Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Thiruvasagam - A great experience

There is a saying in Tamil, "Thiruvsagathukku urugar oru vasagathukkum urugar!", translated as "If someone's heart is not softening for Thiruvasagam He will not be softened for anything else!". My father too had bragged enough about his childhood Thiruavasagam associations! [My grandfather used to hit him with the wet-rope, if he would forget to chant Thiruvasagam or would make mistakes while doing so!]. I have memorized the Sivapuranam part of the same. I agree, it is great, soul-filling. Infact Manikkavasagar comes close to Darwin while rendering various forms one's soul might take which is exactly the evolution theory. But I could n't give compliance to the "softening" Tamil saying. I used to feel it was yet another exaggeration by a big fanatic of Saivism. I always used to feel there are other hymns in tamil which are equivalent to Thiruvasagam in quality of spirit like Abirami Andadi or Thiruppavai. I never understood why people say, one is supposed to give himself while listening to Thiruvasagam.

And then I happened to listen to Illayaraja's oratorio on Thirvasagam. It shattered all my premonitions! I could really feel something gets melted in my heart while hearing the lines, "Namachivaya vazhga" which precedes "Masatra jothiye", the final seven minutes part of 20 minutes oratorio. This is not only for Illayaraja but for Manikkaavasagar too. The choir and the violin elevate the lines of Vasagar to some other plane. Now I understand, it is really required to listen to these sacred literature in a way, it has to be presented. Especially the lines, "Neyathe ninra nimalan adi potri" is backed up by the choirs of both English and tamil which is heavily again backed up by the 120 piece violin orchestra!

I try to discern the intellects of great people, which leads to a logical conclusion and justification for their level of thinking. For example, I could understand one Mr.Thi.Ja's association with Kumbakonam/Mayavaram and a formal introduction to Tamil gave him the sense of aesthetics to produce a marvel like Mohamul. Same with Sujatha for his Srirangam association, the 4th rank in IES, with his early association to magazines like Kanaiyazhi to make him stand where he is now. But till now something of these discernible thoughts never take me to who-illayaraja-is. His intellect in music always baffles me. I never saw one Illayaraja run out of ideas, or being bound to limitations. The moment I feel, "Yes. There he is", a new genre of music is produced by him to make me feel small. This Thiruvasagam is one such kind.

Yesterday morning I was reading an article about the "Sanga Ilakkiyam" by Sujatha which was very timely to make me appreciate the poetic beauty of Thiruvasagam. He very well explained how the poems of Sanga ilakkiyam are far superior to New age "pudhukkavidhai", in the way it is structured with yappilakkanam. If you can understand the various integrated elements of these poems, it will give you a high like you will have when you understand a Thiyagaraja's kirthana with its swaras and ragas!

For example see the structure and poetical beauty of the last song of this album:
"Putril vaazh aravum anjen, poyyar tham meyyum anjen,
Katrai vaar sadai em annal, kannuthal patha nanni,
Matroru theyvam thannai undena ninainthem pemmar,
Katrila avaraik kandal, amma naam anjum mare!"

See the ethugai-monai and the poetic beauty of this hymn. If someone tries to write such a poem today what kind of word-below-word-ending-in-a-"!", it would have been? Thiruvasagam as an album provoked some thoughts like this in me.

Tamil nadu should get in every century, someone like Illayaraja to take the Kirtanas and Sanga ilakkiyams to every generation (which is next to impossible) and someone like Sujatha who has both mass appeal and literary sense to explain the beauty and importance-in-understanding the tamil literature (which is quite possible). Please listen to Thiruvasagam for Illayaraja, if not for Manikkavasagar. Once you get a hang of it, try to understand the meaning too. It is no exaggeration, if I say that these days when I drive I murmur some songs from this album, which keeps me cool in the traffic smug and personal worries!

"No plug in my bathtub"

Every one of you, sometime or the other must have hated the City you are living in. That is the underlying current of “Don’t read it if you are stupid” by Tibor Fischer. The central characters of this short story collection are sick of London. Well, I had no idea of a Tibor Fischer or the book; not even remotely heard of! But the book was under literature category and I was looking out for some lighter stuff.

At the first instinct, after finishing the first story, I had an impression that he is another J.D.Salinger in the making; the book is yet another “Catcher in the rye” in the stall. But a deeper thought and successive stories disapproved. Tibor takes a different stride, with his blunt, opened-up writing save the burnt-up-central-characters. Whether it is contemplation about Russian bottoms or a near-to-death-experience in a revolutionist camp, he talks in the same tone! Initially this “openness” sounded somewhat awkward to me. But I got used to it as I continued.

“The bookcruncher” impressed me a lot. Till reading this story, I kept Tibor in a different plane, a writer with the lighter sense of heart. But this one story stands out specifically for the serious thought it carried about reading books. The most beautiful aspect of this story is its screenplay. The crust of the story was well carried on till the last two pages. Another story with a crafty screenplay is “Self portrait of an artist as a foaming death monger.” (Tibor is obsessed with big titles, must have worked in Hindi films for sometime!).

The author is sarcastic about anything and everything on the earth. I reread many phrases, sentences for Tibor’s play with words, witty analogies! No two stories feel alike though they are from the same author. Like a sorcerer’s magic baton Tibor’s pen has conjured up the variety in covering up things like - an unsuccessful businessman’s much needed break, a comedienne’s midnight vagrancy for the physical pleasure, a reporter’s journey to a Romanian graveyard and more.

Sense of humor and the variety in writing relieve works of Tibor Fischer from the danger of becoming cult. I am happy as long as he sticks to these two inherent qualities while making the bitter mockery of life.

One morning, at four, he had been woken up by a call. Getting to the phone, he had stumbled in the dark, cracking his head open on a doorframe. This call was from one of their contenders, staying in a hotel in Las Vegas.
‘Jim, man, I got a real problem…’
His stomach clenched. Rape? Murder? Drugs? Broken limb? Gambling clean-out? Assault?
‘… There’s no plug in my bathtub.’

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