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Graduate in Maths, Postgraduate in English literature. Worked as a medical transcriptionist, also as a teacher.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The man who 'mandolinized' carnatic music - U. Srinivas

          Repeating the line from Elton John's 'Candle in the wind'- It seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind.

Hi friends,
                 For more than a month this space has been remaining idle and I keep searching for topics to write. It can be 'writer's block' or simply some other excuse. But now I am back again and not with happiness that I have found something to write, but with a heavy heart. September 19, 2014 will remain a sad day for me and other music lovers due to the sudden and untimely death of U Srinivas who was more recognized as Mandolin Srinivas. If chess is to Vishwanathan Anand, saxophone to Kadri Gopalnath, so was the western instrument Mandolin very unique to U Srinivas. It takes so much courage, commitment and will power to bring in something new and make it widely popular especially in the ocean of Carnatic music. Like guitar and violin (or fiddle), mandolin is a predominantly a western instrument belonging to the lute family and today when I 'wikied' for the word Mandolin, I found a lengthy detail related to the instrument, but mostly related to western countries and when I pressed 'Ctr+F' I could find some four lines about our  U Srinivas tucked somewhere. When I read the list of famous Mandolin performers, it was lengthy and all of them are from Western world, except for U. Srinivas which I could find only with the help of Ctr + F. Thanks to Srinivas, I can distinguish the sound of mandolin with so much ease and I never cared to notice how the instrument looked like. Only after hearing the news of his death, I searched for the images of mandolin to see how it looked like. If some are born to make path breaking inventions and discoveries during their lifetime, Srinivas with the help of his father discovered that Carnatic music can be played in mandolin also. The initial training was given by his father who discovered the talent in Srinivas. He sent him to a guru but as the guru  did not know how to play the mandolin, he would sing the song so that Srinivas could play the song in the instrument. Before anybody realized it, he started giving concerts with his instrument at the tender age of 9. He had given concerts throughout the world, and I think he deserved more than 'Padmashree' award conferred by the Indian Government. But now, it is too late and we can console ourselves by telling that this unique personality is above these civilian awards. All through his life, his name was associated with mandolin. We cannot separate mandolin and Srinivas unlike Lalgudi Jayraman, Kunnukudi Vaidyanathan, S Balachander (Veena fame)........


                                                        Because I am an ardent listener of carnatic music and trained in the same, I grew up listening to the music in our radio and good old Doordarshan channel. I am not fortunate enough to see this man's live performance. As he belongs to my era, U Srinivas was a kind of hero to me like Vishwanathan Anand. I can never forget his smile that he used to have when he was performing. He always used to smile at his accompanists while he was playing his dear instrument. That smile used to say all. For him it was a plaything with which he could play in any way he wanted to. During the Doordarshan days, I used to wait every Sunday afternoon to watch 'Spirit of Unity' program in which music and dance programs were aired. I had watched lots of his performances in those episodes. He also used to come to Trivandrum to give concerts at Soorya cultural programs held at an auditorium. The sound of mandolin is not subdued like veena and not heightened like violin, and it stands out on its own. Srinivas brought in mandolin and merged with Carnatic music in such a manner that we feel that this is suitable to Carnatic music just like Veena, flute and violin.
                                             I am never a fan of child prodigies because I believe that they achieve too much too soon and they have nothing else left to achieve for the rest of their lives. I am amazed why death snatches them away earlier than other normal mortals. Srinivas used to have personal problems and that maybe one of the reasons for his very untimely death. Unless these personalities live to be nonagenarians, we can never imagine that there is death waiting for them at their doorstep. As I finish writing this emotional article, 'Vatapi Ganapathim' which he played in his instrument keeps ringing in my ears.
                   Mandolin Srinivas, we thought you were immortal, and of course you are immortal through mandolin. Long live the one and only mandolin genius!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014


                 What is aimlessness? It is when you do not have any specific purpose in your life. Does all of us go through a phase when we experience what is the purpose of our life? I believe everyone of us do have that feeling when we think where our life is heading and how should we take it forward. Some of us will term it as 'midlife crisis'. Save for the poorest strata of the society who struggle to live each day, rest of us do go through this phase. The landmarks-when during our childhood we make lasting friendships during our school days, score high marks in the exams, win prizes in the competitions, get into professional courses, finish our college and land into dream jobs and get the taste of our 1st pay cheque, and ' if lucky', marry a person of our dreams, become a parent, and then see the same cycle repeated with our children. Majority of us do fall into this category, and if not, try extra hard so that we can 'fit in' the stereotyped society that we have woven for ourselves. Phew!!! Somewhere during this journey of our lives, even if everything 'falls' in the right slots, and try hard to keep ourselves busy and hectic just to tell others that we are busy and fine, we experience that simmering sense of boredom which creeps into that 'routine' life. We feel like we are groping in the dark but do not want to get out of that for the fear of unknown or not to disturb the routine. We, as adults, work hard, try to find satisfaction in our jobs, keep the gentle family balance floating, all this at the cost of body aches and ailments so that we hope to relax sometime in future and live happily ever after. We do not want to stand and stare at the thing called 'breath of life'. What is the definition of having a job or 'do you work?'? Something to support the family or for some others, just to fatten our purses, they work under 'somebody' even if they feel frustrated and stressful. To work like a slave just because you do not have any other option as you have to support your family is one thing. Some are bold enough to come out of the demanding jobs which are nothing but slavish and pursue their true passions and try to make a career out of them. This path will be directionless at first, but if one draws a map for himself/herself and follow that with true passion and perseverance, one is sure to see a light of different kind. There are few people who have come out of the corporate jobs to carve a niche for themselves.

                              I do not fall under the category of 'full-time' working person for a long time just to see a pay cheque at the end of the month. I have to acknowledge that my husband supports me in whatever I do and that is why I try out various options. I have been in and out of jobs over a period of time and each workplace' the work atmosphere was of course different. In one place the nature of job was good, but the pay was less and in the other vice versa. Except in one place, all the other workplaces were unsatisfactory in one respect or other but each one was a learning experience. Now I am back to being myself or 'aimless'. I am doing things I like to do. Hopefully, this period of 'aimlessness' will be fruitful. Now, why am I writing this article and what is this aimed at? This is one of the things that makes me happy and energetic. I do not know how many of you around can manage to be in my shoes. But if you get any chance to pause in your hectic life, do that and it is alright to be aimless once a while to discover your true self.