Thursday, 3 August 2017

Small Wonder

Random Notes

By V Ramnarayan

Siddhartha Jagannath is all of 17 years old, but he has already been a teacher for quite a few years. Born to Indian parents living in the US, he has been home schooled for quite a few years, he appeared for his eleventh grade exams earlier this year. With high scores in physics, maths and US history, he has also completed advanced studies in Sanskrit with distinction. He received the Inlaks fellowship for classical music in 2015.

In addition, he was a research intern at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia in June 2015, writing a paper on the Iranian nuclear deal prior to its signing. He was also a research intern at the South Asian Studies Dept. at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia July 2016. 

Siddhartha has published a transliteration of Subhasitasudhanidhi, a 14th century work. As a student of Sanskrit, Siddhartha actually enjoys such subjects as Panini Vyakarna and Kavya. In addition, he is a volunteer at Chennai's Samskrita Bharati where he teaches spoken Sanskrit and contributes towards the Sanskrit Wikipedia. He has even taught Sanskrit at Prague in the Czech Republic.

He has been Sruti's youngest correspondent for some years now. Most visitors to the Music Academy (and other sabhas) during the music season will be familiar with little Siddhartha and his younger brother Ashok, both dressed in tiny veshtis and sporting tiny kudumis, listening intently to the music on offer, and what's more, critically analysing concerts with the expertise of veteran critics. The children's impish sense of humour and overall pleasant conduct prevent any ideas of precocity or arrogance on their parts.

I first sighted the boys back in 2013 or thereabouts. I saw both of them furiously taking notes during the morning sessions of lec-dems at the Music Academy, often accompanied by their mother Vijaya. I gradually got to know them and won their confidence. The younger brother Ashok was—and continues to be—the naughtier of the two, while Siddhartha was already showing signs of becoming quite the young vidwan. He was soon to start winning competitions and medals. It was a pleasure to sit next to them during the lectures and watch their total concentration. I do not remember how it came about—if it was I who brought up the subject or Vijaya who did—but soon I was making use of the extensive notes Siddhartha was making, by publishing his commentaries on the lec-dems in the Sruti blog.

In one of his early blog posts entitled From Tirukodikaval to me, Siddhartha said: 

"My first Margazhi season in Chennai has been very exciting, to say the least. Every activity we did was music related and everywhere we went we heard great music. We stood in line for concert tickets, and spoke to friends and strangers about song lists, rasikas.org reviews, concerts and schedules. I have more old Mama/ Mami friends than my grandma. I have also eaten more cookies and candy in this one month than I have my entire childhood, thanks to all my Mami/ Mama friends at the sabhas. In all this music related activity I ended up with a treasure. I am now the proud owner of a violin once used by Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer.

"One lecdem I thoroughly enjoyed was T.N. Krishnan mama’s. After hearing all that Krishnan mama had to say about his childhood days and how much he practised to become the great maestro he is today, I became motivated to practise like him so one day I could play the violin like him. I came home completely inspired. I was greeted by my Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer violin, which made things even sweeter. I could not rest or go to bed. I was so exhilarated that I played my violin till past midnight. Needless to say that was shortlived!" Please visit http://srutimag.blogspot.com to read his posts.

Siddhartha has been learning classical music for a decade or soin Chennai (through Skype) and  Columbus, Ohiofrom a much loved teacher, Trivandrum Seethalakshmi, a disciple of Semmangudi Srinivasier. Siddhartha has won prizes at music competitions held at the Madras Music Academy, the Indian Fine Arts Academy and Mylapore Fine Arts and was selected as one of five voices for the future in a competition co-hosted by Sruti, Music Forum and TAG Centre.

Here I must add that Ashok is just as gifted as his elder brother and a budding violinist. His story must wait for another time.

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