The Power of Recall

By By T.M.Anantharaman
Chennai: 17-02-2020 9:47PM
Last Updated: 17-02-2020 9:48PM

Nostalgia! What a wonderful word!

I am sure you all have your nostalgic moments. One of my best is the first time I was exposed to carnatic music and raga a long time ago. It was at a time when I knew very little at all about music or raga.

Not that I claim I know a lot now. But now at least I know that music is a vast, deep and magnificent ocean. Plunging its depth one can uncover veritable jewels in all its splendorous colours, sparkling with its myriad moods and melodies.

My aunt Rajam (Athangaa as we used to call her, bless her!) taught me at that time the Bharatiyar song 'aasai mugam marandu pochche idai yaridam solvenadi tozhi'.

I was a teeny-weeny kid participating in a school singing competition on Bharatiyar Day. Some 42 other kids of my age sang 'kannan pirandan engal kannan pirandan'. I was the lone rebel kid, singing the ditty 'asai muagam'.

No guesses as to the verdict. Unanimously I was declared the winner and won the coveted first prize, a shiny silver cup!

If you were a judge and made to listen to 42 children singing the same 'kannan pirandan' in the same tune, like a long-playing record getting stuck in one groove and repeating the same line again and again, you would of course be tired by the end of it all.

Even if somebody like me came along and sang 'asai mugam' like a LP record gone off key, you would still vote in favour of the 'asai mugam' piece any day, even though you may forget the face and the song immediately after the event.

But I remember. And I remember well. Because it is my song and my face and my first and, let me confess, my only prize! Somewhere down the passage of time, growing up and shifting to live and work from many places in India and abroad, I have lost the treasured Bharatiyar Day shiny silver cup.

To this day though I do remember vividly the whole process of learning the Bharatiyar composition from my aunt, taking part in the competition and emerging a winner by the process of attrition to which the judges were subjected.

Of course I also recollect the effulgent glow in the aftermath of holding high the silver cup in my hands and showing it to my kith and kin, including my proud parents and prouder aunt.

Nostalgia is just that. The power of recall!

It creates in your minds eye, a motion-picture-like vision. A vision that very often appears in technicolour. One that would focus in and around which the entire event and everything connected with it (including the colour, sound, music and rythym if any) had happened.

This picture perfect image comes strangely long after the whole thing has vanished into the hazy mists of time. That is the beauty of nostalgic memory. You recall things with great refinement and detail and relish and enjoy every bit of the backward time-travel.

I go back to my first exposure to a carnatic music raga. The raga for 'asai mugam marandu pochche' I learned much later is Jonpuri. It is a sweet hummable melody.

I get turned on every time I hear this Bharatiyar song. Even today after all these years this Jonpuri song is I feel one of the best I have ever heard. The raga Jonpuri in any case has become one of my favourites in classical music. All this because I love the nostalgia associated with it.

Expect more on nostalgia from me another time.

(This article was first published in 2008)