नाद ब्रह्म वाचक तारे
शिव परमानन्दामृत धारे
शृङ्गारादि नव रसाधारे
भव गुरु गुह गण पति संसारे
भक्ति प्रद वेदागम सारे
पवन धारण योग विचारे
पालित भक्त जन मन्दारे

(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
तव चरण पङ्कजोद्भव तत्व समष्ट्यागारे
सुवर्ण मणि-मयादि पञ्च विंशति प्राकारे
सुधा सिन्धु मध्ये चिन्तामण्यागारे
शिवाकार मञ्चे पर शिव पर्यङ्क विहारे

variations -
चरणम् -
स्वरूपावतारे - रूपावतारे
वाचक तारे - वाचक धारे
रसाधारे - रस धारे

Friday, July 24, 2009

delusions of grandeur

Pigeon lands on lotus leaves, and struts around thinking he's a pheasant-tailed jacana. Dipping in for a gulp of water, he's startled by an enormous koi carp that surfaces to investigate. Delusions of grandeur flee in a whir of flapping wings.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

indra-kArmuka-gaNapatim bhajE'ham

indra-kArmuka-gaNapatim bhajE'ham

At the altar of Mayiladuturai Goddess

Review by G. Swaminathan of Smt. Kalpakam Swaminathan's concert on June 6, 2009, at Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai

Singing along with the veena, Kalpagam Swaminathan presented Dikshitar’s Abhayamba Vibhakti kritis in all their grandeur.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Muttuswami Dikshitar Jayanti, March 30, 2009

My guru Smt. Kalpakam Swaminathan led this effort to render some lesser known compositions of Muttuswami Dikshitar at a program arranged by Nada Inbam in Chennai.

The compositions that grew on me in the course of preparing for this concert were the meditative shrI nIlOtpala nAyikE (rAga nArI-rItigauLa), sprightly gOvindarAjam upasmahE nityam (mukhArI), and brooding gaurI girirAjakumArI (gaurI).

One of Kalpakam teacher's new students, Dr. Sivashree Gopalakrishnan, who has done her Sanskrit dissertation on Dikshitar, provides the narrative for the concert.

Kalpakam Swaminathan and L Ramakrishnan - Veena
Vasumathi Desikan and Sivashree Gopalakrishnan - Vocal
Amritha Murali - Violin
Tanjore Kumar - Mrudangam

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Searching for the roots of (my) anger-anguish-angst, I learn that these words, along with angina, have their source in the proto Indo-European angh, which means tight or painfully constricted.

Sharing this root is the sanskrRt amhas, which has been variously interpreted as distress, narrowness, oppression, and evil; and is considered one of the Vedic sins, along with pApa, Enas and agha.

Lacking recourse to a mitra or a varuNa to assuage my amhas, I take up the veena for a midnight session of varalakShmIm bhaja rE rE and kShitijAramaNam chintayE, in hopes that nikhilAghabhanjanI and aghaharaNa will intercede.