Music Academy events in June 2016

May 31, 2016

There are several programmes in June being organised by the Music Academy.

June 1st to 3rd in association with Radel at The Kasturi Srinivasan Hall. All are welcome

1/6/2016 Wednesday –
5.30 to 7.00 pm – Vamsi Krishna, Vocal, Nagaraj Mandya, Violin, D Sivaraman, Mridangam.
7.15 to 8.45 pm – Ratna Prabha, Vocal, Srirangam Lakshminarayanan, Violin, Adambakkam Anand Mridangam

2/6/2016 Thursday –

5.30 to 7.00 pm – Sreeusha & Sireesham, Mandolin, BS Prashanth, Mridangam, S Krishna, Ghatam

7.15 to 8.45 pm – Meghana Moorthy, Vocal, Sahana Vasudevan, Violin, Mysore Vadiraj, Mridangam

3/6/2016 Friday –

5.30 to 7.00 pm – Karthika Vaidyanathan, Vocal, Anuthama Murali, Violin, GS Nagaraj, Mridangam

7.15 to 8.45 pm – SriVidya and Sudha RS Iyer, Vocal, Sandeep Ramachandran, Violin, S Thyagarajan, Mridangam

HCL Series at Kasturi Srinivasan Hall. All are welcome

7/6/2016 Tuesday –

6.00 pm – Bharata Natyam by Meera Sreenarayanan

14/6/2016 Tuesday –

6.00 pm – S Adityanarayan, Vocal, Sudha RS Iyer, Violin, Karthik Ganeshraman, Mridangam


On Sunday the 12th June 9.30a.m – 12.30p.m At the Kasturi Srinivasan Hall – Music Appreciation workshop for the registered participants by Vidushi Dr S. Sowmya.
Programme under the endowment in memory of Sri. T.T Rangaswami instituted by Dr. Malathi Rangaswamy.

On Saturday the 11th June 10.00a.m. – 12 noon At the Kasturi Srinivasan Hall – Rhythmic Aspects: Tala, Laya, Gati, Nadai & Kalpramanam workshop for the registered participants by Vidvan Sri. Guruvayur Dorai. Programme under the endowment instituted by Dr. S.A.K Durga in memory of her father Sri. S.A Venkataraman.

Registration for both workshop – Rs.100/- ,
Any one workshop Rs.50/- ,
Bonafide students for both workshops – Rs.50/- . Admission on first come first served basis.

NEET shows State Board needs upgrade

May 25, 2016

And so, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical and dental undergraduate courses has come to stay. It will be applicable across the country and will therefore be a standard yardstick for admission. At least something can now be measured uniformly in an education system that has increasingly become fractured along State boundary lines. The judgement to this effect by the Supreme Court of India has, of course, riled Tamil Nadu no end, for the State has for years been setting its own standards in education.

Our sympathies are with the students who now need to prepare themselves for a completely different kind of test. But to enthuse them we need to only tell them to look back and realise that the same kind of stresses were faced when the education system changed from the Pre-University scheme to Plus Two and also when engineering courses switched from five-year duration to four. The fundamental difference here is that those were changes within a curriculum, while this poses challenges for aspirants and is therefore a bigger obstacle to surmount.

The stance of private colleges and the State, both of which till last year conducted their own examinations for colleges under their control, is that the new ruling has taken students unawares and that tests that are held under NEET are of a very high standard and that, therefore, most students may not clear them. Well, what exactly is wrong with a high standard? We are, after all, dealing with a life science here, one in which graduates will have to contend with human health and well being. Can any standard be too high for such things? We would expect that merit of the highest order would be the sole criterion for letting in students into such courses and those that do not qualify will need to look at alternatives.

Unfortunately, the private colleges and, let us face it, the State-run institutions do not exactly stand for that. While the former believe in casting a wide net and dragging in anybody and everybody who aspires to become a doctor provided they have the financial wherewithal, the latter is invariably governed by principles of populism. The former may be motivated by greed, but the latter definitely has perpetuated low standards in every aspect of their administration and results. When we tell you that one of the arguments put forward against the bringing in of NEET in Tamil Nadu was that students here do not know how to answer questions in a multiple choice format, you need no better illustration of the levels to which we have sunk. Today most international examinations are in that format and if we do not train our younger generation to handle that, too bad. We are not going to be competitive, that’s all. The world has plenty of other choices, thank you.

There are two ways of looking at education. The first is to consistently raise standards and ensure that aspirants are trained to handle these requirements via adequate coaching at all levels. The other is to dumb it down to the lowest common denominator. That latter is what Tamil Nadu specialises in, in the name of inclusion. Can the excuse that the State’s secondary level/matriculation board is of a lower standard than the Central Board and so the students in the former would be disadvantaged hold any water? If that be the case it is high time we upgraded ourselves and helped the students to come up to par. If we are hoping that the Central Board will lower itself to help us, then we are living in a world of illusion. NEET becoming mandatory has no doubt come as a rude shock. If we are to prevent others of this kind, it is time we shook ourselves out of the cosy cocoon we have made for ourselves.

PS: we were saved the bother of upgrading ourselves. Since this article was written the Central Government issued an ordnance in favour of retaining the status quo.

Will Chennai’s Corporation learn from London’s?

May 24, 2016
Ripon Building

Ripon Building, from A Book on South India by JC Molony

Elections for the post of mayor of London have just concluded and received worldwide publicity. Chennai’s municipal body is said to be the second oldest after London’s in the former British domains. Of course, we don’t expect elections here to attract the same attention but will our civic body begin to emulate some of the good features of the Corporation of London, at least some time in the future?
To be sure, the Corporation of Greater Chennai has been ahead of its London counterpart in having a directly elected mayor. The practice began here in 1996 while in London it came about only in 2000 after a referendum decided to this ­effect. Since the time the post of mayor became a matter of public contest both in Chennai and London, candidates have been fielded from the dominant political parties and the results have gone in the way of one or the other. The similarity, however, ends there.

In London, though Mayors may have come from a particular political ideology, they begin to represent the city’s interests once elected. This is not to say that they become independent of their Party’s influence, but they do have the freedom to think about their city’s priorities and put those ahead of Party considerations. Thus, we have had occasions when both Conservative-and Labour-backed mayors have taken a line markedly deviant from the stance of the Prime Minister of the country. In Chennai, this would be unthinkable. Mayors here, and for that matter our elected municipal councillors as well, view the civic body to be an extension of the Legislative Assembly and carry forward the same conflicts into their chamber. Most often than not, the city’s priorities are given the go-by. If you look at the records of our Corporation’s council meetings, you will invariably find that most bills are passed in the absence of any opposition. The latter inevitably invite eviction on the grounds of unruly behaviour as soon as the Council meets. How then is any debate on civic issues possible?

London’s Mayors have in the past decade and a half had a history of implementing what were feared to be unpopular decisions. There was the matter of congestion tax, to restrict the influx of cars into the city. A public backlash was feared, but the proposal went ahead nevertheless. It not only contributed to the reduction of vehicle population that entered the city each day, but it also made people use public transport to a greater degree. Another Mayor threw his weight behind exclusive lanes for cycles. This too was received with a hue and cry about how the idea was reducing road space for vehicles. The plan has, however, since been implemented.

In Chennai, Mayors have tended to be populist. Chennai’s Corporation has in the last two decades been more a vehicle for implementing the schemes of the Party in power. If at all any civic amenity, such as widening sidewalks or doing away with large outdoor advertising, has come about it is because of public interest litigation and not due to any enlightened leadership. Our Mayors have generally been happier approving schemes that never take off or spending time renaming roads. You need to just look at the plan to segregate garbage at source to get the idea. It has been hanging fire since 1996! It is no wonder then that the city is forever on the brink of disaster – being it in the matter of infrastructure or quality of living.

With the State Assembly elections getting over in Tamil Nadu, it will soon be time for civic body polls. Will the new incumbents be any different?

Any Chance for TN Heritage?

May 23, 2016

This article was written last fortnight and a new government is being sworn in today. The contents are however still relevant.


D’Angeli’s/Bosottos – now being demolished from the rear

Election campaigning for the next Tamil Nadu Assembly is in progress and all parties have released their manifestos. While the general trend is one of being bountiful on freebies, most have stuck to their usual ideologies. The fact that not one of them has thought it fit to have a plan for heritage maintenance shows the importance they give this topic. This is a sad, sad state of affairs.

Front view of palace

Front view, Amarasimha’s palace, Thiruvidaimarudur

Along with economic prosperity, health and education, heritage is something we need to care about and ensure succeeding generations possess. In the absence of any plan to conserve what is left or to sensitise the public about it, what kind of a legacy do we hope to leave behind?

Bharat Insurance Building shrouded in plastic
The last we heard anything on the subject was on May 31, 2012 when the Tamil Nadu State Heritage Commission Act received the Governor’s assent. That we had some kind of legislation at all was something of an achievement. Much of the Act, however, trod familiar ground – the appointment of a Heritage Conservation Committee whose membership and roles and responsibilities were identical to the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) that already existed and functioned under the aegis of the CMDA. The newly appointed commission was to begin the exercise of enumeration of heritage buildings in the State, notify them as such and then ensure their preservation. We had even then pointed out that while such an activity was welcome, it was superfluous at least as far as Chennai was concerned for such lists had been done twice over, once by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and again by the Justice E Padmanabhan Committee appointed by the High Court of Madras in connection with a case on outdoor advertising in the city. In fact, the latter list was the basis of the recommendation of the High Court of Madras in 2010 for the formation of a Heritage Conservation Committee under the CMDA. And the HCC itself has been working on re-listing that list.

Dilapidated resthouse

Mandapam, Tirukkannamangai

We would have however still been happy had all the points listed been attended to, even if it had been a duplication of effort. However, since the notification of the Act, we have not seen any concrete action – the Committee has not even been appointed in the four years that have since passed! In the meanwhile, the earlier Heritage Conservation Committee, the one under the CMDA, being unsure of its status, has not taken any action. We must point out that this was not in any way a dynamic body even when its mandate was clear.


A still standing portion of Wellesley’s House, Fort St George

What of the owners of heritage buildings? They last received letters, from the earlier committee, in 2011, informing them that they could not take up any kind of activity on their properties. Those who wanted to restore what they possessed are unsure of moving ahead, for fear of being penalised for doing so. They are also not certain as to whom to approach for permits and more importantly on guidance for restoration.
Those who want to dispose of their heritage properties are happy that they need not take up any maintenance but are unable to sell as no buyer wants to touch the pieces of real estate chiefly owing to uncertainty on legal status. In passing the Act and not implementing it, the State Government has probably done more harm than good.
In the meanwhile, many heritage edifices are on their last legs – the Madrasa e Azam, the Government Hobart School building and the Harbour police station are but three examples. But with nobody bothered about heritage, what else can be expected but their collapse sooner than later?

From Vizianagaram to Mylapore

May 21, 2016

My fortnightly column in The Hindu looks at the connection between the Lady Sivaswami Aiyar Girls Higher Seconday School,  Mylapore and the royal family of Vizianagaram

Dullest election ever

May 19, 2016

Electioneering reaches fever pitch said the newspaper and The Man from Madras Musings could not help reflecting that it was a low-grade fever if at all it was that. If the daily felt electioneering was feverish, then it must be run by a hypochondriac. In all his years of observing polls, MMM has never seen a duller ­election than this. Even the Methuselah of TN politics has said it.
And for this lackadaisical approach to what ought to have by right been full of drama, thunder and lightning, MMM blames the Election Commission. By cracking down on our native culture and imposing something alien called discipline, the EC has almost become a colonial power. In fact it ought to change its name from EC to EIC to be in line with the other colonial power that ruled long over us.
Where for instance are the posters? Don’t these EC people know that Chennai derives its colours from posters? And much of its humour as well? What about large digital banners welcoming our leaders as they hop, skip and jump, (or stagger, or inch forward or wheel about depending on who it is) from meeting to meeting? MMM is of the view that most of the malaise of low-key electioneering has been caused by the absence of the digital banner. Without seeing this, and most of our leadership expects this en route to anywhere and everywhere with the exception of the privy, our political chiefs are a depressed lot. Unless they read praises of themselves how can they be expected to exude confidence?
Just imagine you are a democratic leader accustomed to people singing your praises via digital banners at all events, venues and functions. You expect it as a matter of right. You in fact peer through your glasses as you are whizzed along in your high security vehicle at all the banners and make note of who has praised you and who has not. And you plan rewards and retribution on that basis. What happens if you suddenly find no banners? You become confused. You think your flock is deserting you. You wonder if there is a dip in your popularity. And then when you open your mouth to campaign you lose your grip. You babble. You depart for the next venue hoping to see banners. There again… In short, you come home feeling all is lost.
And what is an election meeting without song and dance? MMM learns that sound pollution rules too come into effect when the EC is in charge. So no high decibel speakers. No songs parodying the opposition and praising the leader. And, above all, no meetings after 10 pm. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Don’t the EC people know that it is only at around midnight that the speakers on the dais complete recognising everyone else and welcoming them before coming to the burden of their speech? With such restrictions in place how can political invective flow? Just as our orators warm up to their task along comes the EC telling them to be sure to brush their teeth, change into loose-fitting clothes, embrace teddy, say their prayers and go to bed. This is just not working.
What about liquid refreshments? There are two that MMM is referring to. The first is cash. Unless this flows freely, where will the cheering multitudes get their incentives to cheer? And can you call this a democracy when you are not allowed to carry cash in your own vehicles? Just imagine all the hard work that has gone into collecting the moolah. You hoard for years, evading the tax authorities. You spend hours cajoling industrialists to part with money for electoral expenses. You worry several nights over how to conclude land deals in cash so that money can be made available. And then, just as you sit back and relax and go for a soothing drive with your stash, along comes the EC and takes it all.
As for the other liquid, and here MMM is not referring to tea, it appears doomed anyway. Everyone wants to do away with it. All MMM can say is if this lifeblood of electioneering is abolished we cannot be answerable for the consequences. People will vote overwhelmingly in favour of NOTA – Nothing Other Than Alcohol.


May 11, 2016

It is official and, so, we may soon need sound reducing earplugs as part of our daily wear. According to the latest statistics on noise pollution released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Chen­nai is one of the noisiest places in India. The good news is we rank 5th, which means there are four greater offenders ahead of us, these being Mumbai, Luck­now, Hyderabad and New Delhi. It is of course a moot point as to whether we ought to take satisfaction in not topping the list.

As part of its survey conducted between 2011 and 2014, the CPCB installed five monitors in the city. These were at two commercial zones (T’ Nagar and Perambur), one silent zone (the Institute of Ophthalmology, Egmore), one industrial estate (Guindy) and one residential area (Tripli­cane). It was found that T’ Nagar, Perambur and Tripli­cane exceeded every possible norm and in Egmore the noise levels were comparable to a commercial area at all times of the day and night. Presumably the industrial area was the best off!

All this will not be surprising to anyone who has lived in this city. Most autorickshaws prefer to drive around with the mufflers removed from the vehicle in the belief that such an act improves fuel efficiency. All places of worship use high decibel speakers to broadcast calls for prayers, chanting of hymns and choral singing. All of these can be pleasant in their own way if they were not at ear splitting levels throughout the day. As for political meetings, these are a cut above the law and believe in using the most high decibel equipment to broadcast party propaganda by way of speeches, and more irritatingly, songs. The roads are yet another place where noise levels are at their highest. Cars, buses, two- and three-wheelers honk all the time, and the horns used are the ones that are usually banned by law. Indian drivers, and those in Chennai are no ­exception, cannot tolerate anyone else being on the roads when they (the drivers) are on the move. They therefore believe in hooting at vehicles, pedestrians and animals. We also have a majority who appear to think that pressing the horn is the best way to get signal lights to change and vehicles ahead on the road to move. There appears to be no awareness that continuous usage of the hooter can eventually damage the eardrums of the drivers.

The scenario at many commercial establishments and industries is much worse. The construction sector is one of the worst offenders, utilising high noise drilling equipment at all times of the day. Workers operating such equipment rarely have protective earplugs. Moreover, construction, though not allowed after 11 pm, goes on in most places throughout the night. There are, we are sure, many world class industrial establishments in the city that adhere to noise level norms but these are far outweighed by the ones that do not pay heed to such requirements. The lack of awareness among the workers in these places is also quite appalling. After all, it is in their interests that such regulations are imposed.

The way the CPCB and its State variant operate cannot be termed as pro-active either. There are no inspection squads that can stop violations. Instead, it is up to the suffering public to register complaints and then expect action to be taken. Unfortunately for most residents of this city, they would have to give up on their day-to-day activities if they have to complain about violations, which are pretty much commonplace in every aspect of life. And so we suffer in silence midst noise unabated.

Electoral whodunnits 

May 10, 2016

The Man from Madras Musings notices that elections are yet to grip the public imagination in this our land. His residence, as several regulars of this column will know, is more or less a reliable barometer, for most political meetings are held just around the corner from chez MMM. But this time the silence is deafening. Not that MMM is complaining, mind you. There was one meeting though, held by a motley collection of parties that have been abandoned by the big two. This had nine people on stage and three off it, these latter being, MMM suspects, the men who arranged the sound system, the chairs and the refreshments respectively. The principal speaker said that if his group (MMM cannot refer to this entity as single party) was elected, the first thing they would do was the cleaning up of the three foul rivers in our city. MMM guesses that when you are not likely to be elected, you can promise the moon and get away with it.The Election Commission, which as you all know, frowns strongly on the pasting of posters by political parties on private walls, has decided to go the poster route. It has ‘pasted the town’ purple with posters of that colour, all extolling you to go and caste (oops that Freudian slip was unintended) your vote. MMM wonders if there is some double standard in this – how do you prevent people from pasting posters when you do the same? ‘Why beholdest thou the mote that is thy brother’s eye when thou considerest not the beam in thine own eye’ about sums it up.

These days, MMM gets very confused by the number of political outfits in our state, for they all have similar names with a liberal numbers of Ms and Ks in them. So in order to distinguish between them, he has arrived at a formula that he now happily shares with you. It may be of use when you walk into the polling booth. Will You Do It thunders the leader of one party at the end of every speech and the audience responds with a resounding ‘Yes’. So this is the Will You Do It Party. The principal opposition requests the people not to do it and so they are the Don’t Do It Party. A pater who is a doctor and has a matching son has accused some other party of stealing his manifesto and so his outfit becomes the Who Did It Party. There is one national party that depends on its one great leader to come down and garner votes and so it can be called the He Will Do It Party. The other national party now rapidly becoming notional is as divided as the fingers on a hand and each faction is out to pull down the other. So this is the We Did It Party. The motley group referred to in the first place can be classified as the We Hope to Do It party.

Whatever happens, very few of these parties and candidates promise to do anything for our State. That is if you are not in the market for cows, buffaloes, goats, mixers, grinders, laptops and, now, smart phones as well.

Musical Chairs On A Train

May 9, 2016

“Ah! The Man from Madras Musings! Glad to have met you!” said a voice and after that effusive greeting there was no way MMM could have lurked behind a news­paper and pretend that someone else was addressed. The person accosting MMM this way was a lady on board the Shatabdi Express bound for Bangalore from our very own Chennai. It was early in the morning and MMM was not at his best and brightest. Moreover, there was a considerable amount of work he hoped to get done on the train journey.

“I read everything you write,” said the lady, laying it on rather thick. She then proceeded to introduce me to her husband who smiled and said little. MMM reflected that he got that way as his partner in life did all the talking. By then, other passengers were lining up behind and MMM proceeded to his seat only to find that the talkative lady was back. She had a request, she said, and even before she made it, MMM knew what it was. After years of travelling on trains, MMM has a sixth sense of sorts about such entreaties – they invariably have to do with change of seats, berths or, at times, even compartments. And so when the lady said she and her husband were separated by the railways and their travelling together depended entirely on MMM taking a ­certain seat that was at the end of the coach, MMM agreed. He walked across only to find that a rather burly man already occupied the place.

Conceive MMM’s surprise when the man got up with some embarrassment and said that he was sorry he was seated at MMM’s allotted place but there was this lady who wanted to travel with her husband and had requested him to switch places and she had put him there. There was no prize for guessing who this was. And so it was now MMM and the other man who made it back to her. She was in the least perturbed. Oh, had she directed both MMM and the other man to the same seat? Not to worry. There were two other empty seats in the corner and so could MMM take one of them? After all the train had now begun to move (haha!) and since there were no stops en route to Bangalore, there was no way someone else would come to claim the seat. And so MMM moved there while the other gent went on to where he has been asced to sit in.
In his college days, MMM had frequently puzzled over some Operation Research questions where a certain number of trucks had to move a certain number of parcels (and here was the catch – the number of trucks was always lower than the number of parcels) to a certain number of towns within a certain number of hours, none of which made sense to MMM. And with all that he was asked to work out the shortest route or some such thing. He was reminded of those terribly traumatic questions when, shortly thereafter, two men returned from a smoke to claim the two seats in one of which MMM had been seated by the lady. They had been seated elsewhere they said, till this lady… and so it was back again. Once again she had MMM moved to another seat all the while explaining her modus operandi – it appeared on arrival that she knew that unless six people were moved her husband would not be seated next to her and so she had set about it. Finding MMM she said was a bit of luck.

MMM finally got a seat that remained his for the rest of the journey. He however could not help wondering as to how the Ticket Examiner would manage when he came along. That official, who was probably used to much worse, just breezed through the whole exercise and all was peace thereafter. MMM got to work but only for a short while. The lady was back. She asked MMM’s neighbour if he would mind moving over to where she sat. She had always wanted to talk to MMM she said and now was the best time as he, MMM was unlikely to be disturbed in any way. Her husband she said slept through most train journeys and so it did not matter where she sat.

The Dutch gave us the kakhuis

May 7, 2016

Read of some Madras connects with the Dutch


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