Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brief moments with famous personalities

So far in my lifetime many opportunities have come by to be close to famous personalities, even if it is listening to their speech as an audience, to stand close to them and chat with others, to shake hand in some function or sit together to chat.  I remember a few of them from my young age also.  Here I try to list out the personalities, which are mostly cricket/sport-connected, with a few lines each. The occasions listed are not in chronological order.  Hope I have not left out anyone.

Safi Darashah - My father had introduced him to a very young me at Cosmopolitan Club.  He was already complaining with some club mate how bad Bangalore's climate and pollution was.  I can never forget him saying that if as soon as he approaches Bangalore, he gets wheezing.  This was in the very early1970s, when we probably never used the word pollution in Mysore!  Safi Darashah was a member of our Mysore Gymkhana and a member of the very first Mysore State [now Karnataka] cricket team that played in the inaugural match of the Ranji Trophy in 1936.

MN Parthasarathy - Pachu, as he was known was also a member of our cricket club.  I used to see him at Cosmopolitan Club.  My father used to take me there in the 60s and 70s.  He was a good friend of him as well as my grandfather Subba Rao. He was a great cricket admirer and a renown radio commentator in Kannada.  My grandfather had taken me to his house once in 1965 or so in Yadavgiri.  A relative was his neighbour.
 My grandfather is between me and Pachu who is holding his wallet - at a Rotary Club function, may be 1967-68.

Farookh Irani - A colourful personality in Mysore and great industrialist of the 'Ideal Jawa Motorcycle fame'. Rotary Club and Mysore Sports Club are the places I have seen him on numerous occasions as my grandfather was also a Rotarian.  He was so affectionate to bend down and speak to children. I can remember my own experience.

The 36th Pontiff of Sringeri Math Sri Abhinava Vidyatirta SwamigaLu was visiting Mysore in the early 60s. He was invited to our house go get his blessings.  I remember the ecstatic scenes during the small function and I can recall his bespectacled face that was very magnetic.

One of the rarest opportunities to shake hands with a Chief Minister and that too of Jammu and Kashmir State came in 1983. He was Dr.Farooq Abdulla.  It was at the inauguration of a cricket tournament in Jammu that he shook hands with every member of the 6-8 teams, numbering to more than hundred.  Well-built personality that he was and British-educated, he smilingly told "How do you do?" with every handshake!  I cherish that moment.  This was just before political unrest in those parts that was to change the course of India's scenario.  I got this picture after 25 years.

The CM - tall man with long shirt

Kapil Dev.  He needs no introduction.  The Indian Cricket team's captain was the chief guest for the inauguration of a tournament in Delhi in 1987.  When the hand-shake to teams were on, our team manager introduced me to him saying "He is our Kapil Dev!" to which he remarked "We need people like you."  After the ceremony, he was leaving in his car. I ran up to the car and stopped it because I wanted his autograph.  He kindly obliged through the car window.  

D.P.Azad - A renown coach in Chandigarh with the tag of having been Kapil Dev's coach.  He was to coach our cricket team, but the camp was such a flop that all of us had lost interest in the proceedings that was such a bore with the coach himself never taking any session seriously.  We went through the motions and waited for the camp to finish.  On the last day, I took his autograph just for his 'Kapil Dev reputation'. No one enjoyed this camp.

I met a few personalities in Pune later on in my life.  All of them were during my visits to that city connected with cricket.  It was during the valedictory function [of our cricket coaching camp] that I shook hands with the great yoga exponent, B.K.S.Iyenger who incicentally is a Mysorean, settled in Pune.

I can still feel his tough hands.  He was 67 at that time in 1985 and he is now 93.  It was when he handed over a memento to the players.  The Camp was conducted by P.G.'Nana' Joshi with whom a great affinity had grown.  He had represented India as wicket-keeper batsman in the 1950s. There is a separate blogpost on this wonderful personality.  In the next camp two years later, it was Anand Damne [I am not sure if this this the right spelling] - who had played for Maharashtra.  The camp was not that much of a success.

Arnavaz Damania was the chief guest for the inauguration of a cricket tournament in which our employer team was taking part.  Though there was neither a formal introduction of teams nor a shaking hand ritual, but some of her words from the speech impressed me.  She was a National Hockey player and former President of the Indian Women's Hockey Federation. "Enjoy the sport.... enjoy the feather-light feeling of your fit body.... only sportsmen will know how good it feels to be like this..."  She was so right.  When fit, the body seems to fly across!    Chandu Borde, former India cricket captain, was in another year's inauguration. Just speech.  Later in the 1990s, a team mate took this picture with  Gaurav Natekar who was the chief guest for the valedictory function of the Tennis Tournament where I had gone to represent my employer.
Gaurav Natekar - centre [and Rajaratnam]

Waheeda Rehman was a renown Hindi film actress.  It was close to lunchtime in our workplace and my colleagues were spreading the word about her visit and that she was waiting in the lounge.  I had a small diary on my desk which I took with me to get her autograph.  There were quite a few of us gathered to have a glimpse of the film star of yesteryear.  To everyone, she asked the name and wrote that name before her autograph.  

Waheeda Rehman's autograph

Years later, Kannada film actress Arundathi Nag, was on a business visit.  She was kind enough for a photograph and I happened to be there.

Arundathi Nag in blue sari. 

Mathoor Krishmamurthy [click] boarded the same train bogey as I and sat in the next seat.  Only the aisle separated us. He is an extremely busy person. He was traveling to Bangalore and I was on my way further to Pune. Most of the time he was trying to catch a wink and so I did not disturb him, but when the train stopped at Bangalore and while leaving for the door in the aisle, I introduced myself and said that I had attended one of his myriad discourses on the Holy Epic Ramayana.  He was happy to hear that and said alighting to the platform that 'we shall meet in my next discourse at Mysore.' [in Kannada].

I had the opportunity to meet M.Chinnaswamy, the architect of Bangalore Cricket, on two occasions. The first one was in 1975 during the wedding of my cousin B.S.Chandrasekhar [who played for India].  I learnt that he knew my grandfather very well!  Both were lawyers. He introduced me to the great man.  When I presented him my autograph book, he was so humble and said "Why do you need my autograph?" We boys were hunting for familiar faces of cricket players for autographs, during the wedding!  The next and last time was in 1983.  I've written in more detail this meeting that is memorable, here in a separate post [click].

Hanumant Singh.  Former India batsman, was heading the cricket academy at the stadium in Bangalore when our club team had gone there to play a match. I saw him leisurely coming into his chamber and I was standing nearby looking around.  I introduced myself as Chandra's cousin. He smiled and raised his eyebrows I was also in my cricket attire. He inquired about his former team mate. He was kind enough to provide me his autograph on a little diary I was carrying.

Ram Babu Gupta - he was an International cricket umpire.  He was officiating in one of our matches in Delhi in 1987 and I was bowling from his end.  Nothing special, but he showed his presence when a lone deep fieldsman appealed for LBW from my bowling.  He called him up and warned him saying "Can you see anything from that deep?"

Maninder Singh who played for India as a left arm spinner also officiated in a match in Delhi in 1998. I was bowling from his end.

GR Visvanath. Stylish batsman for India. He had come home with my cousin Chandra in 1976 or so, but I was not at home.  But in 1988, when he had retired from Tests, but still playing league cricket for City Cricketers, Bangalore, I had the opportunity to bowl to him. But he lasted for only two balls. He came in at the fall of he second wicket. He played a perfect defensive shot to the first one and I somehow knew that I would dismiss him the next ball!  And it happened! Such was my rhythm on that day. His off stump was bent back. The legend was out for zero, unable to read the leg-cutter!  Quite naturally, it happens to be one of my best and prized dismissals.  But we lost the match because our batsmen had failed to put up a decent target.

This was taken in Mysore during his visit to Mysore for something which I remember not.  15 days later, I got his wicket in Bangalore!

K.Srikkanth and S.Venkataraghavan have also been chief guests for inauguration in tournaments in Chennai. I managed to take Srikkanth's autograph but missed Venkatraghavan's.  The team photo with Srikkanth is poor.  So I am not sharing it.

There was also an opportunity to meet the famous pianist Daniel Levy from Argentina, in Engelberg, during a group seminar in 2009.  He had given a short lecture on how certain compositions have a soothing effect on the mind.  I took his autograph and then he was kind to pose for a picture with his wife. 

Levy's autograph above.


Musings from a Veena Concert

It was Saturday evening.  On invitation I was attending the M.J.Srinivasa Iyengar memorial concert. 'Invitor' was Venugopal, father of one of the young pupils of  MJS, the great veena maestro.  MJS passed away a few months ago.  It was Venugopal's response to my blogpost on MJS, [written a few weeks before the passing away of the maestro - click on MJS in the above line], had brought us in contact.

I was late to the concert by an hour.  I satisfied myself by staying till the end and showing my face to my 'invitor'.   It was the Nadabrahma Sangeetha Sabha's programme held at the Mysore K.Vasudevacharya auditorium, situated about seven minutes by 'Dinu's walk' from home.  Something like crow's flight. 

The concert on stage was by D.Srinivas playing the veena, [stringed instrument] with accompaniments of a ghatam [mud pot, tapped by G.S.Ramanujam] and a mridangam [percussion instrument, struck by K.U.Jayachandra Rao].  These instruments make a pleasing combination.

See only the instruments. This is not the picture of the concert I went or showing the very artistes, but a web-grabbed one.  Wanted to show how they were sitting on stage.  Note the mridamgam player here, who is also left handed. 

It is said that music is the language of the soul.  Even though I do not qualify as a connoisseur, I enjoyed the soul-stirring concert while also observing certain things as a music lover.  Read on.

I realized why the left handed mridangam player was sitting to the left of Srinivas, facing the audience. That was because the striking fingers must face the audience. He was proving how strong the leather head was of his mridangam. The mud pot artiste sitting to the right of Srinivas was trying to break his pot by tapping it with different fingers and at different rhythms but it survived the whole length of the concert.  The veena had different strings to produce different frequencies and by the end of the concert, he was successful in producing many pleasing frequencies, without snapping any of them. 

None of them sang but rehydrated themselves like singers or speakers every once in a while! And they would wipe their foreheads with a napkin as if they had run a 400-metre running race.  They would produce the napkin from below their knees like magicians.  Why, even I was perspiring just by sitting despite fans in operation!  It was quite warm really, as it is towards the end of 'summery May'.   

The sound from the loud speakers were too loud, temporarily defying the renown melodiousness of the veena as the artistes in unison took the keeerthana [song] to its crescendo.  Electronic amplification at its 'best' service!  I was happy that they were only attached to the veena and not to the ghatam or mridangam!  I would close my ears to bring down the volume to my toleration level.  How much pleasing it would be to listen without microphones and loudspeakers, I felt.  I went back to the olden days, imagining, when no such amplification existed and the audience [smaller] could hear the notes perfectly.  I thought why not the 'engineer' reduce the sound levels even considering the possible presence of some of the elderly audience in the not-even-half-full-hall who may be hard of hearing!
In my opinion, melody exists in low volume levels.

Some in the audience were following the 'taala' [clapping in rhythmic pattern], with exaggerated actions when the 'raga' [tune] was extra impressive and penetrated deep into their souls.  I was watching and enjoying particularly one who was surprisingly, a youngster - a rarity in such a gathering.  A few empty seats separated us in the same row.  He was beating the palm on his right knee, shaking his head, also pushing it forward and straightening the arm at the elbow.  He was so engrossed and very appreciative at times that he would do this esp. when at the time of a crescendo.  He would look towards me to check if I was watching him enjoy!  And he knew I was, but he was in his own world of a truly delightful music that was filling the auditorium.  

A middle-aged couple was sitting in the next row.  The man was following the taala with exaggerated gestures of the fingers and clapping them against the left palm held next to his right chin, turning towards me during the process of shaking the head every now and then to check if I was noticing his 'enjoyment'.  Indeed I was.  I was also timing my taala to his taala when I pretended to know something about the technicalities of music. I would follow his actions from the corner of my eye without looking towards him and tap my finger on the knee or lightly shaking my head.  

At some distance, a lady was in animated enjoyment, shaking her head in all directions and doing the taala tapping with her hands held in front of her face as if she was in a trance.  Older people were enjoying in their own way, shaking their heads in jerky nods to match the taala of the music piece.  

The artistes themselves have their own styles of dramatizing on stage. The Veena player Srinivas would look at the accompanists sitting on either side, smiling when he plays a tune to his own satisfaction and they would acknowledge in nodding, smiling gestures which were self-revealing.  He would relax the thighs by lifting a few inches and dropping back every once in while as the thigh got tired because the instrument rested on his left knee. The mridangam player would rest his forearms on the instrument whenever he was not required to play for short periods. The ghata player would do the same on his shiny clay pot.  Usually ghatam players will have a pot belly, but this Ramanujam did not have one. He would hold the round pot with his two calve muscles and often brought it back to touch his tummy as it tried to roll away out of control as he tapped and tapped. 

Whatever they did, they produced delightful melody.  Being there for nearly 90 minutes was quite rejuvenating.  I had not done such a thing for a long time.  I do not know if I sat that long if I was not entertained by the audience, if not by the artistes!  

A very heavy hailstorm

In Mysore, hailstorms are not common.  A couple of hailstorms during pre-monsoon in the month of May are to be expected.  They are sudden, heavy and usually towards the evening and arrive after some long, hot days accompanied by thunder and lightning.  Hailstones/hails would fall only for a short while when the shower starts.  Kids and elders rush out of the house when they hear the tip-tap sounds on their roofs to gather hails before they stop. It is said that eating a few of those would alleviate any stomach problem.  I am not sure how far this is true.

On Sunday last, it rained hail for nearly ten minutes which I feel is the longest in my time, at least, but the rain continued with its ferocity for an hour.  Our cricket club had a league game in the nearby town of Mandya, which is about an hour's drive [just 26 miles, but takes one hour due to the ugly presence of several speed-breakers and that too in the 'highway'].  The game was over two hours early at 3 pm and our team was returning to Mysore in two cars.  We could see a thick dark cloud cover over our city at a distance as we were closing in.

The first raindrop hit our car's windshield as we were passing next to the now defunct KR Mill building.  We were caught in the heavy hailstorm between toll gate and Banni Mantap. Visibility was just 20 feet or so, trees were swaying, smaller end twigs had been blown off the trees and there was a heavy fall of hails on the car which was being maneuvered slowly.  It was stalled beneath a small Gulmohar tree to protect from the impact from the crashing hailstones in great numbers.  They have a potential to crack the windshield.

I felt 'imprisoned' inside the car watching a grand and rare event through the closed car window.  I felt strong urges to escape, get soaked and eat a few of those of hailstones.  If it was my own car, I would have escaped to eat and soak! The hails here had a transparent outer and a white inner core, about the size of a XXL peanut.  What we were seeing outside the car was a beautiful thick carpet of pearly ice pellets all over!   What a sight, albeit for a few minutes!  None of my car-mates took pictures from their mobile phone camera.  Two of them had [I am still mobile-less].

To recreate and record  the rare scene I have grabbed two images from the web that resembled to what I really saw.  I could see them melt away quickly in the rain before we started our slow journey even as rain continued unabated. 

I thought my family would have enjoyed the hails back home.  But I was told it was 'just rain' here. Rain had eased by the time I was dropped at home. 

Let me briefly recall another hailstorm experience in the year 1976.  Again, it was May.  My street-friend Shankar and I were on our bicycles visiting my brother who was camping with the National Cadet Corps through his high school.  The camp site was at the foot of Chamundi Hill about 3 miles away.  On our return, we were caught unawares by a sudden cloudburst accompanied by a heavy hailstorm.  We were passing through an open field with no trees or any place for taking shelter.  The hails were striking my head and hands so heavily that it was pleasantly painful! It was an experience in itself!  In an hour the rain abated.  Both of us were completely soaked as we continued to pedal back home.