I drew before I could write. I drew my way through childhood, winning small competitions at school and outside. As a child, my ‘most favourite thing’ was my colouring book and later a watercolour set that my aunt from abroad had gifted me. In my teenage years, I started reading what few European art books I could find in the school and British Council libraries. My art education was non-existent; I was never to see an art museum until I was 25. When I mentioned to my parents that I would like to study art at university, my father categorically refused to permit me. I was quite gifted academically and I was happy enough to study Physics and then I enjoyed a successful career in computing. I blamed my father for a long time for denying me an artistic career; I realised much later that if I had had real passion and confidence in my talent, I would have had the courage to fight. I didn’t. Ten years back when I finally found myself with time on my hands, I started bungling my way through teaching myself to paint. It’s painstaking and I am never going to be good enough. Every now and then I still feel a deep sense of loss for what was never to be. Posted below are a few of my recent efforts.
Five years back my son stood in front of me, eyes sad and confused. He had a place in Med School, a place won with lots of hard work, against steep competition. He had had excellent training in art at high school and I had dragged him from art museum to art museum in his most influential years. When he finished school he won the highest grade in art, as he did in almost all his subjects. His art teachers were very encouraging. I did so want him to have what I didn’t. I told him that we were sufficiently well off; he would always have a roof over his head, his basic needs would always be met, if he couldn’t take a risk, who could? My husband agreed that we would support his choice, whatever it was. He chose medicine. In the 5th year now, much as he loves what he does, I know his heart aches when he sees his paintings that I have proudly hung on our walls; he fears that he has lost something. Perhaps he has, one will never know. I am proudly posting a couple of his paintings below.
Is it not sad that we have to make such big decisions when we are so young and so ill-equipped to know what to do?
My reminiscences today are triggered by an exchange I had with a reader of my blog. A few weeks ago, she had responded to a post by sending me a song she sang off-the-cuff into her iphone. I was surprised by the sweetness of her voice and asked if she would permit me to use one of her songs in my blog. She agreed but wishes to remain anonymous. In our exchanges she said ‘I had to make a choice between music and a career when I was young and only now when I suddenly realize the passage of time (20 year later) I feel the urge to do something about it’ and ‘I keep thinking that I should restart my music before it is too late but somehow have been too caught up with life’.
Taking up the arts as a career is a risky thing anywhere in the world. There are so many people who have a latent talent or natural gift but leave it untrained or unused because life intrudes. So many others who have submerged their artistic self for practical reasons. What a loss to this world that we value only the few artists who make it to the top and let so many others fall by the way side! My plea today is this that we all support and encourage artists and musicians for it takes courage to be what they are. If you are young and have a talent, do your best to enhance it and bring beauty into the life of others. If you are a parent, do encourage your children to explore the artistic world for without that world, this practical world that we live in would be quite unbearable. If you have a talent which you have let slide, try your very best to enhance it and pass it on to the younger generation. Art and music provide magic in our lives, let us embrace that beauty.
Vilaiyada Idu Nerama is written and composed by T.N.Balasubramanian (1927-2012), who passed away last month. A student of Madurai Mani Iyer, he spent a lifetime devoted to music. In this song set to Raga Shanmukhapriya (oh, how I love it!) he asks for the attention of Lord Murugan whom he as envisioned as a child at play. For the beautiful lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here. Listen below to a soulful rendition by my anonymous reader, see how good she sounds even with no instrumental support!
Lyrics in Tamil
விளையாடஇது நேரமா முருகா
என் வினையாலே படும் பாடு தனை சொல்ல வரும்போது
களைத்தேன் ஜன்மம் எடுத்து இளைத்தேன் பொறுத்திருந்து
உள்ளமார உன்னை நாடி உன்னைப் பாட வரும்போது
புரியாத புதிரோ நீ அறியாத கதையோ
பரிஹாசமோ என்மேல் பரிதாபம் இல்லையோ
விரித்தோகை மயில் மீது வருவாய் என்றெதிர்பார்த்து
விழி மேலே விழி வைத்து வழி பார்த்து வரும்போது
viLaiyADa idu nEramA murugA
en vinaiyAlE paDum pADu tanai solla varumpOdu
kaLaittEn janmam eDuttu iLaittEn poruttirundu
uLLamAra unnai nADi unnaip pADa varumpOdu
puriyAda pudirO nI ariyAda kadaiyO
parihAsamO enmEl paritApam illaiyO
virittOgai mayil mIdu varuvAy enredir pArttu
vizhi mElE vizhi vaittu vazhi pArttu varumpOdu
Is this the time to play, Muruga?
When I have come to tell you of how I suffer due to my misfortunes (is this the time to play?)
I am tired from having been born in this life, I have dwindled. Having endured,
when I have finally come seeking you, to sing of you until my heart abates (is this the time to play?)
It is not as if it (my story) is an understandable puzzle, nor is it a story you don’t know
Are you mocking me then? Don’t you have any pity for me?
Expecting that you would come on your peacock with tail feathers spread
as I watch unblinkingly for your arrival (is this the time to play?)