Friday, 8 December 2017


Yesterday, among one of the WhatsApp group messages, there was one message that stood out.

Jishnu (My brother-in-law’s son, a Class VIII student) got first price in Kathakali music in a school ‘kalotsavam’. A video clip also was uploaded. As I listened to the famous ‘Marimankanni’ being unfolded beautifully, my mind was transported back to about four decades.

If I remember right, it was in 1979, we came back to India on a two month holiday from Indonesia where I was employed. As usual in those days, generally people coming back on holidays from abroad, there were several gift items which were mandatory to be part of our luggage. A radio or a tape recorder or a 2 - in – 1 was invariably included. We too had brought a tape recorder where we could record and play back songs as sung by family members and also conversations, gossip sessions etc.

My brother-in-law Ravi (fondly called Unni), all of 8 or 9 years at that time, had come visiting us with his mother. I had been told that he is very much interested in Kathakali music and a highly talented singer even at that young age. I was personally very much interested in Kathakali (even now I am) and so, I requested him to sing.

He sang a padam from ‘Nalacharitam’ story – Siva Siva enthu cheyvu  njaan... – and the famous dandakam ‘kshoneendra patniyude....’ from ‘Keechakavadham’. These were sung by him superbly, for his age. I had recorded it and used to play it to my friends and used to tell that here is a great singer-in-the-making. I am sure I still have that cassette. But as we had moved houses several times later in life, it would need a bit of searching to find it.

Unni went on to win first prize in Kathakali music later in school ‘kalotsavam’ after six or seven years. For many years now he is a well-known Kathakali musician Athippatta Ravi (He is also a teacher and a poet) and had sung the two ‘Aattakathas’ written by me which were staged several times in Mumbai and Palakkad.

Also, if I am not mistaken, his daughter Uma also sings and had won a prize last year.

Now his son Jishnu has won the first prize in kalotsavam and given his background, I can confidently say that here there are two more good singers for the near future.....

Sunday, 3 December 2017


For last few days I have been watching ISL football in TKS, along with my quota of dosas. As a marketing technique, Shish has put up a big screen in his ThattuKada Shish. (TKS)

No, he is not showing the European league or Spanish league or anything. I asked him why.

Sh: See I have not opened this TKS for showing football to people. Football on a big screen is an additional incentive but our main business is Dosas and the other mouth-watering dishes. Still I would have liked to screen all the European football live but they are all late at night or during the early hours of mornings.....

N: Of course, ISL is OK.

Sh: I know if I screen them, people will sit through and the business will be brisker. Many people would like to watch European football compared to the diluted version.

N: Who says ISL is diluted version? There are many international players.

Sh: Ok,Ok. I did not say it is inferior. But comparatively it is slow and low on most of the aspects of the game.

N: Of course, it is low in speed comparatively. It is low on thrills probably. But it is low on fouls also.

Sh: You see, the thrill that you look for will need some speed and fouls. Couple of players falling, getting hurt, couple of players getting yellow and red cards.... All these are major parts of football which create the thrills.

N: I am sure the players are not thrilled..

Sh: Don’t be too sure. They also get the thrills but the main thing is they get paid. We get the thrill!

N: The problem is if someone gets hurt seriously and his playing career ends. That would be very bad, no?

Sh: But you know usually things like that happen very rarely. All these people are trained to take a few fouls as if it is a routine activity for them. They are trained to make a foul too. And moreover, I was told that they are also trained to fake an injury so that referee would award their team a free kick or a penalty stroke. A few times I have seen the guy who was in so much pain gets up and continues to play as if nothing had happened, after the free kick was awarded.

N: My God! What has the world come to?

Sh: Also I think that they are getting some training for acting. After committing a foul, you should be able to have that innocent look as if you didn’t know anything about it. Or you should look indignant that how anyone could accuse you of committing a foul! If a free kick or penalty is awarded, a few players will go and crowd the referee.

N: And you ay, this is all part of the sport. In our childhood, we were encouraged to take part in sports because that would infuse some discipline and sportsman spirit.

Sh: What is this spirit that you are talking about? You know very well I don’t serve spirit because you don’t allow me to.

N: Not that spirit..... I am talking about sportsman spirit.

Sh: Oh, that! And what do you think of the reverse passes? I have seen in this tournament too many reverse passes. Sometimes I felt that the goalkeeper gets to touch the ball more from own teammates than from the opposite team.

N: I have also noticed that. But that is only a strategic retreat.

Sh: Most of the time some of these players do only the reverse passes as if it is a new game. One day I got confused which team is playing against which side!

N: True. I have also seen it. But see it is all fun, no? Interesting things happen in football! In one of the matches long back I had seen, one goal keeper came all the way down to the centre line and.....

Sh: And what happened?

N: What would happen? One of his team player made a reverse pass and scored a goal!

Sh: Did you see what happened the other day? The goal keeper was collecting a reverse pass. An opposite team player was walking around and just put his foot forward and it became a goal!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

ThatsApp Again

Shish: I am a bit upset with you.

N: Why? What have I done?

Sh: First of all, you didn’t come to TKS yesterday. (Shish is my shishya, if you recollect, and is now now running his TKS, the ThattuKada Shishy)

N: Oh, that?

Sh: You can very well ‘Oh-that’me. But you know I waited for you with excellent dosas and a new type of chutney which I wanted you to check out.

N: So you wanted me to be the guinea pig before you include it in the menu.

Sh: No, not exactly. But we have to change things a bit sometimes. You know there are many different types of dosas also. One of my friend is running a restaurant and he serves 27 different types of dosas.

N: What is the use? You can have only only two or three types on a day.

Sh: But you know the customer has choices. Today the theory is give the customer choices.

N: Customer also maybe confused and will not know which type to take and he may abandon dosa altogether.

Sh: Never. They would not abandon. If they are so confused, they will say, ‘oh, all these new stuff! I prefer the traditional stuff....’ But some of them will tell themselves ‘ok, let me try this one for a change....’ And to some who still cannot decide, our waiter will help, ‘try this one today, sir, this is new and very good’

N: So, what happened to the new chutney? Did it sell well?

Sh: Of course, yes. But this is not what I wanted to talk about. You sort of distracted me from the main subject. My complaints about you .....

N: Complaints? Plural?

Sh: Yes. One, you did not come yesterday. Two, you wrote that blog about WhatsApp without even consulting me.

N: So what?

Sh: I could have given you some more points to write.

N: Such as?

Sh: On the positive side of WhatsApp, you can see your friends when they are participating in some music program etc almost instantly when some WhatsApp you the clips.... And one gets to know and communicate with the relatives of the young generation whom you didn’t know earlier.

N: I thought I had mentioned these, even if not in so much detail. And on the negative side?

Sh: One big problem for me is that there is no much verbal communication between my customers. I do not get to hear many gossips. They are all on WhatsApp chats the moment they come in till they leave. The only thing they do other than WApp is eating dosas.

N: Yes, that is something I missed out probably. Not only in your TKS, even in homes have communication between family members been taken over by WhatsApp.  Any more negatives?

Sh: I am sure there could be more points both on positive and negative side. You are the one who sits on the lazy chair and write, so it it is upto you to check out.

N: But you must help me, no?

Sh: I will. Give me a smartphone and I will WhatsApp you more points when I find....

Saturday, 18 November 2017


Well, I wouldn’t blame you if you think it is a new App. In this world of ‘Apps’, what else it could be.

No, it is not an answer to the question WhatsApp. In fact, ‘WhatsApp’ is not a question at all. Like any other word, it is a word – a single word at that. And as you already know, it is an App and nothing else.

Don’t presume I am against Apps. In fact, there are many Apps that are very useful. I don’t even want to say which ones are useful and which ones are not, simply because I don’t want to offend anyone, lest it may cause demonstrations, protests and TV debates.

In fact, Apps are controlling our life, whether you like it or not. For making a payment, you have many Apps such as PayTm, Bhim etc. For payment to Railways, you can do it through an App by Railways. The banks have their own Apps. The hotel booking, ticket booking etc. can be done through Apps. The telephone companies – they are called network operators now – have their Apps. Who knows, the Cigarette shop next to your gate may launch its own App. No, I m not complaining. The more, the merrier. But what I want to write about is not about all those Apps.

I had started using WhatsApp a couple of years back. It is a great App for communication. Instant communication with near and dear ones, friends and others so physically far away can be contacted and communicated with instantly. It started with written or typed chatting, worked its way through voice chatting and has reached up to video chatting. I was very happy that communication became so easy compared to the days where we had to walk down a couple of kilometres, book a trunk call on telephone and wait till the call came through. Then started the group chatting.

I became a member of a few groups recently. Group chatting was also a very useful. You can track people (which in some cases may be an irritant...), you can reconnect with people who have gone out of our life for some time, you can send photos and videos etc.

It is about sending he photos and videos I want to talk about. The usefulness cannot be overstated. Especially when there is a marriage in the family that you couldn’t attend personally, you can receive instant comments and photos and videos. When your friends are on a Himalayan tour, you can get photos and videos of the Himalayas. And so many more...... But....

When all these facilities are over-utilised, it becomes a problem. The problem start with many 'Good Morning' messages which many of my friends and groups send with photos of bouquets etc. The photos and videos consume memory, I am told. So I have to delete them. Next are the forwards and rumours, with a request it to further forward it to others. These are also to be deleted. There are jokes which are good, which can start the mornings with a good laugh. I am in a professional group where the posts or uploads related and relevant to my profession are only about 1 %. Rest are all forwards. Some people turn so philosophical and keep posting advices, proverbs and spiritual thoughts about life...... and beyond sometimes.

Am I objecting to these? No. Again would I say more, the merrier? No. More is OK, not merrier.....

Tuesday, 31 October 2017


Yes, I admit.

Naradaa was lazy for quite some time, now. Lazier than the lazy chair.

But this morning, I was shaken out of my laziness. The morning brought me the news that Sri Pariyanampatta Divakarettan passed away. I used to call him Divakarettan though he was a few years younger to me.

As a kathakali lover ever since I could remember, I used to go to watch most of the Kathakali performances around. Kathakali became less frequent in my life after I left for higher studies and later to Mumbai and Delhi for work. But I never lost an opportunity watch a performance whenever a troupe performs in these places or during my holidays in Kerala.

It was during one of these holidays during my Delhi days, if I remember right, that I had seen Divakarettan perfrform. I remember meeting him in the aniyara (make-up room) and introducing myself.

After I came back from Indonesia in 1982, we used to meet in different places as he had become a regular presence on the stage.

While in Mumbai from 1982 to 1995, I was quite involved with Kathakali, wrote two Aattakkathas (Sathyavan-Savithri and Naranathu Bhranthan) and staged them in Mumbai thanks to Sri Kalamandalam C Gopalakrishnan and Kalakshethram, Dombivili.

Naranathu Bhranthan was again performed in Palakkad (Palakkad Kathakali Trust) in 1998, I think. It was at that time I had the opportunity to interact a lot with Divakarettan. Divakarettan was performing as ‘Naranathu Bhranthan’.

During 3 or 4 days of preparation, Divakarettan worked hardand read a lot I am sure, because during aattams he used a few more stories about Bhranthan and his brothers. During those rehearsals, singer Athippatta Ravi was also there along with Sri Sadanam Bhasi who, I think, performed as Bhadrakali.

‘Naranathu Bhranthan’ was a success in Palakkad and was well acclaimed by people and the press too. The biggest recognition came when immediately after the performance, someone from Chittoor ( a village close to Palakkad) requested us to perform the same in their village.

So, we performed it again in Chittoor after about two months with Divakarettan as ‘Naranathu Bhranthan’.

Divakarettan passed away. He was not at an age to go away like this. Who knows, God probably wanted a Veerabhadran there and so Divakarettan got a call. May his soul remain blessed.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


I have been here in Salangaon for last 6 days, during this short holiday from some hectic work. The monsoon here seems to have settled into a new time table which suits me fine.

Morning the rain starts around 5 am. For all you know it probably starts before, without me being aware of it as I would be fast asleep during those hours.

So, in the morning I get up and go out to the verandah with a cup of tea to experience the morning fresh air and the rain. And I get an added bonus as I listen to the beautiful music created by innumerable number of birds with the rhythmic patterns created by rain on the tin roof the verandah.

Then by about 10.30 or 11, the sun makes an appearance peeping through the clouds. The sun plays hide and seek with the clouds and in the process charges the solar panels in the campus. This is the time I think of going out to the town. Well, I keep thinking for about 10 minutes and then lazily fall back into the chair, telling myself that I am on a holiday.

So, a bit of sun, a bit of drizzle – what people in many places call ‘the fox marriage’. This expression fox’s marriage is very common in many places in the world. In India and Sri Lanka in almost all languages it is referred to as fox’s marriage. In Japan, it is called ‘kitsune no yumeiri’, meaning fox’s wedding. In South East Asia many countries refer to these sunshowers as fox’s marriage.

Be that as it may, this condition prevails until about 3 pm and then the rains slowly come back. By evening it starts raining heavily again and then it takes a break again at around 9 pm.

This schedule is being kept for last 6 days. I really would like to believe that it is a specially designed holiday package for me. Just laze around, for which I hardly get any chance otherwise!

Monday, 7 August 2017


Three or four days back I was coming to Dehradun from Ghaziabad by a Volvo bus. From the hot weather in Ghaziabad, to escape to cooler climate of Dehradun – actually Salangaon, an unpolluted village about 15 km uphill just off the Mussoori Road – was a pleasant thought.

As the bus stopped for a dinner break at about 7 pm, I overheard the odd conversation by co-passengers. One guy was telling other members of his group, ‘look, I just talked to my brother-in-law. He says it has been raining heavily since afternoon and the roads are all flooded.... I asked him to bring the car to ISBT, the bus terminal’

Well, I have a friend, an auto rickshaw driver who comes to ISBT whenever I call him to pick me up and take me to Salangaon. I reach from Delhi many times at 1 or 2 a.m and he had never disappointed me. But I was wondering if it was raining heavily whether he would be able to come this time.

I called him up and he confirmed that it had been raining very heavy since afternoon and had been raining actually for last two days.

‘Of course I will come sir! Don’t worry! I will be waiting under the flyover.’ His words reassured me.

And from Roorkie onwards throughout till we reached Dehradun, it had been raining.

I reached around 11 pm and true to his words he was there. Defying rains and flooded roads, we reached the school campus safely.

After reaching there, I soon hit the bed having exhausted completely.

Waking up in the morning, the rain was continuing but it was as if I had reached another world. It was so green, so beautiful. The fresh air in the surroundings had already started rejuvenating me.

Most of you must have sung this nursery rhyme in your school days, but I think it is irrelevant.

                Rain, Rain, go away, come again another day,

                Little Johnny wants to play ......

My heart would sing,

                Rain, don’t go away, be here for more days,

Little Johnny wants to play in the rain.....