Spent a good hour lamenting over the fact that I had done nothing about my forthcoming talk on Tyagaraja. Less than 3 days away. More importantly, have not selected what to wear.

Dr Yashoda Thakore's lecdem
Dr Yashoda Thakore’s lecdem

In the morning, after a mad rush to school (why do they have exams during the season?), dashed into the Academy for Dr Yashoda Thakore’s presentation on Padam and Javali renditions in some Devadasi traditions of Andhra. A very succinct summation of what is practised in the Godavari region was depicted. She played a recording of Chittoor Subramania Pillai singing his creation Mathura Nagarilo (Ananda bhairavi). A male singer she had brought with her from Andhra then sang it the way it has been modified and adapted by the kalavants of Andhra.

Next came a padam of Kshetrayya. I have somehow lost my notes and so cannot recall the opening lines but the meaning remains fresh – if you become tired after making love to me only once O Muvva Gopala… The Experts Committee was rather taken aback. Yashoda did abhinaya for this. A video clip of an ageing performer doing abhinaya for another piece (My in laws have come to fetch me. I have to go O Muvva Gopala) was then played. EC in conniptions.

Then came a javali for which Yashoda did abhinaya. Apparently in the mezuvani tradition of Andhra (salon would be an equivalent), the abhinaya was done sitting down and there was no nritta equivalent for even the chitta swaram portion of varnams. During such interludes the performer would merely sing. This javali was however performed standing up and ended with a rhythmic flourish. EC members relaxed. One or two privately made snide remarks about the folkish music. Question hour was comparatively mild.

Had to leave at 9.00 am to join family and friends at the NGS for breakfast. Ran into some die-hard Sanjay fans waiting to purchase tickets for his performance at the NGS. Some had come at 6.00 am. Breakfast was its usual gala self. All standard items perfect. The kashi halwa was a disappointment. Over-sweetened if you ask me. The Akkaravadisal was a lot better. Rounded it off with coffee-a-la-Sadasivam (of MS Subbulakshmi fame).

In the afternoon, after having brooded ineffectually at office on falling sales, dipping collections and non-existent order-intake, went back to Academy. A few members of the Committee, having read this blog, decided to see for themselves as to what makes Gnanambiga great. Having put away our Academy badges so that nobody could recognise us, we stole forth. But alas, such disguises were ineffective (how did the Rajahs of old manage?) and we were pounced upon at once. Surprising that hounds were not set on us. Jayaraman’s sons went overboard on the hospitality thereafter. But it was a mixed bag.

We began with something called paal kozhukattai which tasted like balls of canvas shoe polish dipped in sugar syrup. After this disastrous beginning, things got better. Upma Kozhukattai was a lot better. The Ragi Dosa was universally acclaimed. Paruppu Podi Sevai was hailed as the ultimate. The Academy committee has a weakness for bonda and this was called for next. Unfortunately, it was just like the way it is made in the Academy. Gnanambiga’s morning coffee is better than the evening’s. But Ashoka poli (spelt boli) was good. Noticed that English howlers abounded once again on the menu. Or at least #kogul errors – what is thagi papti?

#koguls at Gnanambiga (another #kogul)
#koguls at Gnanambiga (another #kogul)

Returned to Academy and reported to President who thanks to grapevine knew about our visit already.

No cutchery day. Mother turned 70 and there was dinner at Gymkhana for a few family members. More food. Tottered home at 11.00 pm. Tomorrow hopefully should see more music and less food. Have done nothing for the Tyagaraja talk. Worse, not made up my mind on what to wear.