Vilaiyada Idu Nerama

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!

Footnote (Lyrics):

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?)



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, T.N.Bala

17 responses to “Vilaiyada Idu Nerama

  1. You’re a ridiculously talented family! Thanks for sharing the art works. I’m wildly impressed 🙂

    • Thank you Temple 🙂 For amateurs we are not too bad…but there is this HUGE gap between amateurs and professionals, is there not? Sadly we will neither of us be able to bridge that gap.

  2. J

    Wow Suja! I was blown away by your art and that of your son’s. The light reflecting off the wet streets is just so lovely. This is serious talent.
    “Art and music provide magic in our lives, let us embrace that beauty.” – Very well said and you are doing a great job in that spirit with this blog exposing us to the intricacies of various genres of Indian music. Thanks!

  3. Revelation, Suja! What beautiful paintings, I love these “nocturnes” as we say in French. I’ll definitely use them for my screen-savers.
    Re your son’s perhaps “lost” talents – I believe nothing of that kind is ever lost. Perhaps not developped enough, maybe, but whatever has been expressed is there to be appreciated. And more concretely, he can always later on, parallel to his professional pursuits, take up art classes once again, and improve and enjoy it.

    • Thank you Yves, its rather gratifying to know that people like one’s artwork 🙂

      I sincerely hope you are right and my son will one day continue from where he left off. It gave me such pleasure to see his work for in that I felt I had passed on to him a bit of my spirit, my own joy in art.

  4. Ramesh

    A “different” post from you – though no less interesting and absorbing.

    Have different line of thought in relation to passion and career choices. Passion is probably preserved and perhaps even enhanced if it is NOT the career. As we all know, careers are tough and there are bad and good moments in every career. Passion will probably get diluted if it goes through the rocky times that a career will inevitably expose it to.

    So better to pursue the passion as a hobby and do so with vigour. So what if we don’t make money from it; it can be even more satisfying this way.

    This time, I have to request you to send J’s piece by email. I obviously can’t find it elsewhere on the Net !!!

    • Hi Ramesh, You have a unique viewpoint indeed 🙂 But if everyone thought like that, we would have no proffessional artists and musicians at all!! And of course, I shall send you J’s piece of music by email. Cheers.

  5. Rumi

    So beautifully written Suja-di. As young people, we tend to make the choice of being sensible over being sensitive. It’s only much later that the heart makes its voice heard over the din of the mundane.

    And having seen Arunabha make time for his writing amidst his nine to six job, I tend to agree with Ramesh. Nesha (exact meaning in Bangla is addiction, but here used to convey passion) should not be pesha (career).

    • Thank you Rumi. Your point of view as well as of that of Ramesh is considered the ‘sensible’ one. And its true, its hard to survive as a practioner of right-brained activity. What it created however is an imbalance in this world between left-brained and right-brained people, siding deeply with those whose skill sets are left-brained. Will not humanity lose a whole group of differently-abled (ie. right-brain oriented) people? I always remember that the people whom we admire so much like Tagore or Van Gogh spent their lives in the pursuit of the arts. And yes, like my examples, some succeeded while others failed during their lifetimes but aren’t we thankful that they did indeed spend life the way did ?

  6. jay

    Wow ma’am, your son and you are both seriously talented!

    It is indeed hard to know what path we must take in life, when there is confusion about it. Some people are lucky to not have any confusion, and seem to have just one path etched out for them. Sometimes I wish God would send us instructions, “do this, this and then that.” Would make life simpler.

    • Thank you Jay. hehehehe Lol on your ‘instruction list for life’ 🙂 I bet that if we had it, we would forever complain saying that there is no freedom of choice hehe

  7. Narasimharaj

    Thank you Suja – for leading me to thhis post – from your reply to mi comment on “Endaro Mahaanubaavulu . .” Suja, you are talent personified!
    Genes never miss or mess! Your son has it in his blood – a leaning to ‘art’!
    I’m sure he will wield the ‘scalpel’ too with as great confidence as does he the ‘paint-brush’, when he becomes a full-fledged doc.
    Best Wishes.

  8. chandrika

    Hello Suja,
    Ever since I have discovered your site it been a journey of exploration. Thank you so much for this. The rendition of this composition by the anonymous singer is so very mellifluous. Do thank her for this brilliant contribution. More power to you dear Suja.
    Best wishes,

    • Hello Chandrika! So very nice of you to leave such a warm comment! It has been 10 years since I wrote this post, thanks for reminding me of this 🙂 She sang beautifully, didn’t she! It’s interesting that many of my precious musical memories are not from professional musicians….my mother’s voice as she sang in the kitchen, an amazing unknown qawwali singer in Fatehpur Sikri, a little beggar boy in Udaipur – his voice so sweet that I cried standing in front of him in the street. There is musical magic in so many places! I’m not really blogging anymore for lack of time; I do so appreciate readers landing on my page and reminding me of these old posts.
      Cheers. Suja

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