Teachers’ Day Special!

It’s been a looooong while since my last post, and the half-dozen faithful readers of this blog have long since given up on me, but Gautham Shenoy wanted me to write a blog post remembering my most memorable encounter with a teacher. (A true incident, somewhat on the lines of what is narrated brilliantly here.) I decided to randomly designate it a Teachers’ Day Special post.

I am about to narrate to you my encounter with my Botany teacher, Mr. R, in Standard 12 (or was it Standard 11?—I forget!), regarding my quarterly examination marks (or was it a “monthly test”?—I forget!) all those years ago (21 or 22?—I forget!). In the memorable words of the Biscuit,

it’s a long story and reflects a good deal of discredit on some of the parties concerned.

On with it! It was yet another typical day in Mr. R’s exemplary teaching career. He had graded the exam papers on time (this is already much more than I can claim for myself as a teacher). Priding himself on a job well done, he handed it out to the students, told them to Summa irungada! (“Keep quiet!”), sat in his chair, and dozed off. (I can hear you say “Let’s get to the nub of the matter I say! How much did you score?” Patience! We’ll get there in a while. After all, I’ve promised that there is a good deal of discredit, and I don’t plan to disappoint you!)

Only to be rudely awakened by incessant chatter in my neighborhood! He woke up, caught sight of me, and said “What rot is all this, I say? Hey you, get up!” Of course nobody got up, neither me (because I was innocent) nor anyone else (because they were smart). At which point he decided do give decency the go-by and name names! “Dei kannaadi! Ezhundhiruda!” (roughly: “Hey you bespectacled nincompoop! Get up!”). I had no option but to stand up, burning with righteous indignation!

Ennada side la thirumbi pechu!” (“What’s with all this talk turning sideways?”) Why is it significant that it was “sideways”? Point to ponder!

Me: …

Peru ennada?” (“Name?”)

“Suresh sir”

Ennada roll number?

I was resigned to whatever terrible fate awaited me now. I told him, mechanically.

Now we arrive at the climactic moment in the whole episode. He wanted to totally spring a surprise on me, so without letting on anything to anyone in the class, but wearing a triumphant look on his face (in addition to the silly smirk), he took out his pen with great deliberation, unscrewed it and poised it carefully over his notepad. It was plain as daylight to all of us that I was going to be penalized for chatting in class by getting my marks reduced. Sympathetic glances directed themselves at me from all corners. But I was already resigned, as I said, and decided to stoically take it on my chin. Mr. R was about to utterly crush me!

Providence struck! By some quirk, he chose to pose the next question. “Evvaloda markku?” (“How many have you scored?”). I remember thinking to myself what on earth he needed to know that for. Perhaps he was the kind to let people off if their academic performance was good?

Me: “Zero sir!”

Mr. R: …

He exploded with impotent rage! “What!!! You’ve scored zero. And you see it fit to turn sideways and talk! Useless idiot! Go and do research on how you got the zero! Maybe you’ll get a PhD!”

There ended the episode. And look where I am now!

I’ve always felt for the past eight years that I should go meet him when I visit my hometown, but have never gotten around to doing it. Don’t know where he is, or how he is, but I do hope he is doing quite fine wherever he is! After all, even in his wrath he said something good to me, and it came out almost as a blessing!

Tell me why!

“Happy new year. Oh my god! What heat! Opressive! Looks like it will be impossible to move around in May. But it seems it rained in a few places in the city?”

“Did you attend the udaiyavar utsavam at Sriperumbudur yesterday? What, no? Why not? Tell me the reason why!”

“… I need to show a few samples as a demonstration, and then I’m done. Can you show me the three-dimensional imaging of the functioning of the brain? What? No CD and all allowed. Only live! Why can’t you? If I show it to people, then they will start coming to me. I will just start recording, and show them the actual picture of the brain at every moment. Know how much it will cost? What, no?? Tell me why! It will come to 2000 crores!”

“Do you know five-finger therapy? I will put all ten fingers on an electric post like the one over the tracks there. No food and water for three days. Shall we do this treatment for you? … Yesterday only I finally had a darshanam at the Manavala mamunigal sannidhi. My daughter says that the puliyodarai is far superior to the Parthasarathy temple puliyodarai. … I only have to clear two more arrears, and then I am safe!”

“Do you know facial morphology? Can you tell the constitution of a person on looking at his face? No?? Tell me why not! Shall we make you walk all the way from here to Delhi?”

And so on it went. No! This is not some imaginary story I am writing (even my demented mind cannot conjure up such stuff!), but what actually happened to me today morning in the Mylapore station. There was this guy who walked up to me and said all these things, even though I was rude and refused to take off my earphones. (I was actually listening to something equally potty about the paternalist nudge – whatever that is!) We have run into each other quite a few times on the train and I have learnt enough to stay well away from him, but today he caught me unawares! I walked away, trying my best to not make it look too obvious, and was wondering why I was such a nutcase-magnet, when I was relieved somewhat to see him latch on to yet another guy, a hitherto complete stranger I’m sure!

Anyway, I felt that this was a significant event that deserved to be recorded here and shared with friends. And the pottiest thing to have happened in the recent past in my eminently potty life. And this beats the last incident on the Mylapore station hands down, when a slightly elderly gentleman intently watched me reading a paper, and asked “Thambi, are you a student of the polytechnic?”

Let me end on a saner note. Wish you all a very happy new year, and here’s some music for you to enjoy as well. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy. Bye!

Koluvamare gada – Todi – Madurai Mani Iyer

RTP – Kiravani – Madurai Mani Iyer

Music … MDR …

Long time since I put out some music for my faithful readers out there! So here goes … . The other day I was listening to a beautiful kori sevimpa raare in kharaharapriya by M D Ramanathan. I was idly listening when the mridangist went to a different plane for about 15 seconds, just as the pallavi ended and the anupallavi was about to begin. And then I noticed that the rendition was full of small delights. The niraval and swarams were extremely playful! Giants like Shri Tiruchi Sankaran have said that it is a great challenge to play to MDR’s slow tempo, and I think both the violinist and the mridangist did an admirable job here.

As with everything else, this too reminded me of Madurai Mani Iyer’s playfulness, and I next found an inta saukhyamani ne in my collection that I hadn’t heard very often. Half an hour of complete joy! T N Krishnan’s alapana was sweetness personified. There are even ragamalika swarams at the end!

Listen and enjoy!

Some of you would rather I provided download links. Here they are:

More music and other things!

How much can I torture my dear readers? Well, seeing as there are four and a half of them, I will not be increasing the overall pain in the world by much! Today’s post is intended to serve only one purpose – to record for myself some things that I want to remember! And so, dear reader, if you’re not down with it, we’ve got two words for you! – actually three – bear with me!

First up, probably the best concert I attended this season – my sixth Vijay Siva! Marvelous it was! With R K Sriramkumar on the violin, Tiruchi Sankaran Sir on the mridangam, and B S Purushothaman on the kanjira. He seems to be at the peak of his musical form! The concert was total sowkhyam throughout, everything kept simple and pure, with no gimmickry at all! And what choice of ragas! Hard to see so many weighty ragas packed into one concert!

  1. vallabhanāyakasya – begaḍa.
  2. saṅgītaśāstrajñānamu – mukhāri. Nice niraval, swaram.
  3. ambikāyām abhayāmbikāyām – kedāram. Short alapana, and niraval in the kriti.
  4. mīnalocana brova – dhanyāśi. I thought this was the best piece of the concert. Beautiful alapana, but the hightlight was the niraval, swaram in kāmapālinī.
  5. jānakīpate – kharaharapriya. Imagine singing kharaharapriya for a filler between two main pieces!
  6. śrisubrahmaṇyāya namaste – kāmbhoji. Majestic! The main piece, with an ālāpanā that is still fresh in memory, elaorate niraval and swarams.
  7. tani āvartanam – tisra ekam. I don’t know enough to say anything knowledgeable about Tiruchi Sankaran Sir’s playing except that it was scintillating, with B S Purushothaman ably matching him.
  8. rāgam tānam pallavi – ṣaṇmukhapriya – tisra tripuṭa (2). Not much time could be spent on the ālāpanā, but the pallavi had all the standard elements, singing in four tempos, etc.
  9. ini enna pechu – sahānā
  10. viruttam – yamunākalyāṇi, maṇiraṅgu, jañjūṭi
  11. tiruppugazh – jañjūṭi
  12. harivāsarada – sindhubhairavi
  13. maṅgalam

The other thing I want to record is something I fought hard to figure out more than once, and promptly forgot every time! After the latest episode (three or four days back) I decided to record it somewhere. (And a nice place I have chosen! Let me see if I find this the next time I am stuck on the same problem!) It has to do with a Lemma in Kenneth Kunen’s Set Theory that is dismissed with a one line proof! The claim has to do with relativizations. (The relativization of a formula \varphi with respect to another formula M(x) is got by replacing all quantifiers \forall{x}\alpha in \varphi by \forall{x}(M(x) \supset \alpha) and by replacing all quantifiers \exists{x}\alpha in \varphi by \exists{x}(M(x) \wedge \alpha). )

The claim is that if M(x) is a formula with one free variable, and \varphi_1, \ldots, \varphi_n, \psi are sentences such that \varphi_1, \ldots, \varphi_n \vdash \psi (this notation stands for: there is a derivation (using the axioms and rules for first-order logic) of \psi from the \varphi_i as assumptions), then \exists{x}M(x), \varphi^M_1, \ldots, \varphi^M_n \vdash \psi^M (here \varphi^M_1 etc. means the relativization of the formulas with respect to M(x)).

I was trying to transform a derivation of the former to a derivation of the latter. It didn’t work! Then I realised that one has to work with derivations that consist only of sentences. Whenever the assumptions and conclusion are sentences, one can manage things so that only sentences are used in the derivation, no matter what sound and complete axiom system for first order logic one uses. Then it’s a routine matter to check that the relativization of each axiom holds and that the relativized versions of the rules are admissible. But … even after many attempts I couldn’t pin down exactly where the extra assumption \exists{x}M(x) was being used in the second derivation. Finally I did find it, and that is what I want to record here!

The troublesome axiom is this: \forall{x}\alpha(x) \supset \alpha[x:=y]. But since our original proof consists only of sentences, the axiom that actually gets used is a generalization, \forall{y}(\forall{x}\alpha(x) \supset \alpha[x:=y]). Now the relativized version of this is \forall{y}(M(y) \supset ((\forall{x}(M(x) \supset \alpha(x)) \supset \alpha[x:=y])). One can check easily that this is a validity, and hence provable (or construct a derivation directly!).

So where is the extra non-emptiness assumption \exists{x}M(x) used? Precisely in proving the relativization of the above axiom, once we realize our error! The point is that x might not occur free in \alpha, and so \alpha[x:=y] might just be \alpha. In this case, our original derivation might have just used the axiom \forall{x}\alpha \supset \alpha. The relativized version is \forall{x}(M(x)  \supset \alpha) \supset \alpha. And this is not necessarily provable, unless we also assume “nonemptiness” of M! The antecedent says that for every x, either \neg{}M(x) holds or \alpha holds. Now if it is the case that for every x, \neg{}M(x) holds, then it is not necessary for \alpha to hold. Precisely this is ruled out by the assumption \exists{x}M(x).

Now I can go back to doing some actual work, after having disposed of this irritating gap in my understanding!

Update In my focus on the Kunen lemma, I forgot to mention another highlight of the concert. Padma and her father were there for this, too! And it was great company!

The music season!

After five Vijay Siva concerts, I went to listen to Prof. T N Krishnan and Viji Krishnan at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium. To my surprise I was able to recognise all the songs they played! (I almost always attend vocal concerts, so had forgotten that this is an additional challenge!) I was trying to impress Padma (who had also come for the concert, along with her father) by (mis)identifying the ragas almost instantly. But she didn’t look too impressed! :(

But what to do with all the things I noted down about the concert? No way I shall let it go waste! Here it is for your edification, my dear readers!

Gajananayutam – Vegavahini – Adi
Nannu palimpa – Mohanam – Adi
Azhimazhaik kanna – Varali – Adi
Arivar yaar unnai – Mukhari – Mishracapu
Tolijanma – Bilahari – Khandacapu
RTP – Shanmukhapriya – Adi (the pallavi was “Sharavanabhava guruguha shanmukha”, rendered perhaps a thousand times by the evergreen Madurai Mani Iyer, perhaps five hundred of those accompanied by TNK himself! I am listening to one such rendition right now, as I am writing this post!)
Ramajogi – Khamas – Adi
Vangak kadal kadaindha – Surati – Rupakam (two Tiruppavais in one concert! The first one followed a Varali alapana, and featured niraval swarams!)
Something or the other – Sindhubhairavi

I liked the concert very much, though I felt let down by the mridangam of the veteran, Shri Guruvayur Dorai! Somehow it felt like the valanthalai (the right hand or treble side) didn’t “speak” at all! It must be me who has to learn more to appreciate him, I guess!

Now what was the use of writing all this, I am wondering… . Oh well, I can’t hope to reach the heights of my previous post with every piece of my writing, can I? So there you are!

Update: Ah yes! I forgot to say that I was completely stumped by the Varali piece till Padma said “Tiruppavai maadhiri irukke!” Of course it was Azhi mazhaik kanna!

Another significant event worth reporting! After reading about it so many times, this time I wanted to find it! So I took a detour into Karpagambal Nagar on the way back home from Pethachi Auditorium, and looked carefully at each house. And sure enough, there it was, near the door of house number 9 (but not near the gate, so you can’t see it unless you’re looking for it!), the magical words on the nameplate: “Ganakaladhara Madurai Mani Iyer”! Yes, there lived one of the greatest musicians of all time, and I have seen the place! (And what a beautiful cascade of swaras in his rendition of Koluvaiyunnade in Bhairavi, which is playing as I am writing this update!)

Poem ahoy!

Oh pretty girl so potty,
marry early and party.
Lest you turn forty
and people call you paatti!

I am glad my blog is finally on its way to gaining a modicum of respectability with the appearance of original poems, but one has to admit that it involves considerable effort. Given below is the genesis of this post. Read it and decide for yourself!

S: Sir, I am looking at this website of a friend who is getting married. She also has a blog, which you’ll absolutely love!

Me: Wow, poetry and all! What k!

S: I don’t understand why everybody who has a blog has to write poetry! Why haven’t you, by the way?

Me (displaying a streak of brilliant आशुकवित्वम्): Here’s one! Think I can post it?

S: Moshtu definitely!

Two days later …

Me: Sir, the moment I came up with a poem, I am starting to display finer sensibilities like a poet. I am wondering how well it will be received, and all that!

S: But this is precisely thinking unlike a poet, illaiya? Post it, I say!

A toga party!

Heard this on the September 4 edition of BBC Radio Four’s I guess that’s why they call it the news.

I wouldn’t go to a toga party … unless it was a low-key event involving giants wearing fake animal fur and dancing wildly in a caravan inside a small retreat in a Caribbean winery … because that would make it a meagre bogus tiger toga ogapogo(?) Winnebago party in a Tobago yoga(?) bodega!

As you can see, I couldn’t figure out one or two words properly, which is why I ask my dear readers to please help me out! It is vital that I get this completely right!