Monday, August 28, 2006

Jiffy Lube Scam

If you cannot access the video, it's about how Jiffy Lube cheats people by charging for things they never do. A NBC crew went to a number of Jiffy Lube shops to get their car serviced. In one of the shops, they are charged for a new fuel filter which is never changed. Before they take it to the service center, they mark the fuel filter. In 5 out of 9 centers, they are charged for a T-Tech Transmission service which is never done. When they ask the mechanics about it who initially deny it and after they are shown the video, are directed to the District Manager. The District Manager denies his identity!!!

I have been going to Jiffy Lube to get my oil changed for the past 1 year. I don't know how much money they cheated out of me. I'm never going there again. How can people be so unscrupulous?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kamboji or Thodi?

This is a funny incident that goes back to my early days in listening to Carnatic Music, sometime around 1999 or 2000. My repertoire of ragas that I could recognize was very limited and it was very difficult for me to identify a raga during the alapana itself. I somehow did better during the krithi, especially if the krithi was similar to a popular song in that raga. Also, I used to predominantly attend the concerts of TVS and he used to sing a lot of MMI songs. So, identifying the ragas was not a problem.

My brother and I decided to attend a concert of Trichur Ramachandran once. Since Krishna Gana Sabha was nearby, we sneaked in during the middle of the concert. After singing KaLala nErcina, he took up a raga for elaboration. That was when the fun started. We tried identifying the raga. First, we thought it was Kambodhi since that was the raga we were most familiar with. But after listening some more, we decided it was Thodi but we weren't sure. We continued to try and fit in other ragas like Bhairavi, etc. but still we thought it didn't really sound like any of the ragas we had recognized. Finally, we decided it must be either Kamboji or Thodi.

There was a Mama (Uncle in Tamil) sitting in front of us. Apparently, he had identified the raga and was enjoying it with gusto. After much deliberation, we decided to risk the embarassment and ask him. I slowly whispered into his ears "Mama, idhu Kambojiya illa Thodiya?" (Uncle, is this Kamboji or Thodi?). He gave us a "What the heck?" look and thundered "Ayoo, idhu Saveri"!!!!!

Carnatic Kadi

Q: Why was the Bhagavathar singing only ragams without a Nishadam in the concert?

A: Because his Knee (Ni) was weak.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ignorance is bliss or is it?

I'm not sure how to start this post. I am in a dilemma as to how far back in history I should go, to give readers a perspective of my progress as a listener and subsequently an understanding of the primary objective of this post. I shall try my best to provide a succinct summary of my formative years though I would like to write in detail about those stages, which a rookie might find useful.

During the first few years of my introduction to CM, I predominantly listened to Madurai Mani Iyer and subsequently T.V.Sanakaranarayanan, his nephew. I sometimes listened to the odd Santhanam, GNB or Ariyakudi tape but they did not appeal to me as much as MMI or TVS did. Especially MMI. TVS' concerts provided me a glimpse of what MMI's concert would have been like. My interest slowly progressed from plain listening to identifying ragas to singing snatches of the song, mostly the pallavi line.

It was with the introduction to MDR's music that my inclination for singing really grew. His laid-back, vilamba kala approach to krithi rendition made me sit up and listen to the song whereas with MMI or TVS I used to eagerly wait for the swara prastharams to start. I slowly started singing along more than I used to and also to look up the sahithya of krithis, much to the chagrin of my roommates. This was also the time when I started to learn more about the theoretical aspects of Carnatic music such as the melakartha ragas, janya ragas, shruthi etc.

This compounding interest has grown to a point where I can sing a full krithi along with the singer without having to lookup the lyrics. I have memorized quite a number of krithis by repetitive listening alone. But this should not be misconstrued that I sing well. My singing is marked by a notable lack of shruthi, sense of laya, apaswarams etc. Naturally I'm embarassed by this and would like to fix the problem. This would entail learning Carnatic music from a good teacher. I would like to learn atleast the basics to have a better understanding of what I'm singing.

Now comes the conundrum that I've been trying to solve in my head for the past few days. While learning CM might enable me to appreciate it better, I'm also worried about a particular quality that I have noticed among listeners who have learnt music. They are quick to pounce on minor flaws in a concert and deem the artist as a no good while I might have found the concert perfectly enjoyable. I've been embarassed several times when I've proclaimed a concert as good only to be told that there were signifcant sruthi lapses. Should I care? Should it change my perception of the concert and the artist? Would I be bogged down by the technical details in a krithi rather than enjoying its beauty? Would I end up looking for flaws in a concert?

I'm rather worried about the negative influences since I primarily listen to MDR and MMI and both are known for their unorthodox approach to CM. Definitely, the learning would enable me to appreciate Ariyakudi, GNB better than I currently do. But would it make me enjoy my favorites less? What am I appreciating in music now? What am I looking for in music? Is it the music itself or is it the intellectual outlet that music provides? I'm definitely missing something here. It should be possible to understand and appreciate music with an open mind. I do miss understanding the technical aspects quite frequently. I know I should be aiming to strike a balance between the enjoyment of the music itself and the technical aspects of it.

So the next question is when does one gain the maturity as a listener to strike such a balance? I wish I could find a teacher who'll help me go past these self-doubts and provide me a tutelage that would help maintain this balance. But the current pedagogical methods for teaching CM do not provide me that confidence. I'm probably too inquisitive and wanting to know too much too soon. If I decide to start learning, it brings up new questions. Should I just learn the basics or should I try to get trained to atleast the level of a amateur? Should I make my intentions known to my teacher? What would be the commitment level of the teacher if I told him/her that I just want to learn the basics? Ideally, I would like to be nurtured and trained like a professional.

Music serves as a great outlet for my creativity, satisfies my intellectual hunger and provides an inspiration for bhakthi while constantly reminding me of its spiritual nature. If learning CM is going to improve the quality of this experience, I'm all for it. I shall know only after I take the plunge.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Guru Smarana

M.D.Ramanathan (MDR) was a disciple of Sri Tiger Varadachariar. MDR's bhakthi for his Guru is legendary. He gets very emotional talking about Tiger. It's no wonder he pays obeisance to his Guru in whatever way possible.

I recently listened to a moving Manasa Guruguha in Anandabhairavi.  To hear him sing it, it's almost as if Dikshithar sings it. The composition itself is a very beautiful one. In particular, the last part of the charanam goes like this:

Nathwa Sree Guru Charanam

Kruthwa Namasmaranam Jithwa Moha varanam

Mathwa Thwadeka Sharanam


Prostrate (“nathwa”) on His feet (“guru charanam”) ;

Mediate (“kruthwa”) on His name(“namasmaranam”);

Conquer (“Jithwa”) the veil of illusion(“Moha”),

and Think (“Mathwa”) of Him as your (“thwa”) sole (“eka”)  refuge (“sharanam”).


He sings those lines and proceeds to meditate on those lines. He was a person who really lived those words. I could sense the emotion in his voice when he sings those lines. Truly a great soul!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

13.1 miles

Proof that I really ran those 13.1 miles

Miles - 13.1

Goal - 2 hours 05 minutes or less

Actual Time - 2 hours 12 minutes 32 seconds

10 excuses for not meeting my goal.

1. I did not run faster.

2. I should have trained in hot weather more.

3. I should not have been stupid and should have drunk water at mile 22.

4. I was listening to PMI's explosive Thani for Koniyadina too attentively and forgot that I was in a race.

5. I shouldn't try to be too much of a Gentleman and say 'Ladies first' in a race.

6. I remembered that I had to take my Bib only after I had go into my car in the morning and as a result I was terribly nervous.

7. I had only one pin for the Bib (lost the other three) and was worried that my photos wouldn't come through.

8. I started wondering midway "Sripathi, why the heck are you doing this?".

9. I was too busy ogling at the chicks running alongside me.

10. I took the story of the hare and the tortoise too literally.

In all seriousness, I'm pretty happy with my performance. It was a bit difficult to run harder in the heat and I sagged towards the end. I could have probably saved a few minutes here and there and by running the last mile more aggresively but there are always reasons.

I have started training harder to prepare myself to run a full marathon. I've been running long distances the past week. Last Saturday I managed to run 16 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes with a total running time of 3 hours and 10 minutes. It was very tough though and I recovered fairly well the next day. This week my preparation hasn't been all that great so far with only a 6 mile run yesterday. I'm hoping to compensate during this weekend by doing atleast 10 miles on both Saturday and Sunday.

I also realized that I need to strengthen my core and have been doing some exercises regularly. Having a weak core makes your shoulders drop and the body language becomes poor. I ran a few miles yesterday keeping my core and shoulders tight and found that I was able to run faster than my usual pace. Apart from these things, I also did some biking at the gym last week to do some cross-training. Biking for a long time was tough and you don't lose a lot of calories. But it does train your quads well.

If you are wondering why I'm so obsessed with running and why I make a big deal out of it, well, I'm wondering too. I have certainly transformed from the average slouch on the couch to someone who cannot live without exercise. The key to the transformation was the embarassment of having trained poorly for the Relay. I was stung by my poor performance and started to train for the next year's Relay a week after it. I have managed to set a few goals and kept myself motivated. It also helps that you get to be alone while running and it's a great time to collect your thoughts, do some introspection and solve problems without any intrusion. But the motivation to get the better of yourself, to challenge yourself to do something that the mind thinks it cannot, is the best part and I love to do that day every time I run.

I'd like to write more on how running is helping me in life, how to stay motivated and how you can get started. I'm a novice at this wonderful sport but I've already come into contact with some wonderful atheletes in this sport and they continue to inspire me each time my mind wants to give up.

Let's see how 26.2 goes!!