/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": A Work of this Nature

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Work of this Nature

We are sometimes hard pressed to describe a work such as ours; not that anybody cares in this overwhelming and impersonal age of hustle and bustle, nor is there anyone really asking. Of course, one cannot also ask of that which one does not know.

The arrival of a state, where we are looking at our own work mostly in a manner of self-contemplation, comes after one has undergone a journey of some lengths, a journey where each trial encountered leaves behind a mixture of feelings, and the feelings hopefully take you into the next step of some learning and philosophy.

When we first started, our view was but a minimal one from a distance; thoughts of just being able to gather up a few old things, dust them up (in a manner of speaking), and put them up on this modern mantelpiece called a blog. Whatever initial euphoria there was, however, began to wear off quickly as we started to examine each detail in terms of providing it with an assignment, and then started to discover that all too familiar feeling of being overwhelmed.

There were just way too many things to contend with; way too much music to start with, all in several entities of boxes, spools, reels upon reels of magnetic tapes, many of them (particularly the older ones) in different stages of relapse or decomposition or stickiness, not to mention the confusion over labels versus the contents of the print matter given to us; way too many photographs and albums to inspect and a long span of history to rework, solely through discussions; all of which was topped by the logistics of a team scattered in different continents, spread over different time zones and whose members could only work intermittently in between more important commitments to life.

If this was the front to our domain, we also had to learn much in terms of how to deal with our inner selves, how to relate the pieces of that which we had discovered or encountered in great excitement, to literally paring that excitement down to a nothing in dealing with the practicalities that dictated the presentation - critical evaluations of how it would be received by both skeptical and knowledgeable viewers, evaluations of it adding appropriate content to our perceived goal, whether we needed to produce everything in an evidentiary form to a skeptical world who were always likely to wonder "did all of this suddenly come out of a woodwork?". Did we have a sample photograph illustrative of what we were going to write? Did we even have a small paper cutting or a sound bite to go with it? etc. The biggest suffering lay in the wait for information that was badly needed, and about which information one couldn’t say whether it existed or not?

For example, our central character was the grand old man K. Puttu Rao and we were told that he was an advocate as capable of springing a surprise in court, as a Perry Mason. Don’t a famous advocate’s cases get reported and where could one find them? On enquiry, we were told that Mysore’s famous papers of yester years such as Samyukta Karnataka’, ‘Prajavani’, ‘Thainadu or a Deccan Herald might carry the stories. But, online searches (in all combinations of key words) for content from these papers including the present online
Star of Mysore' yielded nothing. Now, who else could help us out with this? Where and of whom does one possibly seek? Who would be the one that would have cared to preserve cuttings of such a long, long time ago? Or could we hope that a rusty trunk like in the case of the famous mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan’s papers would suddenly show up one day?

We were also informed in Chowdiah’s sound bite that Puttu Rao himself was not just about law and law courts but that he was a great aficionado of music! But, the latter had passed away in 1959 and in quick succession so were those whom formed the theatre of his world of music, Mysore Vasudevachar (1961), Pazhani Subramaniam Pillai (1962), GNB (1965), Chowdiah (1967), Ariyakudi (1967), Madurai Mani Iyer (1968) etc. Which way should we turn, now?

Consider also, an example from the time when we were told that Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, during his visits to Mysore would often prefer to spend some time in "Parvathi". On one such occasion he brought along a close friend, a high court judge from Chennai, and in introducing the visitor to "Parvathi" was overheard to remark in Tamil to the effect that "...every brick in this house oozes music!..", and we had to pause ourselves in time to wonder "Great! but on what evidence shall we produce this other than hearsay?"

On a similar note, we had to curtail ourselves from being able to talk in sufficiency of K. Puttu Rao’s late son, K.K. Murthy, of whose emboldening ways we were told (before the creation of a Chowdiah memorial) lay in wanting to convert a Bangalore into a Bollywood / Hollywood much before the city’s advent of being recognized as a Silicon Valley (as the reams of photographs of his wooing of movie thespians such as V.Shantaram or a Dilip Kumar from those days came to light). We were told that issues of yesteryears such as a ‘Cine Advance or ‘Screen’ might be the ones that might have carried a story. But, here too, we arrived at but a dead end.

We found, too, to our loss, that there were not many members left from the immediate family nor from its wider circles nor from the circle of any of Mysore’s old luminaries, dignitaries, colleagues and friends who could provide us with the type of intimate first level details that we needed to sufficiently build a portrait of K. Puttu Rao; a thing we wanted to do so badly considering the many things that we learned of his fascinating house "Parvathi" and its "home away from home" to the Carnatic musicians. We were, at least, glad to have come across some lucky ‘in their own voices’ type of tributes, from Chowdiah, R.K. Narayan, music critic Chalurayaswamy, Sangeeta Natak Poet P.T. Narasimhachar and from a few exaggerated sound bites of some musicians as they enjoyed themselves in Parvathi”. They provided us with some evidences of the old times. While adding to the significances, these discoveries also heightened in us the fact that too many things had just been lost.

We also had to keep many a turmoil all to ourselves, one of which was in discovering the violence of a modern day world (no, its just not HAL! from Stanley Kubric’s classic ‘2001 Space Odyssey’), when third party servers (in whom you innocently trusted) came to just wipe off all your work without a sign or warning. We also had to keep a lingering disquiet all to ourselves, that of the loss of an age old world of a lyricism, grace and tempo, as we discovered the quintessential world of Mysore, created from a totally different lens and script; a world that could only be reacquainted with someone who would stop and listen, who could be touched through the arts of a gentle ‘story telling’ or as the people of Karnataka themselves alluded to as a Yakshagana.

Along with our own discoveries of Mysore we are equally happy in letting you know of another couple of beautiful blogs that unites you with those times, as in
Churumuri, (Swalpa Sihi, Swalpa Spicy) ‘Once upon a Time' and as in Kamat's Poutpurri ‘Mysore Collection’

Finally, we did make a discovery, but all in a few words reminiscent of a ‘needle in a haystack’. It was in the quote of the late Prof. G.T Narayan Rao (well-known science writer, music critic, cultural organiser, and a prominent citizen of the city of Mysore, India) in a 1987 issue of that beautiful music magazine Sruthi dedicated to Chowdiah (shown first above).

“K. Puttu Rao, 1894-1959, was a leading advocate of Mysore. His love of music and regard for artists were proverbial. “Parvathi” the spacious bungalow where he lived, was second only to the Mysore Palace in its benevolence to art and artists. The bungalow was always overflowing with music. It was but natural that in such a household the violin maestro Mysore T. Chowdiah should have carved a warm niche for himself”.

- Prof. G.T. Narayan Rao