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Articles on Carnatic Music

Tinkle's Swaras
by Shobana Ramkumar

(This is the eighth and final of our article entries. Here we have printed several entries to our article contest for your benefit. Enjoy the last!)

A cat has nine lives. Could one be devoted to Carnatic music in one of them? “Eti janma” sang Sri Thayagaraja. I don't know how many lives my cat Tinkle had before she was Tinkle, but surely to be a Carnatic cat she must have worked her way to it and who knows, she may be one of the up and coming young Carnatic stars of today by the fruits of her previous birth- a birth in which she went into the land of blissful nod lulled by the strains of bow on string. My strains and my master's strains.

Are you wondering what a cat has to do with music? Well, like most other cats, she adopted me. She was jet black with those cold green eyes typical of cats. Wait! Cold, did I say? How could any Carnatic music-loving cat have cold eyes? They were cold only till I had started to learn playing the violin.

My master was fixed and the violins of yore which grandma and Great Grandpa had played a hundred years ago, were brought down from the shelf and spruced up for their new enthusiast. The classes with Sri Krishnaswami Aiyangar began in right earnest with the scales in three speeds graduating on to janta varisai and geethams. The music system as codified must be among the best in the world, for even I graduated on to varnams enough to sharpen Tinkle's musical senses so much that she became my most ardent admirer and rasika. The classic hands of Sri Aiyangar also (not to mention my own hard practice and expertise) attracted her to the curl of my lap.

The first time she “came to class,” I was disturbed by the feel of her in my lap. Also a little scared of what Vadhyar might say. He simply glanced above the rim of the violin and over the bow and continued with a silent smile from Mohana varnam to Entharo as if nothing had happened. Tinkle came the second day and the third and the fourth until she was there as a second student to my master. So class proceeded from Mohanam to Abhogi and Begada Varnams. Tinkle also found a place during the two to three hours of evening practice after college. I'm sure it was practicing with her that very soon Vadhyar promoted me to the Ata tala Varnams. Again she was constantly with me, close to the violin, warming my lap and refusing to go until practice was over.

By now she now knew Vadhyar by sight and when he entered she also came to class along with him to her usual Sthanam. If she wasn't around, the mere sounds of the violin would bring her leaping and bounding with all her four legs in the air, to class.

Lucky cat, or so I like to think, for she surely appreciated what I played and how I played whether it was a classical composition now or a medley of film songs or a folksy rhythm, she was my sole appreciative audience in the brief span of ten years or so that I played.

Well, the violins are now in hibernation, waiting for a Tinkle cat to come back and put the spring back into their lives.

Shobana Ramkumar and Tinkle are ardent Carnatic rasikas.

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updated on 08/23/2006