A South-Indian Classical Music Fan Speaks

Dilli Babu, for as long as I have known him, swore by classical music. “In the cruel summer nights, when walking around the house butt naked and taking a shower every 7 minutes also didn’t help, I listen to this composition in Jagan Kalyan. And, I sleep like a baby post that!” He said, wiping the foam off the corners of his mouth.

He was visibly upset by the recent fracas over South Indian sensibilities. “What do these guys know? They are not qualified to critique I say!” He screamed at me, as he hiked his Lungi up. “If Bangalore is South India, going by what they wrote, Nochhu kuppam is Thailand!” He added, tossing a Cheedai in the air and catching it with his mouth.

“So there’s no truth in their claim then Dilli?” I asked. He looked at me as if I were a ‘oosi pona Ulundu Vadai’ and said, “Truth?” And he sat on the thinnai and asked me to sit as well. I sat down.

He said, “Machan, do these guys understand the difference between Jagan Kalyan and Pavan Kalyan? Can they identify Beer-a-vaangu-nee by the initial aalap?”

He continued, “Take for instance this masterpiece in Dhodaa raagam. Many so called experts thought it was composed in Bagul-bigil. The intricacies are many and minute, for someone from outside to appreciate, leave alone pontificate upon.”

“Our ways of worship-communication are avant-garden.” He said. “Unlike other schools like Poes garden or Nageswar Rao Park. And, we don’t rest on our laurels. We wake up before dawn everyday and compose krithis. The one recent krithi in Surroongudhu epitomises our devotion and the South Indian practice of worship.” He paused to take a breath.

“What do you think about Hindustani?” I said.

He lit a beedi, drew a lungful, and let the smoke drift through his nose. It was a poignant moment. It was already dark. The barotta shop on Alwarpet street, started his rhythm practice.  ‘tan-ku-taka tan-ku-taka tan-ku-taka tattaku-tattaku’ he went in a loop, with the occasional roll (didikinakkum-jakkajum). My beard started growing as I waited for Dilli to answer.

“Hey Dilli, can you answer me?” I reminded him.

“Who are you? Where is my friend?” He said.

“It’s me only da. I just grew a beard when you were thinking.” I said.

“Oh-oho-oh. ha ha ha” He coughed and spluttered. I thought I had managed to offend this great man; this fantastic exponent of Classical South Indian music.

“Hindustani eh? Well, I liked it in Tamil.” He said. “The hindi dubbing was fuckall.” He crushed his beedi with his bare foot, and walked away into the Sodium vapor lamp’s glow.


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