He spoke to rediff. I grew up, did my school and college, and also learnt music in a small town called Kalamazoo in south west Michigan.
I moved to New York four years ago to pursue my PhD. My father is a professor in Geo and Environmental Science, and my mother is an accountant but my entire family is musical.
All of us are very much interested in Carnatic music but no one had the opportunity to pursue it professionally. I was always interested in drums and percussion but somehow got fascinated by the Mridangam.
Luckily there was a Mridangam to learn on at home. My father had bought it from Kerala. He wanted to learn from Damodaran Srinivasan, a Mridangam teacher who was in town for a couple of years as a graduate student at the University.
Somehow, his training fizzled out. So, there was this instrument and also the teacher, and one day, I asked my parents whether I could learn the Mridangam.
I was 8 years old then. Nobody thought I would take it up very seriously. I myself wonder why I took it up seriously. Perhaps the sound, the exposure to the instrument, the rhythmic aspect, and the instrument itself attracted me.
It is an unusual instrument for a person who was growing up in America. But after a couple of months of learning, my teacher moved to Massachusetts for work, and there was no Mridangam teacher in a mile radius.
So, my teacher suggested I learn through speakerphone. Remember this was before Skype and virtual lessons started. Fortunately for me, before he left, he had given me a very strong foundation.
Soon, my e-classes started; he played over the phone and I translated it into scripts and practised. There were days when I practised 5 to 6 hours.
I was that passionate. I continued learning through speakerphone for almost a couple of years and it actually worked out really well.
It was quite a landmark in my musical journey. My parents and I went to his concert and met him before the concert. Though we were meeting him for the first time, something clicked.
He asked me, do you want to sit on the stage with me? I agreed, though I was not familiar with sitting on the stage.
I remember I went up wearing my shoes! He then asked me to remove my shoes. The concert lasted five hours and all through the time, I was with him, doing thaalam.
He was so impressed with my dedication that he offered to teach me when I came to Chennai next. The next summer, in , I was in Chennai to take lessons from him directly.
I have been taking lessons from him for the last 15 years. Sometimes I come here to take lessons, or when he comes to the US, he often stays with us for a month or so, so that I could learn from him.
I never had the luxury of having a teacher in the same city. But I used to practise hours and hours everyday. Also, my parents used to take me to all the concerts in the near vicinity.
W ithin a year after I started learning Mridangam, I started performing. I still remember my first serious performance at a day-long festival at Michigan.
My mother was singing and I played for her. When the others saw a small kid performing, everyone asked me to perform with them, and I ended up playing hours continuously.
It was draining but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a wonderful learning experience. From kindergarten to 12th grade, I was pursuing music parallel to academics.
In college, I did a double major in music and chemistry. I learnt history, theory and performance in college. After my graduation, I wanted to do an advanced degree and it was at that time that I had to choose either music or science, or both forever.
I decided to pursue music professionally. It was a major decision for me but I have very supportive parents, family, friends and teachers.
Four years ago, I enrolled myself for a PhD in Musicology at the Eastman School of Music, regarded as the number one school to pursue music.
My PhD dissertation is about virtual musical classroom, which is online training in Carnatic percussion. I have been here in Chennai on a fellowship to do research on this.
T he joke that goes around is that when a student contacts a music teacher, he says, you have more chances of being my student if you move to the United States and take Skype classes!
Now I realise it is not a joke but a reality. The driver was arrested for rash driving but later released on bail. A businessman bent on showcasing his 9-year-old son's driving talents to the world let him take his Ferrari F for a spin.
Muhammad Nizam, currently in jail for killing a security guard by ramming his Hummer into the man, let his son drive the supercar on his birthday — with nobody else in the vehicle except for his 9-year-old brother — and filmed it.
Police said he was driving at over kmph and not wearing his seat belt when the accident occurred. He lost control while trying to overtake a vehicle, climbed the car-bus lane separator and rammed into a bus stop.
PC Jewellers, the initial owners of the ill-fated Lamborghini Gallardo, got rid of the car as they found it nearly uncontrollable on Indian roads.
Cars made by Ferrari, Bugatti, Maserati, Lamborghini or Bentley are engineering marvels but some experts say they are not suited for under-developed markets and conditions such as those found in India.
The main issue is the way these cars handle on the road and their rapid acceleration. The Gallardo, for example, can get up to kmph from standstill in just 3.
Experts believe Indian drivers, being conservative and with limited exposure to such powerful machines, are not equipped to handle such acceleration.
Another problem these vehicles face in India is the dreaded low ground clearance. The Gallardo has an unenviable ground clearance of little over mm.
While that is crucial for a car that does kmph-plus, the feature is quite a liability on Indian roads.
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