Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Whistling Wiles of Ramani

According to the wife, my blog posts of late have degenerated into little more than stories of uncouth middle-aged men getting drunk and making silly fools of themselves. So let me give my readers advance notice that this post too, is in the same genre, but with minor variations.

Except that Ramani was neither middle-aged nor uncouth. When I first met him he was already in his early-fifties and surprisingly fit and in great shape for his age. As a colleague, when I got to know him better, he divulged to me the secret behind his glowing health and vitality, which was the practice of yoga for an hour every day.

Ramani was not overly fond of alcohol, unlike my friend Ravan. Ramani imbibed rarely and always restricted himself to a glass or two of beer, which he pronounced like most South Indians the way it is spelt, rhyming with Indian words like vir or kheer or mir.

One evening we are at the rooftop restaurant of The Savera hotel called Minar which was pretty new at that time and apart from offering authentic Mughlai cuisine, offered magnificent night-time vistas of Madras city. A blind musician accompanied by a sparse orchestra is singing soulful ghazals of Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali. We are a fairly large group, maybe ten or twelve in all, and it is a very relaxed, long drawn-out dinner. The food, the music and the overall ambience have made all of us loose-limbed and languorous. We are ready pay the bill and call it a night when suddenly Ramani who uncharacteristically has been drinking whisky instead of his usual beer, gets up from his seat and walks unsteadily across and whispers something to the orchestra.


Before we know what is happening, Ramani has grabbed the mike and introduced himself. He is an enthusiast of Carnatic Music, he says. He is also a good whistler. So, if the audience does not mind, he would like to whistle a few popular kritis set in such ageless ragas such as Kalyani, Todi, and Shankarabharanam to entertain the diners.

Without further ado, Ramani launches into his repertoire and for the next 10 minutes we are treated to the extremely difficult art of bringing out the finer nuances of complex Carnatic ragas through the simple act of whistling. Despite his inebriated state, Ramani does an excellent job and finishes his performance to enthusiastic applause.

Recently, the Minar restaurant celebrated its 25th anniversary as part of which, they conducted a week-long kebab festival. One evening I went there for dinner with a small group of family and friends and felt extremely nostalgic. True, the restaurant has undergone some renovation but the ambience was the same. The quality of food was still very good. The service was as attentive as I remembered it to be. To my surprise, even Syed Laiq Ahamed, the blind singer, was there in the designated corner with his haunting ghazals.

I missed Ramani though.

Image Courtesy: www.siskiyous.edu

11 comments:

Cynic in Wonderland said...

I like your friends.

But now i am whistling completely tunelessly for the last five minutes. I blame you for that. bah

Ravi said...

Whistling is an art and I remember someone, who was an opening act during a variety show at the Shanmukananda Hall in Bombay who enthralled the crowd in 1971 or so with his whistling of hindi film tunes,.....just amazing.

Vijay said...

my blog posts of late have degenerated into little more than stories of uncouth middle-aged men getting drunk and making silly fools of themselves

More...more...

Santosh said...

Getting drunk and being uncouth has no correlation. Getting drunk and being musical has a legendary link. LOL. Nice one Rada.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Rada
Some awesome company you had.

The reader in may is happy with the so called degeneration happening here.

Cheers!

-Nikhil

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Typo me*

Rada said...

@Cynic: Is your whistling better than your dancing? :-)

@Ravi: Nice to have you back, Americano!

@Vijay: Thanks for the compliment. Shall try my best to comply! :-)

@Santosh:I was actually implying uncouth behaviour after having too many!

@Nikhil: Your comment has given me the inspiration to go on, pal! :-)

Cynic in Wonderland said...

how rude!hmpf!

Its marginally better.

Btw LOVE the pic

gerimox said...

"stories about uncouth middle-aged men getting drunk and making silly fools of themselves."
Isn't that your blog's USP?:P
Lol

padmajav said...

Wow! Whistling carnatic tunes? Must've been awesome!
Ah, Minar! I'd forgotten its existence.. Have a vivid memory of sitting alone there on my wedding anniversary while my husband dashed out to check some lingerie models for a shoot the next day..The ghazal guy kept me company! Thanx for reminding me.. Shall go there sometime. :)

Thiruvengadam said...

It is interesting to read that whistling can be treated as an art. That too whistling carnatic tunes is indeed amazing. And to make it more innovative he did in an inebriated state after a few bouts of whisky !

Ramani must be a trendsetter !

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.