April 17, 2006

Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana 2006.

I realized the past weekend that RTP stands for more than Research Triangle Park, Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi. So did k, he beat me to this post though :)

April 14, 12:30 AM"Where is my blue spring tshirt? The one I wear when I feel springy?"
"I don't know. Should I iron my saree?"
"I don't know. I left my tshirt right here!" ("here" being a small square next to one of the legs of the bed frame").

April 14, 1:00 AM - "Sign here." (he hurriedly points to some random location on the tax form)
"Where? It says here 'Signature of the applicant'. Shouldn't I sign the 'Signature of the spouse' section?"
"Why not?"
"Do you have to ask so many questions now? Because we decided to file separately, so you are the applicant, not the spouse!"
"Hmph" (I do the "sign with a flourish" and "toss paper aside" bit, trying to look offended and not so ignorant)

April 14, 1:30 AM - "Did you pack your perfume bottle?"
"I'll just use yours."
"No, pack yours. People identify smells in this country. Remember the other day, the lady at the mall found out that you are wearing Lavendar whatever perfume?"
"You pack it. I am busy"


April 14, 4.45 PM (D-day, I am at work and k has gone to pick up S~) - "Hello, where are you? I am done with my code deliveries."
"S~ is making pizzas."
"Yeah, I know, but I thought you said we had to leave by 4.30 PM SHARP?"
(muffled shout in the background) "Ok, I gotta go. I am disturbing his concentration"

April 14, 5.20 PM - "Hello, where are you?"
"On Main street. S~ finally finished making the pizzas for the trip!"

April 14, 7.30 PM - We finally start driving to Cleveland from Cincinatti (we picked up Sb~ at Cincinatti) after gobbling up S~'s pizzas. That's four of us in the car - S~ (the meticulous pizza maker), k (the guy who has heard the word "Carnatic" the least number of times in his life), Sb~ (Mr.I-am-just-a-talented-kid - besides playing the Mirudangam, he pretty much just ate and slept in this trip) and yours truly (wondering what she is doing with this weird bunch of people).

April 15, 1.00 AM - (at Comfort Inn help desk) "We were told that we will get a welcome package with the tickets to the concert tomorrow..."
"Here is your key...we got no welcome package. Maybe we'll get some tomorrow"
We all attack the new problem with a buzz of excitement, "What? No welcome package?"
"But, it has the meal tickets!"
"And the concert tickets!"
"And the meal tickets"

Ok, problem not solved but having completed our excited buzz, we go upstairs to our room.

One single bed.

Four people.

And we are supposed to be special patrons or something, we bought the patron package deal for our Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana Trip (we did get a nice packet of gems since we were "patrons").

Back to help desk. S~ calls the coordinator and hangs up pretty soon and tells us, "Seems, we were already "informed" that they were short of rooms in the Comfort Inn and we should have chosen the Ramada Inn deal."

Drive to Ramada Inn, twenty minutes by car.

April 15, 1.45 AM - Second excited buzz of conversation about who will wake up first.
"I take the longest to have a bath, so I need to wake up last" (now, where is the logic in that?!)
Me - "I take the shortest bath. I need to wake up as late as possible."

"You can have a quick bath early in the morning, before all of us and start getting dressed up, see?"

I no see nothing, dude.

"Hmm...since you take a short bath, you need to go last so that we don't get stuck at the last minute with a long-bath-taker guy in the restroom"

There! Beaten by cold-blooded logic.

"We need to get up at 6 AM SHARP!"


April 15, 7.00 AM - "Its 7 AM, abbe yaar wake up."

S~'s pleasant voice greets us good morning.

I need coffee.

April 15, 8.15 AM - Sb~ "I had my breakfast. I am going to the concert hall. See you guys."


April 15, 8.45 AM - We reach the concert hall.

Initial Impressions - Packed with people. Stalls selling carnatic music CDs, S.Ve.Shekhar drama DVDs, Crazy Mohan drama DVDs, Cho's DVDs. Banners announcing RMKV silk saress, Land Marvel luxury time-shared cottages, S.Ve.Shekhar comedy serial coming soon, Jaya TV. The glint of silk everywhere you look, jewels, trendy and gaudy, kids dressed in pattu-pavadais, organizers running about (one ran into the hall carrying a case of starbucks coffee cups - wonder which artist demanded a "sooda sooda oru cup kaapi" :) Was absolutely pleasant to hear bits of Tamil everywhere we went!

S~, k and I walk inside the auditorium and its packed. Every seat is taken by a human or a sweater. Let me explain the sweater-resevation-system to you.

Almost a quarter of the seats in the hall was "reserved" by sweaters, some of the more imaginative reservation tools were hand kerchiefs, towels, angavasthrams and shawls. We settled back, against the walls at the back, tried to look nonchalant and squinted at the stage.


If I thought I saw colors outside the auditorium, I was mistaken, the entire stage was filled in a soft yellowish glow, rows and rows of silk-saree clad mamees and silk-dhoti clad mamas sat on the stage. The mamas on the left were tuning their respective instruments and the maamis talking to each other and laughing. And in the center, sat...we held our breaths (atleast I did)...Smt.Sudha Raghunathan! She looked amazing in a maroon, gold bordered pattu saree and thick jasmine flowers (we guessed it was plastic and confirmed it that evening, but still... :) adorning her long plait. Among the other big names were Umayalpuram K.Sivaraman, Flute Ramani, Neyveli Santhanagopalan (vocal), Aruna Sayeeram (vocal), Srimushnam Raja Rao (mridangam), Mannargudi Easwaran (mirdangam), Thiruvarur Vaithyanathan (mridangam), Vellore Ramabadhran (mirdangam), Papanasam Ashok ramani (vocal).

I acted like one of those giggly-excited teenage girls who would say, "Oh my God, it's Shah Rukh Khan! I am about to faint". I, being more mature and all, said, "Look, there's Sudha Raghunathan!" and pointed one long index finger straight at her.

S~ seemed highly amused at my gushing. I repeated myself, to k this time and he shrugged his shoulders, "Oh, okay, cool."

Anyway, I decided to capture one of the seats that had been reserved by the sweater reservation system and told the startled looking uncle in the next seat (who seemed ready to pounce on me), "Just until they come back".

The Pancharatna keertanas started with Jagada and ended with Endharo Mahanubhavulu and even for a carnatic music novice like me, it sounded great. Sb~ played the mirudangam for one of the keertanas (he said he was pretty nervous playing next to the maestros but I think he did a good job, as usual).

After the keerthanas, the individual singing began. A bespectacled, precocious looking girl of about eleven, in a bright blue pattu pavada won the prize for her rendition. I was pretty amazed by how much control she had over her voice. Many more kids and teenagers sang after her. I was kind of dis-oriented when I walked outside the auditorium and I would find those very teenagers that sang the complicated ragas inside, talking with a heavy accent, "I was like...she was like...and then I was like..." (you know what I mean? It was like they were two different people, inside the auditorium and outside).

The Aradhana committee provided free breakfast and lunch for us - chakara pongal, upma and delicious pickle (I liked the pickle the best) for breakfast, bisibela bath, some bondas, curd rice and pickle and a few more items I cannot recall. We ate outside the Cleveland State University student center. The student center was quite different from UK's - decorated with flags (in photo) and with glass doors all around - very bright and cheerful. We posed for snaps next to the tulips outside the auditorium, one maami who sashayed past us in a silk saree looked at us ( and said, "Oh, that's a nice pose!" and then Sb~ says to k, "Now, why didn't someone tell us that when we posed for a photo here?"

After lunch, S~ stayed back for more individual singing sessions while the rest of us came back to Ramada Inn for a short nap, which eventually turned out to be long. We woke up at 4.30PM, and left to Starbucks for coffee (posed for a desi-ishtyle snap outside starbucks :).


April 15, 7.00 PM - The biggie that day was the Sudha Raghunathan concert at 7 PM. We planned to reach an hour early and reached at 7 PM SHARP. We stood at our now familiar spot against the wall (even the lone sweater-reserved seat now was taken by the owner of the sweater). We stood fidgeting for a few minutes and decided to go to the balcony to see if we could get a better view or better seat (or any seat).

We didn't find any seats but we did find a friendly aunty there who kept smiling at us. We continued fidgeting there for a few minutes as we heard the announcement that Sudha Raghunathan was going to start singing soon.

Suddenly the aunty turned towards me and said, "You know you can sit on the stage, don't you?"


"You can sit on the stage! This is a once in a life time opportunity!"

"We can? It is?"

"Yes, come on! Didn't you hear the announcement? They are letting people from the audience onto the stage! You are all youngsters, go on to the stage!"

I hesitated a bit but decided to "go for it" (as the aunty put it)! We went to backstage and were ushered on to the stage and finally landed up a few feet away from Sudha Raghunathan! Imagine that (I have a video of her singing in-between many heads blocking her, will upload that soon)!

After an amazing four hour concert (this inspite of the fact that she had a back spasm and was not feeling well), after singing Chinna Chiru Kiliye (audience request - the only song that I recognized) she ended by smiling (God! She has a charming smile!) at the audience and saying, "All I request is that you be just you, the way you were today. That is all that an artist needs!".

k was totally bowled over by her voice. He came all flushed off the stage and exclaimed that it was one of the best concerts EVER!

We had dinner at Comfort Inn (arranged by the Aradhana Committee), we sat on the floor because there were no chairs free (inspite of us being "patrons" and all that) and an uncle told us, "Please be careful...the carpet you see..."

Oh well, I can't complain since I had puliyodarai, avial, two spoons of a mixed vegetable curry, curd rice and the same delicious pickle. The guys apparently thought the food was too less and so we made a trip to Dennys to complete our dinner.

Oh and I wore a saree to the Sudha Raghunathan concert, blue (same color as her saree...*blush*).


April 16, 9.00 AM - We had a nice, leisurely breakfast at Ramada Inn (cornflakes, orange juice, coffee, muffins) and went about an hour late to the Ranjani and Gayatri concert. The highlight of their programme was the Marathi Abhang that they sang, it was amazing and the audience gave them a standing ovation.

After the raffle prizes were announced (they were giving away a sitar, an autographed mirudangam, a gaudy necklace and a dinner with an artist ticket, I think - we didn't win any though), we had lunch and set out to The Shiva Vishnu Temple at Greater Cleveland.

A few hours of driving, general song sessions, story-exchanges and a whole bunch of nonsense talk later, we stopped at Udipi at Columbus for what we thought would be a "light snack". It turned out to be a heavy dinner (especially for S~ and Sb~) at the end of which we ended up taking short walks outside Udipi to digest some of the food we ate :) We took a bunch of snaps there and S~ absolutely refused to be photographed (yes, the yellow envelope is him).

Sb~ sang more songs on the way back while I managed to narrate a few stories, k and S~ provided much entertainment with their antics (S~ with his nervous excitement and constant urging, "Chalo Bhe, lets run" and k sauntering behind as slowly as he can).

April 16, 9.00 PM - We dropped Sb~ at Cincinatti, k demanded a cup of coffee again! We left to Lexington at around 9.30 PM where S~ regaled us with some more of his stories. We dropped him at his place at around 11.00 PM and reached home at 11.15 PM (We had planned - I had atleast - to reach home at 4 PM SHARP).

And that concludes my essay for "Please describe how you spent your weekend in 2500 words or less." - 5 marks :)


RTD2 said...

Wow! I attended the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana last 3 years or so, but never noticed half the details that you described! And SB is Sujan! Hi Sujan! And yes, I remember sitting behind Unnikrishnan one year because we had the good grad student sense to be reallly late!!

dinesh said...

That really is an awesome description ! Relived everything there for a few minutes and I am kicking myself for not being able to make it there (I know you're happy about me kicking myself :)). Really glad you could enjoy yourself there. It's always better to have somebody knowledgeable with you. Learning stuff there can be fun too. RT and I were at this sanjay concert and she taught me all this complicated thaalam patterns that I didn't know existed. It was fun ! Remember RT ?

Glad you could sit right behind sudha. She's the best in the business, so yeah, would have been fun for you. And about those talented kids and their accents, it's something that makes me wonder as well. Nice observation !

And super a ezhudhirukke !

Hellboy said...

6/5 for the write up - one extra mark for the fun you guys had :). The way you wrote about the plight of the "Patrons" added a nice humorous touch to the article.

dont know much about classical music but can relate to attending events that we really like. next time when you attend an event like this you can take it to the next level with live blogging and podcasting :)

kamal said...

Man! Awesome description, no wonder your blog is better than mine, you should title it "Reporting from the Cleveland Aradhana - for Saturday and Sunday".

Sudha R. was just amazing.

btw, the pictures and colors break the long post nicely and adds a personal touch.

Prabhu said...

Wow! Nice description of the entire story :) ( was it really less than 2500 words, it took me more than 5 mins to read).

Zeppelin said...

aweswome post RS.. one small correction - pardon me if already mentioned ;) --> the song's name - "Enthano Mahanu Bhavo" -- is actually "Endharo Mahanubhavulu".. :)

kutcheri oda jaasthi saapadu trip maadhiri thonardhe... hehehhe..;)


Anonymous said...

S~ with his nervous excitement
I prefer "measured impatience". "nervous excitement" makes me sound like a juvenile langoor on multiple doses of Mountain Dew - which, I think, describes k(post sweet food) better than it does me. :P

kutcheri oda jaasthi saapadu trip maadhiri thonardhe...
I think I've picked up enough Tamil to know what that meant. *chuckle*
It's just RS's post that makes it sound that way... :P

Anonymous said...

Hi ramya; i knew that, 'the event' 'Thyagaraja Aradhana' would have been totally absorbing; but the way u have narrated the 'trip' is quite interesting; great! you remember the items served in the menu, which adds extra flavour to the article:). Keep posting.

Sundaresan TK said...

Hey Ramya ... Nice description but more of personal than the cleveland concert.. (just kidding..)
Apparam eppadi irrukinga .. ? hope u remember me (sundar .. - orachestra - grad student ..:)

Read my recent post (Music-My love) in my blog:


dinesh said...

I just noticed. S~ oru picture la kooda ille ? convenient a camera va kaila kuduthu okkaara vechteengala ? :)

Muthukumar Puranam said...

I was looking for a novel..seriously ask subha. nalla velai found ur blog.

Gayatri said...

Hey...good pictures :) and you actually took the time to write so much!!!
I like the one in the blue look like a complete mami ;-) (just kidding...I loved the colour - who chose?)

sb said...

amazing post, enna irundhalum konjam enna pathi gouravama ezhudhi irukkalam.
I was a bit worried to have K on stage with us, was not very sure if we should make him sit through the kutcheri on stage. He thoroughly enjoyed the concert. I was more than happy to see him all pink and blushing with enjoyment after the kutcheri. A feeling that you get when you introduce something totally exciting to a 6 yr old kid.

RS said...

rtd2 - Thanks! I didnt expect to enjoy the concert as much as I did, I mean I hardly know anything about Carnatic music :)

dinesh - Thanks dude! I wish you had come too! Sujan is a patient teacher but then k and I were attentive students too :)

I didn't believe our luck when that aunty said we could go on stage!

hellboy - thanks teacher :) hmm...maybe I should think about live blogging and podcasts :)

kamal - I have this feeling you enjoyed the concert even more than me!

prabhu - yup, less than 2500 words and thanks :)

arun - thanks, corrected. Well, sappadu is an important part of any trip, right? :)

ANM - lol, ok, "measured impatience" if you will :)

anon - thanks :)

sundaresan - I will leave the review of the actual concert to experts in the field :) Yup, remember you, will check out your post soon!

dinesh - You didnt read my post fulla :( I mentioned that "the envelope" is S~ He didnt let us fotograph him (hmph and i didnt dump the camera on him)!

pb - err...ok. Should keep you occupied for a while :)

gg - thanks :) k, my and I together picked that saree :)

sb - Hmm...maybe I should have stuck with my initial name for you, "Mr.Cranky"! I think unakku maximum sandoshamnu ninaikaren, kamal inda concert enjoy pannadhula :)

IBH said...

Wow! supera ezhudi iruke RS....
was supposed to catch that concert but due to my condition couldnt...!

so can we expect the same for ARR concert?

RT said...

hey! nice narration...shd appreciate ur attention to detail and the patience you hd to write this thing out.

RS said...

IBH - Congrats! Congrats! Congrats! :)

rt - thanks, just wanted to write something that I can come back to sure I will forget the "details" as time goes by :)

mixed_masala said...

For us unfortunate souls who arent able to attend the aradhana, its delightful to hear about the aradhana... a big fan of ranjani-gayathri .. cannot wait for their trup to toronto..
cheers !

RS said...

mixed_masala - cool! Ranjani and Gayatri sang a Marathi devotional song - Vittala, was amazing, we all clapped along with the song!

Parth said...

That's a long long description. Have been to the one in Seattle last year and enjoyed it. We did get pounded by bad recitations quite regularly, but given this is a public platform and everyone gets a chance (plus the fact that I have no preceding experience to compare), I thought it was ok. I do have to identify more with your Gujarati husband though, if his role was to accompany his Tamilian wife to the program :-)

S said...

No updates... hmm? :)

RS said...

parth - :) He ended up doing more - check out his blog post on the Aradhana :)

s - already up!

Ramya said...

From one Ramya Sundaresan to another!:)
I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Aradhana in 2004 and again in 2005 and your narrative really brought back many fun memories!:)

suda said...

:) happened to read your blog post that was forwarded to me. *gushes*
very interesting and descriptive.
glad that you enjoyed the concert!
take care and happy diwali :P

suda said...

oh by the way, this is sudha ragunathan.
the one who you sat behind :) yes.

RS said...

!!! Thanks! If you ever come to Cincinatti to perform, please also consider Lexington, KY - there are several of us here who would love to attend your concert!


Diana said...

The origins of Indian classical music can be found from the oldest of scriptures, part of the Hindu tradition, the Vedas. Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, describes music at length. Indian classical music has its origins as a meditation tool for attaining self realization. All different forms of these melodies (Ragas) are believed to affect various "chakras" (energy centers, or "moods") in the path of the "Kundalini". However, there is little mention of these esoteric beliefs in Bharat's Natyashastra, the first treatise laying down the fundamental principles of drama, dance and music. sportsbook, The Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, created out of Riga-Veda so that its hymns could be sung as Samagana established its first principles. Hindustani classical music has its origin as a form of meditation, though available mainly to an elite audience.It started in the late 20th century and became successful from then on.

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