Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lalgudi G.Jayaraman, violin maestro passes on

This has been a sad week.  Three people, all 82 and all geniuses in their own artforms, joined Mother Earth.  First it was P.B.Srinivas, next it was Shakuntala Devi and now Lalgudi G.Jayaraman.  

I as a young boy had seen him in Mysore when he used to give concerts at the annual Sri Rama Navami music festival near our house in Chamarajapuram.  Connoisseurs and even general public used to gather at the venue and spill over onto the pavements and road side kerbs to listen to the magical vibrations produced from his violin.  Lalgudi's was famous, like Mysore's own Chowdiah's.  This blog by one closely associated stores memorable audio clippings of those times:  See here:  

The Hindu carries this beautiful slide show: [Click]. About 23 images to bring back his memories. 

The Hindu reports the death news, April 23, 2013. [Click] 

My Veena-playing aunt would be close to the radio when Lalgudi G.Jayaraman's violin would be broadcast. I do not know the intricacies of music but I felt there was some magic in Lalgudi's strings.  

There was a little autograph book my aunt was maintaining from the 1960s and had safely kept with her.  It had some rare autographs of great musicians as she was a music fan.  I used to browse the little pages of this now and then as I was fond of looking at how great people scripted their signatures.  The most impressive of them all was undoubtedly Lalgudi's.  It was as special as his string magic.  It is a mystery how this book has gone missing since the 90s.  It is still untraced.  But now I reproduce from memory a vague imitation of his beautiful autograph.... look at the violin he had drawn. I cannot recall if he wrote the 'G' in the middle. Like his violin, the autograph also 'sang'.  How I miss the original autograph!

May his soul rest in peace.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Human Computer Shakunthala Devi no more

Sunday April 21, 2013, marked the end of a life of a mathematics genius Shakunthala Devi, who lived with the sobriquet "Human Computer".  See the two links:

I have always wondered how she could do all those mental calculations accurately and in a nano-jiffy! 

It must have been a Thursday evening when Rotary Club of Mysore had its weekly meeting on which day the show by Shakuntala Devi was scheduled.  She was already into entertaining people with numbers and had already made a name by late 1960s. My Rotarian grandfather had taken us to witness the programme in the meeting hall.  

Numbers are dreaded as a subject to many but this genius would play with them.  The astonished gathering watched her write numbers on the black board and multiply them, starting with two digits by two digits  and writing answers before we could even read the numbers!  She then wrote a 3-digit number and multiplied it with another 3-digit number. Applause.... the audience were allowed to verify. Then she asked someone from the audience to write 10-12 digits of his/her choice to be multiplied by another set of some 10-12 digits.  She kept the audience busy by narrating something as the black board was being filled with numbers by that person.  She would just glance at the 'problem' for a couple of seconds and wrote the solution that stretched to 2 lines of digits in such a way the onlookers would think she wrote random numbers!

My colleague [now retired] Nagaraj enthralled us saying his family knew Shakuntala Devi and that she visited his house [1980s].  We were awe-struck when he told us about the acquaintance of great people that also included the writer Dr.Shivaram Karanth and Dr.VS Arunachalam! Another colleague had turned to Shakuntala Devi's mastery in Palmistry when he was in the midst of a very tough and tense life.  He had sent the impressions of his palms [on a sheet of paper] for her analysis.  It appears she had returned it reasoning that there were too many lines that indicated the very 'tough times' he was passing through.  He had shown me his palm some years after his problems [from all angles] had eased out and how those 'extra lines' on the palms had disappeared!  

This is a video done during her visit to Moscow, Russia. Eleven minutes. 
She toured a lot spreading the beauty of numbers saying 'numbers link the world'.  

She has always said her gift was 'God-given'.  None could match her.  May her soul rest in peace.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

P.B.Srinivas goes to eternal sleep

The music-loving public mourns the death of the ONE AND ONLY P.B.Srinivas. After having a bath and preparing to have his lunch around 1 pm on 14th April, 2013, he collapsed.  Cardiac arrest.  He had returned from a short hospital stay the previous week. He was 82.  May his soul rest in peace.

I switched on my bedside radio to listen to AIR Mysore and prepared for my Sunday after-lunch siesta.  The siesta could not take off.  Reason: a song tribute to P.B.Srinivas was being aired and in between, it was announced 'from now on, they are only in voice'.  It was an off-schedule item, revealing the death of my favourite singer.
After having watched PBS being interviewed on cable TV some years ago, there was a rather wild thought that I should some day visit him at his house.  That TV interview was shot at his house in Chennai and I was imagining I was there as he spoke!  It must be within a couple of years of having seen that, I got a chance to visit Chennai. My friend Gopi was hosting my visit for a couple of days.  He was taking me in his car to meet someone connected to his business at a house not far from his house.

He finished his work and returned to his car and told me that P.B.Srinivas lives in the same street... "See, that house!"  It was right opposite!  "Gopi, come, let us try our luck!", I said.  Gopi said "I had taken his autograph last time I was here and he was in he midst of his shaving programme, yet he obliged."  Realizing that dream of meeting an icon was so close!

It was around half an hour to noon that day.  There I was, feeling great, looking at the ordinary board nailed to one of the pillars at the gate reading "P.B.Srinivas, Playback Singer".   The wide, simple iron gate lay latched.  Some open space separated the gate and the house, presenting the typical 1960s look and asking for paint, defying to reflect the immense stature of the dweller.  His old Fiat car with the old registration number lay parked outside the shed which was slightly beyond. We entered the premise with a grand hope of meeting the great legend, whose voice and melodies in thousands had enthralled millions especially in the 1950-70 decades.  He was a playback singer and person par excellence and had the wonderful reputation as a noble human being.

The yard space around the house had no garden.  In the open veranda lay a pile of newspapers and magazines on a small table while some lay haphazardly on the 'diwan', presenting an appearance that he was around.  His reclining chair and pillows were 'telling' that he had just got up from there.  The location of his house [CIT Nagar] appeared a calm one, suitable for some 'voracious reading'.  The main door was closed, but windows were open.  We called a few times 'Sir, sir...' and paused to hear if somebody heard the calls.  But since things were silent, we peeped in through the window beside the door and doubted the presence of anyone at home. I saw a 'zero watt' bulb hung on the row of numerous framed and garlanded images of Gods and Goddesses, being kept on. There were some simple furniture in the old-fashioned living room into which the main door would open.  Again, we called 'Sir, sir..' louder this time.  I also did the 'tap, tap' with the knuckles on the door.  But more silence answered from inside.

There was still some imagination left as we prepared to leave.  I imagined him returning from a short errand, walking towards us and as a last hope, looked at both sides of the street if we could spot the popular singer!  We decided to turn back in disappointment as there was no appointment!!  My hope of meeting the great man was shattered. Neither of us had a camera to capture the visit.

Picture from Deccan Herald [15th April, 2013] is to the right. See, that is his house and he is walking towards that gate.  The open veranda and the reclining chair is visible.  That is where I was standing in hope!

My friend Gopi's favourite joint is Woodlands Hotel where also PBS was spending many evening hours [esp.] with friends over cups of filter coffee.  He was also fond of Masala Dosas.  Once when Gopi took me [on another visit to Chennai] to Woodlands, he showed PBS leaving in his old car, at a short distance.  So I had a glimpse of the person, the second time.  The first time was in an orchestra in Mysore around 1980.

His fondness for displaying huge pens in the shirt pocket was his 'signature', so was also wearing caps. In recent years it appears he had grown fondness for the Mysore Peta.

His unique 'unimitatable' voice was gentle and its melody, soft and soothing.  Never a harsh note.  Man is mortal but achievements, immortal.  Seldom are greatness and simplicity intertwine.  They did, with PBS. He used to often lament in interviews that melody was absent in the songs made after the 1980s and nobody defies his view and many other playback singers of the earlier times were of the same opinion.

With his passing I have to be content with the fond privilege of at least visiting his house.  Had luck favoured us with the physical presence of the great man, this post would have taken a different shape!

One of my several favourite songs - "Deena Naa Bandiruve":

Another of my and also his own favourites - "Baagilanu Teredu"

The playback voice of PBS was the perfect match for Dr.Rajkumar's on the screen.  Dr. Raj himself famously quoted: "Nanna Shareerada Shareera is PBS'" [meaning, my body's voice is PBS'].  PBS was made to sing all of his songs in numerous Kannada movies until he himself was forced to start singing when PBS could not arrive for the recording. Thereafter, PBS' fame waned as fans of Dr.Raj wanted him to sing his own songs as his first song was such a hit.  Both legends have gone back to Mother Earth.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bush Radio and its Magic Eye

Since it required some serious dusting, I brought down the Bush Radio from the shelf.  It had become a display model in the living room above the TV.  It is in working condition but we are not in condition to work it!  TV [and now internet] has pushed the radio away in spite of us having no cable TV.   The FM stations are trying to revive it but the charm of shortwave and medium wave listening can never be compared.

I wanted to capture some pictures of the radio and my favourite 'magic eye' it has.  I have always looked at it straight 'in the eye' ever since I can remember and thousands of times more when I pursued my hobby of shortwave listening [which is in a separate post] for many years.  It is a great delight to watch the green light that danced depending on the signal and audio.  What is a magic eye?  See here [click].

Magic Eye.  Left - output is not strong.  Right - output is very good. See the difference?
With the proper electric supply of 240 volts in earlier decades, the Magic Eye was beautiful to watch with the green indicators bright and dancing.  Nowadays, we are not supplied the full 240v. As such, the magic eye appears dim. 

This is the best I could capture the magic eye in action. Click here.

Bush Radio, EBS 51, 8 bands.  Good band spread.

Oribinal print on top of the plywood cabinet.

Control knobs.  

Back cover, cracked and screws missing except one when it came back from Adam Khan's shop.  Read text below.


Connected to mesh antenna.

Set serial number.

Transformer voltage options!  Set to 230v.

Vacuum tubes - 5 in number - ECH 80, ECH 81 et al.

A vacuum tube.

Speaker that gives nice audio.

Close up of fine copper wire mesh antenna which is about 3 metres long.  

I have heard that this Radio was bought through my grandfather's reputed client "Salar Masood Sahib and Sons" in 1958.  Or was it a gift from them, I am not too sure.  It appears to be a 1957 model released by Bush.  I have grown up with this. Only my father or aunt was operating it.  In those days radios were kept on a high shelf out of reach of children.  The antenna [shown above] was erected at the top most place of the high ceiling.  Higher meant better for 'catching' the radio waves for good 'reception'. 

My father would summon his good friend Adam Khan when Bush cried for repair.  He was an expert.  For simple things he would come home and rectify.  But for more complicated issues, he would ask us to send it to his shop, where he would keep for months and years.  The last this happened was 35 years ago and it stayed for two years with him until he had to yield to my pestering.  

Again, the vacuum tubes needed replacement.  One Rajappa whom I knew, did it when the tubes were still available though with difficulty. He kept it for some months before giving me back the working radio.  This was the last, 15 years ago.  Touch wood, it has remained in working condition.  If any of the tubes stop working, that will be the end. So far so good.