Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My fancy for bells

When I was young, I had visited Jagan Mohan Palace Museum and had seen an old bell which the person looking after the items had shown it by striking it with a wooden dowel and when he passed the dowel along its edge, the sound seemed to increase into a nice hum! It was very impressive. Only later I came to know that this a Tibetan Om Bell, that produced the sound of "Om". On my next visit there many years later, I found many such articles not in display!

Around 1974, I had seen in someone's house a wind chime with some hollow tubes and a striking piece of metal. It made a pleasant sound whenever a slight breeze blew. I was fascinated when I saw this and my technical mind immediately decided that was a "must do". I found a couple of little cymbals that we had bought in Gokarna during our trip in 1969, just for the heck of it because none of us used them in our worship rooms or did Bhajans using them. It was lying here and there and so this became raw materials for my wind chime. For the striking metal, I found a brass ring which was from a light bulb holder. I tied them suitably and then for the wind to disturb it, I found the circular tin seal from a beverage can most suitable as it was very light. It worked beautifully much to my delight. I had hung this up in the verandah where a nice breeze wafted across. This contraption caught the attention of visitors and friends and I'd proudly say "I did it!" much to their astonishment. Notice the new improved version of it as it is today in this video clip! I used a light balsa wood in place of the tin foil.

Sit back and relax for two and a half minutes and listen. Some clips are poor due to poor lighting. Please bear with them.

I was also greatly fascinated by Mysore's own Dodda Gadiyaara - The Silver Jubilee Clock Tower built to celebrate 25 years of reign of H.H.Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, in 1927. The 92 ft. tall Tower was topped by the 920 kg French Bell. It was a great landmark that also told time in days when few people owned watches and clocks and the hourly and half hourly strikes of the huge bell could be heard miles away in those silent days, including our home a only a couple of miles away. Early in the morning, before the birds woke up, we could hear it even more clearly and loudly as if it was just a couple of furlongs away. In 1995, Mysore's Big Ben went into the 'silent mode' - the chiming was stopped as they noticed some cracks in the tower which the experts believed was due to the vibrations from that heavy bell.

Engelberg's Kloster Monastery (Switzerland) bell actually brought back memories of old Mysore as it resonated in the calm surroundings.

Kloster Monastery, Engelberg, Switzerland

I wrote an essay for Radio Korea (I was a monitor for this station for 16 years) in 1981 and my entry had won a prize. As a gift they sent me a replica of Korea's Largest Bell. Pictured below is the gift.

In the 60s and 70s in the opposite house, a renown dancer Nandini Eswer used to practice dancing with the ankle bells on. The neighbourhood felt no nuisance at all from the rhythmic sounds produced by tens of them, during her sessions! She has grown in stature since!

There was an old bronze cup in the heirloom, kept unused for many decades. On striking it, a lovely vibration resulted. So I thought why not I make a bell? So, drilled a hole and fixed a broken piece of brass as a clapper. Lo, the bell was ready! There was a broken leg of some 100-year old low desk. I used it for the handle of this bell! Trash to treasure! One of my favourite works! It will be in the worship room.

You would have heard how resonant it is in the video clip above!

I made another similar to the above, from another bronze cup. I have used this on the first floor to call attention to those there from the ground floor. A string has to be pulled to make the bell shake. This is the one:

A faulty bicycle bell's gong has now become a sound indicator at the front door. I have fixed it in such a way that it 'tings' whenever the door is opened or closed!

My bicycle bell of course was kept shining lest the dust and rust alter its resonance! But the mechanism inside it would give way! We used the bell frequently whenever even a dog or cat came in the way because people would never budge. When none was around - those were good days when density of population was less - on the road we used to press the bell lever and make music out of it because that sound was never boring!

Our family priest each morning used to do the daily rituals (pooja) in the worship room and when he finished and did the 'aarati', the sound from the hand bell sometimes woke me up on 'my' late mornings. For special occasions, there was a bigger bell that had a great sound that spread to the neighbourhood.

We had an old doorbell that had a gong. At times when we were in other thoughts, when someone pressed it, we used to get startled by the sudden 'tring'. When the coil burnt off we switched to a buzzer which was even better at startling us esp. during an afternoon siesta. The bell with a coil had been off the market shelves. Our college had a similar coil bell to announce the break of each session when teachers used to change, but it was bigger in size. How we loved this bell! It signaled the end of a class, but forgot a new one also would start. But our high school had an old bronze bell with a wooden handle which the peon Jogi used to shake it according to his schedule. The best sound from the same bell came in the evenings -or so it seemed (naturally!).

I get tempted during visits to the market whenever I see a wind chime when the family shops something else. This temptation has resulted in adding three chimes being purchased at different times. I've hung them where the breeze is more and where I pass often so that I can disturb it and make a sound too.

My friend Susan is realizes that "..wind chimes are purlely God's music; after all, He causes the wind to blow."

Another Feng Shui Bell... This is hung in a passage so that my head touches it while passing and makes a sound - it has become a habit!

I mentioned about the Swiss Church Bell. One must see and listen to believe the melodious sounds produced by the Cow Bells tied to Cows in Switzerland. Most have the famous Swiss Cow Bells tied around their necks. When they graze together in their alloted piece of land, it is just music to the ears in that silent country! It's absolute thrill. Just listen to this melody:

This link is even better! More cows, more melody - clear sound!

This is a Souvenir Bell I got from that Switzerland.

Closer view of the Cow design.

There was a bronze gong (flat plate) lying unused in our worship room. These are the ones the Dasaiahs in Mysore use as part of their traditional attire and equipment when they go for alms. I thought of adding another variety to our doorbell by tying it up. When a thread is pulled, a broken brake lever from a scooter acts as the striking rod.

It was a powerful bell! The boss in the office would press it once - ting - and lo, the peon would stand in front of him. This was probably the scene in the 50s and 60s, but it is now powerless, but saved nevertheless!

Buses had bells used by conductors to indicate to the driver to stop or start when passengers alighted or boarded. He used to pull the string that ran across the ceiling of the bus to the back when he was in the rear half of the bus to indicate. I used this technique for my back yard bell, again using another old bronze cup. The string has outside access through a hole in the doorframe.

Our vintage Ansonia clock had an ordinary bell. I had seen another Ansonia with different type of gongs that was very pleasing. Through an old clock-dealer some years laterI found a similar one and fulfilled the dream recently and fitted it to mine! Such is my liking to the pleasant sounds from bells! You would have seen towards the end of that video.

Read this response from Swami Chinmayananda to the common question we all raise:

Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?

The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.
Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshipers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.
As we start the daily ritualistic worship (pooja) we ring the bell, chanting:
Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam

gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam
Kurve ghantaaravam tatra
devataahvaahna lakshanam

I ring this bell indicating
the invocation of divinity,
So that virtuous and noble forces
enter (my home and heart);
and the demonic and evil forces
from within and without, depart.

So some such vibrations are needed in our surroundings. It also pleases the ears.
But the one sound I always dreaded was the alarm clock bell that went off at the most (un)desired time!
Just for curiosity, here is the

Monday, May 17, 2010

My stint at poetic composition!

"Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." This is a famous quote by William Wordsworth which my elderly colleague used to recollect his college teacher mentioning it.

I do not remember much from my school poems, except for "Humpty, Dumpty sat on a wall....", which we 'by-hearted' and tried to reproduce in front of the teacher or in exams. That ended the exercise. They were all soon forgotten. Learning poems was a most avoidable exercise! But somehow rhyming words have always fascinated me. Among our group of friends there was one (late) Vasu - older than all of us - who was fond of making fun of others and he usually had some funny rhyming two-liners. His friends used to tease him "Lo Vasu, kodu ondu kaasu". (Hey Vasu, give me a penny), etc. I never understood properly the poem we were taught in school or college. "Daffodils" by Wordsworth was one among them. Such was my ignorance that I could not even perceive that a daffodil was a flower! The worst part was to write the explanation of a stanza in the exams!

Dinakar Desai was a renown Kannada Poet whose 4-line limericks were very popular. In fact, people used to call me his full name (being the namesake) - HE was that famous. While representing Mysore Zone in cricket my name was written as "Dinakar Desai" by some fellow. When the scorers gave the match report to the Press, they had given my name as "Dinakar Desai" which came in print (Kannada - Prajavani) the following morning (I still preserve it!). I had taken two wicktes.

I also used to read with some interest short rhyming poems in magazines some readers contributed. I was not interested in a story-like poem with emotions and no rhymes. I by-passed such ones. I wanted to try rhymes just for fun. Also, poems composed with a certain name and its spelling as its subject also interested me - each letter would be the beginning of a line and rhyming was not a must in this case. When S.Venkataraghavan was chosen to lead Indian Cricket team in the 1979 World Cup, I thought of scratching my head and try something on his long name. I went with a draft to my good friend Rajgopal for help. At a young age, he was already a prolific writer with a good vocabulary (he is now renown as a 'walking vocabularist'!) . He re-wrote the entire thing and I did not understand some of the words! I wanted to get it published in a sports magazine. I was yearning to see my name in print which was a fancy and such a thrill. Rajgopal had many already and he encouraged me to put my name though he wrote it in fact!

I sent this to 'Sportsworld' and was disappointed not to see in print. Click on the picture below to read.

After some years, I wrote another short one, myself. It was very spontaneous and I enjoyed it. It was published in Sportstar and I was so thrilled to see it!

Ravi Shastri was earning a name for his slow batting in the early 90s. So I thought of a few lines to express some anger as below and sent it to local papers and was happy to see it being honoured!

This one also gave me some satisfaction as I started writing it and got some help from my learned colleague Nagaraja. I gave it to Mrs. Nandini (the subject) and earned some appreciation. Click on the image to read.

Look at this photograph below:

When the film roll was developed and the prints arrived, I was puzzled to see a blurred picture that I had shot of my daughter. My pen went off spontaneously with these lines:

No, no, the earth wasn't quaking,
While my camera was clicking.

These things happen once in a way,
On any unknown night or day.

The camera is of Russian make,
But this photographer is no fake!


There was another colleague with whom we had a close association, a much respected person by one and all. His name was Lakshmi Venkatesh [very very fond of tea, hence the title]. I attempted another rhyming poem and it came off well, while it reflected all his qualities. It was presented to him when he retired from service. It was he who told that Wordsworth quote above. Here is what I composed trying to encapsulate his personality - He was a tea-lover and a Maths teacher - hence that title:


Superannuate Lakshmi Venkatesh will, end September,
Miss badly our department will, one real noble member.
Prior to his CFTRI stint, he was a good teacher in a school,
He had enjoyed every bit, when that piece of chalk was his tool.

He's fond of teaching Mathematics even without a board,
His students learning the subject, never get bored.
The art of teaching is surely in his genes,
Never did he wear even the best of jeans.
He right-stepped into the Institute in the mid-sixties,
And sipped off thousands of cups of coffees and teas.
Outwardly, he is a simple-dressed scientist,
Inwardly, he is by no means an atheist.
One of his noteworthy works was on rice bran,
But after awards or rewards he never ran.
Surprised and happy he was when a patent was awarded,
With tea, we, his colleagues were simply rewarded.
The walnut project took him up north to Srinagar,
That was when he was fit, energetic and younger.
Later when his backache took its toll,
He was no longer on the touring roll.
Our beloved Venkatesh was Sponsored Projects' "Lakshmi",
But from now on, our Ramesh may say, "that's me".
To many an election here, he was the Returning Officer,
None knew how he could reject hot tea in a cup and saucer.
He never did bend upon using the computer's keyboard,
But with his pen, gripped unusually, he wrote many a word.
When it came to Income Tax, he was our helpful adviser,
With 'Lakshmi' around, people got much more wiser.
Seriousness aside, he was all wit and wisdom,
People around him were never led to boredom.
His sincerity and industriousness deserve accolades,
His rough beard has blunted hundreds of blades.
He earned a reputation for honesty, kindness and generosity,
To emulate him, we need not require pugnacity.
With that twinkle in his eye and the depth in his voice,
He always hated making unnecessary noise.
His memory for quoting anecdotes is breath-taking,
The way he narrates them is awe-inspiring.
He is a man who believes in 'thought, word and deed',
For those who are in need, he is a real friend indeed.
He very often lost control over mind over A matter,
When THIS matter was a cup of tea served on a platter.
Our Venkatesh follows a strict regimen of diet as a rule,
But rejects his cup of tea only when it had become cool.
He used to share his vast ken of Epics and Upanishads with us,
None can doubt that he is deeply spiritual and religious.
The great aura of his personality commands respect,
From him in reciprocation the same thing one is to expect.
To fellow humans Lakshmi Venka-TEA-sh is full of compassion,
Yet again, sipping tea is his preferred and irrepressible passion.
His frequent "hello"s and "namaskaara"s, we will miss,
Associating with him on any matter has been pure bliss.
Let him teach, full time, Algebra, Calculus or whatever,
May health and happiness be with him and family forever.
Presented by Colleagues, 2002

I enjoyed composing this one in Kannada [two pages]. There was a popular colleague that served the Institution for 41 years and personally I had the good fortune of being in the same department for 18 years. This composition ["Nammukunda" meaning "Our Mukunda"] brings out most of his personality. It was read out in the farewell gathering by another colleague on the day he retired from service. The same was presented to him. It was August 2000. This is a caricature I tried.
Click on the images to read.

Page 2

This one too gave much delight to me as well as our colleagues as the subject was our
head of the dept. On the eve of his superannuation, it was presented to him.


Our Sri Pillai lays down office at the end of March,
To Prabhu he will pass on the torch.
As spearhead of the Department,
He brought laurels for Institute's betterment.
His great virtue has been the art of conversation,
Which fully deserves our appreciation.
When there was no question of an agreement,
He outwitted the other in the argument.
His forte was his courage and wisdom in decision making,
The speed with which he did so was truly amazing.
Working with him had been mostly a pleasure,
The rest of the time it was pure pressure.
With the pen he was ever ready to sign,
Many a time, he had to 'draw a line'.
The bell switch will no longer feel his fretful finger,
But those typical "ting-ting ting-tings" will always linger.
The engaged telephone at the other end drew him nuts,
And his own, suffered from bruises and cuts.
When situations made us feel his presence,
We wished for his temporary absence.
Up until the time he crossed well over fifty,
He was the Chairman of Doorvas Committee.
Saviour faire had become one of his top attributes,
Also to all his other good ones, we pay tributes.
What we all usually saw was Pillai the taskmonger,
But the real Pillai happens to be a humdinger.
Le'im settle at Cochin, Calicut or wherever,
Let health and happiness be with him and family forever.
"Colleagues"29th March, 2001


Learn while you Rhyme!

[Composed, 2004]

History deals with chaps,
Geography, with maps.
Botany deals with plants,
Architecture, with plans.
Literature deals with books,
Fashion, with looks.
Doctors deal with health,
Scavengers, with filth.
Geology deals with rocks,
Paediatrics, with tots.
Photography deals with picture,
Carpentry, with furniture.
Palmistry deals with palms,
Beggars depend on alms.
Hotels engage cooks,
Police hunt for crooks.
Aeronautics deal with planes,
Cartooning, with lines.
Philately deals with stamps,
Lalloo pokes in scams.
Barber deals with hairs,
Stock market, with shares.
Zoology deals with animals,
Law punishes criminals.
Postmen deliver mails,
Manicurist tends finger-nails.
Biology deals with life,
Dacoit wields the knife.
Astronomy deals with stars,
Mechanics repair cars.
Psychiatry deals with the mind,
We should learn to be kind.