In memory of Smt. Rajeshwari Padmanabhan

In memory of  Rajeshwari teacher.(1939-2008), daughter of Lakshmi Ammal and grand daughter of Karaikudi Subbarama Iyer (the elder of the Karaikudi Veena brothers), was a ninth generation descendent from the Karaikudi Veena tradition.

Nostalgic at this time of the year. Memories of Rajeshwari teacher and Kalakshetra keeps rushing through me…. It’s the fifth anniversary of the passing away of my teacher and Vainika Smt. Rajeshwari Padmanabhan. Her relaxed and meticulous style of playing the veena comes to my memory. She used to sing the sahityas along with the veena sometimes, matching the veena so perfectly that you were not really sure who was singing – the veena or she! A wonderful and gentle woman who will always remain in the hearts of those who came across her and who were blessed to have been in her presence.

Smt. Rajeswari Padmanabhan passed away on the 15 August 2008.


In Memory of Smt. Rajeshwari Padmanabhan ~ (1939-2008)

The Yajnavalkya Smriti mentions: 

“Veena vadhana tathvangna sruti, jathi, visartha talanjaaprayasena moksha margam niyachathi” 

(“The one who is well versed in veena, one who has the knowledge of srutis and one who is adept in tala, attains salvation without doubt.”)

August 15 th 2008 is an unforgettable day to me. This was the day Smt. Rajeshwari my guru left her mortal body. I haven’t kept in touch  nor seen her  for many years, but her memory is still freshly etched in my mind. Nostalgic thoughts of her still keep recurring. To me she will always remain a very special and beautiful person. The one and only Rajeshwari teacher…..

The passing away of  Rajeshwari teacher  came in as a shock. Even though you know that everyone has to go some day, every time we hear of someone passing away especially if the person happens to be someone you have known leaves a feeling of loss. A motherly figure, she was someone who was gentle at the same time a strict disciplinarian. She was my teacher 30 yrs ago. She is amazing as always. I cried listening to a recording of her on the veena.  Her music will always bring nostalgic memories . 

Rajeshwari teacher was a very modest person who rarely revealed what she possesed. One has to watch her play the veena to realize what a talent she carried. We have lost a musician of par excellence. It is rare to find someone like her. My prostrations to the great legend our Rajeshwari teacher. More of her music should become available to the public.


New Year, New Resolutions & New Hope!

I start this day and end this year with a new understanding and new resolutions. Life is an ongoing school of lessons. Somehow whether we like it or not we are forced to learn something. Either we learn and gain or not learn and suffer. There is no other option available to us!  Period!

Reading about the Samurai in vajrakrishna’s blog makes me ponder about my life. I too am a warrior. Not in the literal sense, but a warrior who is constantly struggling to keep my balance. This new year, my resolution would be to grow and learn from the swan.

Hamsa, or the Swan, is the vehicle of Hindu Goddess Saraswathi. In Hinduism, Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, learning and art. Interestingly, a Hindu saint who rises above the thoughts of death and birth and constantly meditates on Brahman is referred as Parama Hamsa.
A famous shloka on Hamsa talks about the symbolism and significance of this majestic bird.

‘Oh! Hamsa! Being the auspicious vehicle of Goddess Saraswathi, you carry learning and art upon your shoulders. Give us that discriminating wisdom for which you are famous, such as your proverbial ability to separate the substance of milk from water.’

The swan can glide on water without getting its feathers wet.
The swan can also soar up into the sky from the water body.  But the greatest quality of a Swan is its capacity to separate milk from water. With Knowledge of the Self, a person is capable of adapting this quality of Swan and it will help him to swim across the ocean of ‘Samsara.’

The white color of the swan is also the symbol of excellence. ( – Hindu Blog)

The swan may mean many things to many people but to me it represents the purity of the soul.  It also represents its nature to separate the temporary from the permanent.  I too hope that this new year will bring with it knowledge and understanding. Patience and purity. Love, harmony and compassion!

Today ends 2009 and tomorrow is a new day. A new day with new hope and new resolutions.

Wishing everyone a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Remembering Smt. Rajeshwari Padmanabhan

The Yajnavalkya Smriti mentions: 

“Veena vadhana tathvangna sruti, jathi, visartha talanjaaprayasena moksha margam niyachathi”
(“The one who is well versed in veena, one who has the knowledge of srutis and one who is adept in tala, attains salvation without doubt.”)

Well it is exactly one year since Smt. Rajeshwari Padmanabhan, the veena maestro and my Guru, passed away. It had been a day filled with listening to her veena pieces. While the day went by, I felt a celebration of music.

Yes, I would like to remember her as a great maestro, a warm motherly figure and someone whose talent was  not commercialized. She was a musician of par excellence.

Nostalgic memories of her classes rushed back to my thoughts. While playing one of the pieces – Vinayaka in Hamsadvani, a surge of emotions overwhelmed me and I found myself crying for a while. Then composing myself, I decided that her life should be celebrated in her remembrance. I found this short video of her taking classes by Raghunath Manet on youtube.

Rajeswari Padmanabhan, daughter of Lakshmi Ammal and grand daughter of Karaikudi Subbarama Iyer (the elder of the Karaikudi Veena brothers), was a ninth generation descendent from the Karaikudi Veena tradition. From the very young age of five, she was under the tutelage of her grandfather Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer (the younger of the Karaikudi Veena brothers) in the Gurukula system and remained under his guidance until the demise of the maestro in 1958. Later, under the Government of India scholarship, she continued her training in vocal from the composer Late Sri. Mysore Vasudevachar. She was principal of Kalakshetra where she worked and taught for many years. Among the numerous awards she has received, she was also the recipient of the Kalaimamani and Sangita Kalanidhi.

Smt.Rajeshwari was known for her musical integrity and virtuosity. Besides performing, she has composed a few varnams and tillanas, has set to tune the text of Kumbeshvarar Kuravanji for a dance drama, and is also credited with innovative approaches towards making the portable Veena and designing a new acrylic ‘melam’. In the new acrylic ‘melam’, the conventional honeybee wax on which the Veena frets rest is replaced with acrylic. The acrylic design offers durability without sacrificing the tonal quality of the Veena. Smt. Rajeshwari padmanabhan passed away on the 15th of August 2008.

Down Memory Lane – Pt.4


Under the Banyan Tree

Thanks to facebook, I have been able to contact a few of my friends after 30 years ! Yes incredible isn’t it? I used to wonder all these years, whether I will be able to meet these people, since I did not know their whereabouts other than remembering their names.

It was so exciting to know that they too remembered me. Exchanging some messages, I find that, I may be able to get in touch with some of the other girls too. I am excited to know that they are around somewhere, and I have another chance to catch up with the people that I thought, I had passed by in this journey of my life. I thought that I may never be able to meet them in this lifetime. Sounds huge but isn’t that the reality? We sometimes end up never meeting some people who made an impact on us.

Memories of us being a little naughty runs through my thoughts. Can you imagine, going for a movie was taboo, back then. We would literally spin some stories to the wardens, to able to go out of the hostel on Saturday afternoons. A 20 to 25 minutes walk, depending on our pace, would take us to the bus stand close by. From there we used to go to the city to go to some theatre there for a movie. After the movie, we may go for an ice-cream before returning to the hostel. Coming back was a little difficult sometimes and we used to sneak in quietly without Padhu teacher’s knowledge.


She was some disciplinarian. There was always the worry, that someone might catch us rushing back late from our outings. Sometimes we had to hush them and rush in time for dinner at the dining hall. Exhausted but feeling happy and at the same time a little relieved, to be able to come back without any problems, we will go to bed to prepare for the next day. Imagine that was the level of mischief we were allowed!

There were times we were a litte bolder than that, but somehow it had to be within the limits. Sarees were the only attires allowed. Anything else was unacceptable. Some found difficulty in adhering to such strictness, but since it was a part of the culture there, we had to dress accordingly. I was not too experimental like some of the girls, who would wear pants beneath a saree and remove the saree on their way out during their jaunts !                                                                                                                                                                                      

The dining hall does look better now. There were no fans then.

That was Kalakshetra then, a different time, a different generation. Nevertheless it was fun. Sweet memories of coming together with students from all over the world. We gathered at this idyllic place, which also happened to be the place we had come to learn the arts. The pace was slow moving with ample space to be in tune with the natural setting of the environment.

Lying in bed at night, I would sometimes listen to the winds howling when the night was quiet and if it was going to rain. When the sea was rough we could hear the sounds of the waves on the beach close by. In retrospect, what a beautiful environment to be in. Walking on the sands of the campus was cumbersome at that time. Sometimes I wonder if given another chance, would I have looked at the place in the same way? I guess, I would have greater appreciation now.

I was too busy with my classes and practices. Getting up at 4 or 5 in the morning to practice my music. Bathing in cold water and having to only be in a saree was quite a challenge, but the fun was there too. We were not allowed to listen to any other music other than classical music. It took me some years later to be able to get used to listening to other genres of music. But it was fun to be able to come together from different parts of the world and living in the same environment and learning to adapt to the time and place there.

We had to adhere to the strict discipline, not to the extent of a monastery though! But I remember meeting Padhu teacher a few years later, when she told me that the place was not the same now. Times had changed and they could not expect the girls to follow their strictness as we would!

Wow! What a compliment coming from her. Yes dear Dr. Padmasini who was also a doctor of homeopathy, was in here sixties when I met her. She was a slim lady with silver hair and was always seen in a white cotton saree with the pallu wraped around her shoulders most of the time. She would have been a beauty in her younger days. You could see from her features. We used to fear her for her strictness. She was the doctor we would have to see when we fell ill.

Nostalgic memories of my times in Kalakshetra. Though the years have gone by so swiftly, the memories are still fresh like the jasmine flowers. I always consider it as one of my greatest gifts amongst other gifts, to have been given the opportunity to be in such a wonderful and beautiful place and time.


Down Memory Lane – Pt.3


My first memory of enjoying watching the rainfall was when I was about 4 years old. It was a beautiful afternoon and seeing the clouds gathering in the sky, I rushed in to bring my small mattress and started to lay it on the ground at the doorstep of my home.I was excited and did not want to miss the rainfall.

The front door was left ajar so that I could look at the scene outside the house. I lay on the mattress with my hands on my cheeks and began to watch the little drops of water falling from the sky. They seemed magical while I felt safe and protected in my home. Rainfall has always fascinated me and when it started to grow heavier; I quickly got up to fold my mattress and ran into my room. The weather was cold and I was starting to get wet.

Years later, as I lay on my cot on the verandah of my hostel, I watched the rain again. This time it was a sunday afternoon and some of the girls had gone out. The hostel was quiet and peaceful. The building was located close to the beach. As beaches are, one can imagine the sand everywhere. The winds had blown very strongly earlier and picked up the sand to fly with them. Dark clouds were already gathering over the horizon. The trees were doing their own dance and bending ever so gracefully to touch the ground. They reminded me of how nature was prostrating to mother earth.

What a beautiful afternoon! I was feeling drowsy after lunch, but the scene outside the french window was too beautiful to turn away from. Slowly the rain started to fall, gently at first and then it grew heavier and heavier.

Oh Raindrops
Tears of the sky
or of the heart!

There were no tears in my eyes. I was happy, other than feeling homesick once in awhile. Many people love to take a nap when it rains, where else I have the tendency to feel all energized and excited. Here was a beautiful weekend and I had no cares in the world. I was lazing around relaxing and watching nature do its beautiful dance once more. Yes the dance of the rain with the earth.

The trees were swaying gently with the wind and the chirping of the birds nearby sounded like musical notes to my ears. I was blissfully enjoying the beauty of nature and all of a sudden images of the fishing folks living close by crossed my mind. The fishing village was situated very near our hostel ground. I felt a sadness overcome me. Here, I was enjoying the comfort of a roof over me and a safe place to stay. I felt protected and was kept warm by my blanket. I started thinking of them, living in their small huts on the beach very much nearer to the sea.

Ever so often we will hear of winds blowing off their roofs away. For some, the rain will fall through their broken roofs and they would be cold and wet inside. My eyes started to moisten with tears and I began to say a prayer for them.

Since then, every time it rained, a surge of gratitude would rise in my heart. I felt blessed that I had a roof over my head to protect me from the rain. My thoughts would go to all those who were homeless and were getting wet in the rain. I will remember the fishing folks living by the ocean. They would have to deal with the rain and the waves which might come to wash their huts away ……

Oh Raindrops…….
Tears of the Sky –
Or of the Heart!


Farewell Michael Jackson!

Music is like an ocean and Michael Jackson was one of her greatest waves to rise high. – Michael was a true gift indeed. All controversies aside, as a true musician, he was someone who brought so much joy to the people who came in touch with his music.

Watching the memorial service for Michael Jackson was truly emotional. There was joy and sorrow joined together. It was a befitting memorial for a wonderful human being. The ceremony was somber, peaceful and filled with so much of contained emotions. The eulogies by those who spoke about him were indeed touching and genuine.

To me music is something special. All her musicians are special gifts. Few can have the talent that MJ had. Watching him perform as a child, in fact puts one in awe of his talent and versatility. Where did he get this enormous ability from? He never failed to amaze millions around the world.pall

The memorial made me smile, cry and laugh. Remembering his songs and watching people come out to give tributes to this person who tried in his own ways to bring people together. He spoke about the unity and reminded us that we are the world, we are the children. We are no different from each other. Such profound message which I hope would be adapted in our lives.

While MJ the wave was in his splendor, the world witnessed such joy and love from his music. Now the wave has gone back to the ocean to rest. May he rest in peace, knowing that he did break some barriers and in his own ways did bring the world a little closer.