Life came a full circle when my son came home and told me that they had a concert organized by Spicmacay at school. It is a full circle because I was involved with the organization in my student days. It was thanks to this association that I have stated to appreciate classical music and dance forms. Till then classical music was boring and dance was limited to the performances rendered by friends at school and college functions. To be fair to myself, I did like MS Subbulakshmi and Dr Balamurali krishna’s rendering of some Tyagaraja and Annamacharya kriti’s. But then that was the extent of my exposure to Carnatic music. Hindustani music was as far as Delhi from Deccan by passenger train.
In college I jumped into Spicmacay with full gusto because of my hostel mates. They were part of the volunteer committee and in lieu of sharing a room with them, I had by default become a part of the core group. Spicmacay for the uninitiated is an organization started by Dr Kiran Seth , a professor at Delhi University. It is a voluntary movement and conducts classical art programs at colleges and schools across the world. The local chapters get to host the artists and organize their programs in various premises or venues across the city/town. As we were in Tirupati, many artists favored coming to our town so that they can get the blessings of Lord Venkateshwara.
The first program that we organized was a Lecture Demonstration by Dr Kanak Rele a renowned exponent of Mohiniattam. Dr Rele and her team were coming from Mumbai by train and we had gone to received them at the station. At that time we did not even know what Mohiniattam meant forget knowing how big an artist she was. She was quite forgiving knowing our inexperience but then put her foot down when she saw the stage. She refused to perform without a spot light. Scurrying around, we organized one and the show started an hour late. When she was demonstrating and explaining the Navarasa’s did we understand why she insisted on the light. Without the benefit of the light on her face, it would have been very difficult for the audience to appreciate the nuances of the rasa’s. That was the first time for many of us in the audience to see the transformation of the artist from a normal attire alighting the train to an accomplished performer. And what a transformation it was.
We had gallery seats for many a mesmerizing evenings with Padma Vibhushan Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Ronu Majumdar, Fazal Quereshi, ChitraVina Ravi Kiran, Dagar brothers, Padma Bhushan T N Krishnan, Ghattam Exponent Vinayak Rao. Tears in our eyes was a common phenomenon when we got to know how great they were and how humble they accepted what we could offer. It was another matter altogether how much we had to scurry around even to provide the humble offerings. This was in early 90’s in the small town that Tirupati was at that time. We did get a lot of support from our university professors and the TTD administration. The lessons that we learned during the organizing and the friendships that were made then lasted a life time.
It was because of Spicmacay that I could be a part of an intimate gathering of about 30 with Pt Chaurasia. The telugu movie, ‘Sirivennela’ was released by then, and Pt Chaurasia’s flute rendering was quite popular in the Andhra and Telangana. How he transported us to the presence of the God Krishna with his flute was something that I will cherish for a life time. Another magical evening was with Sri TN Krishnan holding a beautiful Lec-Dem session with about 300 students. He demystified the ragas and became one of us so beautifully that everyone of those present went back with a deeper appreciation of the classical music.
Thanks to Spicmacay and the concerts and lec-dem’s, I have been able to appreciate the nuances of the classical art forms. It definitely was a life enriching experience.