Monthly Archives: August 2009

Beyond Blue and White

This article originally appeared in the Metro Plus edition of the Hindu

I’m hanging onto dear life climbing up a steep staircase with rickety banisters. I have to hold onto the next step with my hands before I get on it. My friend Marcel makes it look easy as he quickly climbs the stairs carrying a toddler in his arms. We’re inside a working windmill and it’s our first day in the charming town of Delft.

On reaching the top, I get my first aerial view of the town. The gently rotating blades of the windmill frame the canals lined with red brick houses below.

Delft, located in southern Holland between Rotterdam and the Hague, is a text book university town. Famous for its eponymous porcelain and pottery, it seems like a stretched canvas of gentle blue hues and students riding bicycles in the foreground. This is Vermeer country — immortalised by Johannes Vermeer in his beautiful paintings using the streets and houses of Delft as background.

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Definition of Failure

Students taking a test at the University of Vi...
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My children are writing their first term quarterly exams this week. My older girl has a morbid fear of exams. Halfway through the three hour session, she loses her concentration, and gets an anxiety attack. But if she were to attempt the same paper at home, she would have answered almost all the questions correctly. So what goes wrong in the examination hall?

The pre-exam tension simply pulls her down. Subsequently, the poor results erode her self-confidence and she finds it hard to get past this. Once she confided in me that she felt she was a “failure” because of her poor grades. She is not alone in this. A lot of students in this country are affected by their school performance. Somehow they directly link intelligence to grades and consider themselves “stupid” if they score poorly in their exams.

What is our definition of failure? Does failure mean scoring poorly in tests? In my view, school exams are but just one measure of how well the child has understood the concepts of a subject.  It is no way a measure of your child’s intelligence. I know my daughter is a multi-faceted personality and has a good aptitude in a lot of areas. Whether it is painting a canvas in oils, or picking up the latest dance steps in her Bharatanatyam class, or writing a poem about bullies in school for the newspaper, her talents are phenomenal. I don’t need tests to prove whether she is “smart”. But I want her to enjoy the learning process in school and develop the skills and confidence to explore and analyze whatever she sees around herself. Learning must be a joyous experience. If children undergo a rigid curriculum that involves constant testing, will they become successful people in the long run? Hasn’t the system failed them?

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Recent concert in Malleswaram

Recently I had a most interesting experience at a temple concert in Malleswaram. The power went out, as it is wont to in Bangalore, right in the middle of the concert. The generator did not kick in immediately and so we ended up playing in the dark, with an emergency lamp providing light. Check it out right here.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdxsiU_tTi0

CDs have been released!

I am delighted to announce the release of my latest project in the form of two CDs.

Saranagathi – Kulashekara Alwar’s Perumal Thirumozhi
A compilation of 30 select verses from Perumal Tirumozhi of the Divya Prabandham. The music is in the form of a ragamalika (30 different ragas) and has an introduction by Shri Velukkudi Krishnan. The music has been composed by Shri Ashok Subramanium (San Jose, USA) and Chitra is accompanied by Charulatha Ramanujam (violin) and C.Cheluvaraju (mridangam).

Anjaneya Arathi
The universal appeal of Anjaneya or Hanuman is captured in this Audio CD which presents the work of several composers, in multiple languages. Seven songs on Anjaneya have been rendered in a concert format. Chitra is accompanied by Charulatha Ramanujam (violin) and C.Cheluvaraju (mridangam).http://bit.ly/L5yyx

Carnatic CD releases:Chitra Srikrishna

My latest CD releases are now available in the market. Here are the details.

Saranagathi – Kulashekara Alwar’s Perumal Thirumozhi
A compilation of 30 select verses from Perumal Tirumozhi of the Divya Prabandham. The music is in the form of a ragamalika (30 different ragas) and has an introduction by Shri Velukkudi Krishnan. The music has been composed by Shri Ashok Subramanium (San Jose, USA) and I’m accompanied by Charulatha Ramanujam (violin) and C.Cheluvaraju (mridangam).

Anjaneya Arathi
The universal appeal of Anjaneya or Hanuman is captured in this Audio CD which presents the work of several composers, in multiple languages. Seven songs on Anjaneya have been rendered in a concert format. Charulatha Ramanujam (violin) and C.Cheluvaraju (mridangam) have accompanied me for this recording.

Pricing & Availablity
Both CDs have been produced by Swathi Soft Solutions, Chennai (http://www.kalakendra.com) and are priced at Rs. 150/ each.

The CDs can be bought at Kalakendra’s online store http://bit.ly/L5yyx and paid for in Rupees (Rs. 150) or US dollars ($3.25 each)

They will also be available in Chennai at Shankara Hall, Alwarpet and other music outlets and Bangalore at Calypso, Jayanagar, Malleswaram and Landmark and Music World.

Kindly forward this information to other rasikas who may be interested in classical music and the Divyaprabandham. You can follow me on twitter  (www.twitter.com/chitrasri) or on my blog site.

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Stellar acting

Vaaranam Aayiram album cover
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I watched a Tamil movie after a long time – Vaaranam Aayiram (2008 release). The cast has Surya in a double role of father and son, Simran, Divya Spandana and Meghna Reddy and has been directed by Gautham Menon.

The storyline is simple. It’s about the strong bond that exists between a father and his son. The father has been an inpiration for his son throughout his life. When the son scrapes through college, singing and dancing his way, fighting with bullies, his father has been silently supportive. Later when the son gets into a decline after losing his first love, the father gently guides him back to sanity holding his hand, literally and figuratively.

Surya has done a stellar job. He’s a chip of the old block. I always considered his father Sivakumar to be one of the finest actors to grace the Tamil screen. This movie is mercifully devoid of tear-jerking scenes. The emotions come across subtly and creates a deeper impact. The scenes where the mother chastises the father for smoking in the hospital, or when the girlfriend is flumoxxed at the hero’s declaration of love on first sight are realistic.

Now the part where I had a hard time coping. The whole movie could have been a lot tighter. It was way too long (2 hrs 44 mins) and there were some absurd scenarios. I almost laughed out loud when the father tells the son to go to America just to get the girl! In an age where one goes abroad for better education or career prospects and not to win the girl and return to India this seemed corny. I’d also like to meet the consular officer at the embassy who grants visas for this reason alone!

Also in my opinion, there are too many Tamil movies out there that focus on love blossoming on campus, and couples hooking up in the name of love and pretty much nothing else. While I do believe “love is a many splendoured thing” and a grand emotion (I still read romance novels and write the occasional story) its a far cry from reality. To many, movies are a form of escapism from reality, but where does one draw the line?

One scene at the beginning of the movie just didn’t add up. When the son is given the news of his father’s death while he’s on a secret military mission (enroute on the plane), I’m not sure if this happens in real time. If the military were to convey deaths and births to soldiers on a mission, would it not detract from their course of duty? But here I go again, I’m thinking logically.

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Flautist on the hill

This article originally appeared in the Metro Plus edition of the Hindu

The yellow is almost blinding as I catch my first glimpse of the temple. The brightly-coloured figurines lining the walls of the temple look freshly painted. I’m at the ancient Himavad Gopalaswamy betta temple near Bandipur in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka.

Built by Chola king Ballala around 1315 AD, the temple sits on a hill (hence the term ‘betta’ in Kannada) at nearly a height of 1400 mt, overlooking the Bandipur National Forest.

I notice two flights of stairs as I get to the base of the hill. The bright yellow gopuram draws me, and I try to keep up with my children who run up the stairs. At the end of the first flight, the stairs take a 90-degree turn. I pause to catch my breath before climbing the remaining steps.

Read the rest of the article here.