Listening Matters

By Pushpa Raghuram, Bangalore

Where was it? Was it a playground? I was standing and watching a see saw game between Music and Memories! How strange! I experienced it during my last visit to Singapore. It happened in “Mandeville school of Music and drama”. I had gone there as a guardian of my granddaughter to watch her performance in the quarter ending programme of the school. It was located in a Mall. Was it not an odd location for a music school?


The name Mandeville rang a bell. Mandeville is a city in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, in the U.S. Wait, wait, I have read somewhere; sometime that one Bernard de Mandeville was a philosopher and a satirist too. May be, the school has something to do with him.

The door of the venue “Room number 525” was closed. I tried to push it open. It creaked horribly while letting me in. Naturally quite a few agitated eyes turned towards me. I ignored their stares and walked in on tiptoes. All the seats were occupied. I stood against the wall and tried to rest for a while.

(Poet Purandara Dasa)

I heard the Master of ceremonies(M.C.) announcing the next item. My eyes roved around the room. The performers were all tiny tots occupying the front rows.

My God? Was it a wrong venue? I checked the invite again. I was in the right room.

I saw a child perched on the piano seat. How cute? I started looking at the child with awe, for she took me back to my childhood days. It was not sans music. I did wake up almost every morning hearing the renditions of Suprabhatam and Sahasranamam aired by AIR (All India Radio) or playing the cassette of M.S. I had heard that when she was giving concerts, she was mesmerizing her audience with her devotional songs.

Another composer I was familiar with was Thyagaraja. During his annual aradhana celebrations, I had also heard his Pancharathna Krithis. I was told that when he was composing music day and night, his favorite God Lord Rama stood vigil. He was a blessed soul. What is incredible is that I could still remember the mouth-watering taste of the Prasadam, which was invariably Kesari with lot of raisins, nuts and pure ghee.

The M.C. again took over the mike to announce the next item. I heard him say something, but my memories dragged me again to my past.

As a teenager I digressed a bit from classical music. My peers liked a different genre of Music. To please them I was hooked on Radio Ceylon. At a designated time only Tamil songs were relayed. Music in my mother tongue! Kannadasan’s lyrics were my favorite for a while. I was told that he wrote best when he was tipsy. I learnt that the violin maestro Chowdaiah also played extremely well whenever he was high. Was their music spirit driven? Or had they read the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam written in the beginning of the last century?

I had heard many songs of Purandara Dasa, who was a rich merchant. After experiencing the miracles of Lord Krishna he gave up everything to become a Haridasa. He walked on the streets like a mendicant seeking and seeing God everywhere. He was intoxicated with devotion. His songs have become immortal in India. In fact, I kept a book containing his compositions, with commentary, under my pillow for a long time, to appreciate his lyrics.

Listening Matters -Continued here .....