lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, July 27, 2007

A beaten path

Memory: a beaten path in the brain.

It is strange how memory works. The triggers and associations are odd and sometimes inexplicable; we just don't know what reminds us of what other things and why.

The smell of asfoetida in hot oil sometimes reminds me of the small furry caterpillars that used to infest the tamarind trees in our Madras home. One fell on me once, and I had an allergic reaction that had my arm swollen in angry red blotches that took days to fade. I don't know why the smell of hing reminds me of caterpillars, though.

Frogs after rain remind me of a walk back home after a late night concert from Vani Mahal, wading in ankle-deep puddles, my escort and I both humming the Kaanada kriti Sukhi Evvaro. He remarked that the frogs were perfect accompanists for our unmusical efforts. I agreed.

I'd just started on the day's crosswords when the phone rang. It was for K, his quasi-student from Bombay, wanting to clear doubts or sort out technique and suchlike. I handed the phone to him and turned my attention back to the clues. It was Paul's crossword, I was chuckling and frowning my way through it, so it registered only peripherally that K was singing into the phone.

Double jeopardy securing work, then left in fix (12)

I mused. Double jeopardy. That is Jhinjhoti he is singing. Hmm, work would be op, then left in fix? Rig, tie, pin? Or is it an anagram indicator? What is double jeopardy? Legal term, I think. Let's look it up. Why am I thinking of Kedaragoula?

Bail out sovereign with money - bread (12)

I thought further. Sovereign is ER, anagram of bail before? Let's see. But Jhinjhoti is Yadukula Kambhoji, right, so where did Kedaragoula come from? Hmm, bail out as sailing term, perhaps? Money. Dollar, cents okay, nickel. Got it.

Pulmonary vein's blood is taken round next day, for example in circulation (10)

I laughed as I figured this out. Granted, they are both derived from Harikambhoji but the ascent is different. He is still singing, talking of da ra di ri di ri and chikaras.

Some thing to do, note, unfortunately prohibited (8)

This gave me some trouble as I goofed the across clue, filling in fervour instead of forever. It took me a while to sort that out and the Kedaragoula question took a back seat. I completed the crossword, and listened to the lesson he was giving on the phone.

Music lessons have evolved somewhat since I learned veena from Chittibabu. Learning from a teacher is the best way, of course, but you can teach yourself too. These days you can get online lessons on anything. And K teaches this occasional student over the phone. The young man sits in front of a speaker phone with his sarod and plays, K correcting him, giving feedback and suggestions, the distance between Bombay and Calcutta becoming meaningless.

"Honey, there is an apt clue today," I said as he concluded his conversation. "Phone call impossible, given cutoff point, eight." He laughed. Teaching over phone would be impossible with a dead line, after all.

"That was Jhinjhoti, right?"
"Yeah, your Yadukula Kambhoji."
"So why do I keep thinking of Kedaragoula?"
"How should I know?"

I shrugged. It's a mystery. Maybe I will figure it out, maybe I won't. Later in the evening, I checked my site tracker. I saw that there came a visitor who was looking for "chittibabu cuckoo song notation". Eureka! The memory came flooding back, and I realised why the Jhinjhoti lesson imparted over phone reminded me of Kedaragoula.

There were no speaker phones when I learnt from Chittibabu, of course, but I heard him teach over the phone, once. It was in the early days of my lessons with him. I had gone for a lesson, and just crossed the threshold when I heard his voice. He was in an inner room, on the phone; ri sa ri maa ga ri- ma ga ree ga- sa ri ma pa ni, I heard him sing.

(Chittibabu had a wonderful voice, a lovely baritone that could descend to bass or rise to high tenor as he did wickedly accurate imitations of musicians and their mannerisms. I treasure the memory of his mimicking MD Ramanathan singing Sahana. It used to slay me when he did the pointed squinty glare as he retied an imaginary topknot. With some discipline and quitting of smoking, he could have sung concerts if he chose, he was that good.)

He was singing Kedaragoula, going over the chittasvaram of the kriti Saraguna Palimpa, by Ramanadhapuram Srinivasa Iyengar. That was the first time I heard the raga, and the phrase seemed wonderful. He must be clarifying things for an out-station student, I supposed as I stood listening.

maa-a-a- pa ni da paa da- ma pa ma ga ri, he went back to the beginning of the chittasvaram and sang it through. When he came to the repetition of ri sa ri maa ga ri in the higher octave and the conclusion, I fell in love with the chittasvaram, and Kedaragoula.

No wonder the Jhinjhoti lesson on the phone reminded me of Kedaragoula. The confusion arose because Jhinjhoti is closer to Yadukula Kambhoji, and it wasn't until I saw his name that the penny dropped.

The solutions, if you haven't got them yet, are doppelganger, pumpernickel, oxygenated and verboten.



Blogger netizen said...

from banana song to chittibaabu,
from madras(?) to kolkota
is vaani mahal still around?
from caterpillars to music lessons..

btw jason was asking me if it is alright to have a few affiliates, partners on the blog..jason is an other blogger..he says amazon discounts 4 per cent on the books bought from them..

4:30 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Netizen- Yes, Vani Mahal is still around. But I am not sure what you mean about affiliates and partners on the blog. Who is Jason? Amazon gives larger discounts too.

5:36 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

What strange associations indeed. Why should hing evoke caterpillars? Or Jhinjhoti Kedaragoula? Nice post Lali. I remember an MDR concert I attended. He was a brilliant artist. But easily mimicked as you say. Was the Sahana vandanamu raghunandana?

8:34 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

And thus, Lali, you take my breathe away.

(And do tell K, won't you, that I'm incredibly in awe of him now? I'd call, but I'm running on a very tight schedule)

3:27 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash- Actually, it was. :-)Yeah, MDR was easy to imitate.

Rimi- What a nice thing to say, princess. Thank you. You can tell K yourself though, I am not carrying messages.

7:09 pm  
Blogger Sriram said...

oh that was vandanamu...when u said MDR and Sahana, i took it for granted it was his inimitable "giripai..."


3:58 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Sriram- Heh. That was inimitable, you know? Too sublime to blaspheme about. But the rest was fair game, as such. Thus we teacher and student bonded, teacher and Resident Mathematician, too; over discussing musicians and modes and mannerisms.

9:55 pm  
Blogger Sriram said...

oh yeah...agree with you.

and forgot to say this, never thought chittibabu was a such a keen observer of his contemporary musicians. most of us have an entirely different image of this artiste....was he used to attend their concerts as well?

- Sriram

3:58 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Sriram- Chittibabu was a keen observer, yes. People who knew him personally can attest to his sense of humour, his kindness and more. He was amazingly well-read too. A wonderful man.

4:27 pm  
Blogger asimov said...

I have been searching for the raga of beautiful Rafi no Teri Aankhon from the film Chirag. I came to know its based on Raga Jinjotti. Then i searched for its karnatic equivalent name. I stumbled upon your blog. Thankss for the information.

1:28 pm  

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