Sunday, August 31, 2014


The lack of identifying Raagas has never been a negative when it comes to appreciating good music.  At the end of the day, it's important to lose yourself in the realm of music, instead of worrying about the nitty gritty details associated with it.  That's what I like to say.  But, heart of hearts, I have a deep regret that I don't have the wherewithals to understand the grammar and finer nuances.  I have always felt that to understand and produce good music, it requires the divine being's blessings.  If you are a bad student in academics, you can always improve by working hard.  If you have a good training as a kid in sports, you can be good in sports.  But, when it comes to music, it's just a binary, as far as vocal is concerned.  You either have it or don't.  You can improve your musical skills only if you have it in the first place.  I am not ashamed to say that I don't have even an iota of it.  But I definitely feel sad about it.

Anyway, my parents are here for a couple of months.  So, my wife and I decided to learn some Dasakams (ten verses) of the Narayaneeyam.  My mother learnt it for close to five years, thanks to my friend's mother, who served as an awesome teacher.  So, my mother was keen that we pick up at least a few Dasakams before she heads back.  Learning the divine verses of Narayaneeyam is no easy task.  It comprises of 100 Dasakams, and requires enormous effort and concentration to be able to recite properly.

So, my wife and I decided one day to start the learning process.  My mother started the first verse with a basic Raagam.  For a person who has absolutely no knowledge of music, it's very hard to pick the basic, let alone finer, nuances.

She said that before chanting the first verse of the first Dasakam, it is very important to start with the sixth verse and then continue till the end.

In my loud, hoarse voice, I repeated,

तत्ते प्रत्यग्रधाराधरललितकलायावलीकेलिकारं
लावण्यस्यैकसारं सुकृतिजनदृशां पूर्णपुण्यावतारम्।
सिञ्चत् सञ्चिन्तकानां वपुरनुकलये मारुतागारनाथ

My wife, midway through the rendering abruptly stopped.

"Amma, I can't learn like this", she said.

"Have some dedication and sincerity", I shot back.

"How can anybody learn any music with you in the picture?", she said.

"You have changed the Shruti at least three times within the first couple of lines.  How do you expect us to keep up with this? Even amma will find it difficult to teach us."

"What are you saying? We are just starting the first verse and already, you have so many comments? I will pick up as the class goes on", I said.

"Not as the class goes on, but as many classes go, you may pick up", she said.

"Amma, you teach me separately", both of us said simultaneously to my mother.

"It's just the first verse.  You will only improve as time goes on", she said.

Anyway, this continued for a few days before we finished the first Dasakam.  It is a slow process, but then, what's the hurry in the world.

Learning is always a difficult process.  Learning it right makes it all the more difficult.  But then, when it comes to the chanting of the divine verses, there's a huge difference between reciting and reciting them right.

For everything, there is a divine hand.