Saturday, 11 November 2017


Man is said to be a 'Social animal', so are elephant, deer, monkey etc. Birds of a feather also fly together. Ants and honeybees make huge communities. Thus living in groups appears to be a natural choice for many species including human beings. However, we also know that self-interest is a strong instinct. Might is right being the nature's law of the jungle, the stronger wants to snatch whatever he wants from the weaker and generally is able to do so. Then why do they still live together? It is because the strong are also seen taking care of the weak and protecting them. Some people think it is indicative of presence of the God in their heart, while some other people think it is the result of insecurity. Others attribute it to destiny, Karma etc. or do not think at all. The interaction between an individual and the community is an interesting topic, so also the evolution of a community in relation to its surroundings.

Shri Revindra Apte is a brilliant engineer by education and training. He cultivated his interest in trekking and went beyond the common perception of trekking as a mode of strenuous physical exercise and spirit of adventure. He closely observed the fauna and flora of the terrain he covered and also the living of local inhabitants. Then he went to live with tribal people in deep forests infested with Naxalites, Maoists, seperatists etc. and share their style of living. He helped the NGOs working for upliftment of these tribals by educating them and imparting them some modern skills.

He recently visited Madagasker, a large island off the shores of Africa, where different plants and animals not found elsewhere, were evolved because of its isolation from the mainland. He went there mainly to study the life of Lemurs, a species of monkeys closest to the primates from whom the humans evolved. Then he visited Kenya and looked at the tribal villagers living a peaceful life in their villages and a disturbed life in the city of Nairobi.

He has given his observations and tried to extrapolate them to the virtual communities on social media where people often hide behind various masks and some times they do not even exist in reality. Finally he has tried to relate them to an e mail group, where people are real and though they do not live together, they are close to each other as they freely communicate on internet.  

An interesting discussion followed.   

Madagascar is also habitat of some special varieties ob birds and chameleons. Beautiful videos on these creatures are added to this blog. The Videos on these expeditions are really absorbing. Their links are given below for convinience of the readers.

African Safari     (32 minutes)

  Lemurs of Madagascar    (26:30 minutes)

Ravindra Apte, Nov 2 at 5:08 PM


Recently, Aug – Sept, I visited Madagascar. I was attracted by the famed biodiversity of Madagascar and especially the Lemurs, the closest living relative of the ancestral primates from whom the Humans evolved. The sever loss of habitat has endangered the many species of lemurs.  It was an experience to trek in the jungle trying to spot the lemurs. The Andabise National Park is the last wild habitat of Indri Indri lemurs. There were two groups of Indri Indri consisting of 6 to 8 members. They were territorial and proclaimed their areas by loud calls. With no predator except for the fossa, a civet or mongoose like mammal, the lemurs have diversified into 59 living species as a response to scares resources. Some feeding on top canopy of trees, some near ground, some specializing on insect hunting and some becoming nocturnal in the process of occupying niches in the environment and forming their own small flourishing communities. Is it a process of forming clans and tribes in humans to occupy and guard the niches in the environment?

In the same trip I visited Kenya. In the riparian habitat of River Ewaso, the Sambaru National Park, we visited the Sambaru tribal village of Namaiyiana. There were few huts with traditional design but modern material of discarded card board and plastic sheets and could easily pass for the shanties in Nairobi. The villagers though poor and deprived of many modern amenities were still cheerful and displayed integrity and pride. When I was in Nairobi I was struck by the vacant looks in the eyes of the homeless drifting people and there are hoards of them. Up rooted from their clan and tribe they look desperate and melancholy. It was a period just after the presidential election. The election of Uhuru Kenyata was challenged by Raila Odinga and the case was in court. Our driver and guide informed us that when the election campaign was on most of the people preferred to be with their own tribe and their home towns. This was in anticipation of any post-election violence. The residential schools were closed and the students back in their own tribal home land. (Which explained the deserted schools, both government and of mission, in our travel across Kenya) The history of tribal violence is that of short of genocide, be it in Rwanda, Sudan or Congo. Apart from providing the cultural and emotional mooring the community is expected to provide the strength and safety in numbers.

The idea of various online groups (virtual communities?), like our retiree group is interesting to explore. Apart from the age old communities bound together by the idea of a nation, religion, caste and sub caste, ethnicity and language we had the communities bound by interest like the fan clubs of football clubs and the super stars. The virtual communities are of recent origin. It can be mobbed by faceless individuals with feigned common interests or identity. Leaving aside the danger of falsehood in it for a moment, what purpose the group serves to the individual and the larger community?

Does our group of retiree, I am hesitant to call it virtual community; a better word would be a Distant Community, is just for time pass or for distribution of Gyaan or safe guard the pension or something more? What is there for individuals who are silent for most of the periods (and they are in good numbers)?  Why do I feel writing in this group once in a while?


Padmakar Puntambekar, Nov 2 at 5:43 PM

Dear Ravi
Your post are very much interesting to read and it increases our gyan. Please post few photos of your tour. 
In response to your last para , our group is of  retirees. We have different hobbies intrest still we  have enough time now to read and enjoy our colleagues post on various typics. Already there is lot of bombarding of mails from group members,  so silent members are also contributing to maintain group decipline. 
Thottappilly Premachandran, Nov 2 at 5:57 PM

Dear Sri Apteji,
Your mail gave me lot of insight on unexplored regions where many of us dare to visit. Nicely narrated. 

Thanks for your enlightenment of a new world.


Ravindra Apte - Nov 3 at 5:37 PM

It seems my African Journey has created some interest.

Actually the trigger to write the piece was the article in Indian Express (2nd Nov) The Dangers of a Flawed Poll.  It is about the Kenya's fresh Presidential election and the mess associated with it and the atmosphere of intimidation. I was in Kenya after the Aug elections and heard and seen the disruption it had caused, the schools shuttered and people withdrawing to ghettos. That thought lead to reflections on societies and communities and the roles they play. Reference to my travel was incidental. 

My journeys are not that adventurous or courting danger, just they are off the usual destinations. That is possible because with like minded friends, I am able to plan destinations on our own of our interest. I carry a video camera and taken a few stills. My videos on the trip are ready but they are too long, half an hour each and so I am hesitant to forward the links. But I will do it one of these days. In the meanwhile here are some stills, which I had shared on WhatsApp group (another Distant Community) 

I enjoy sunrise and sunset tremendously and invariable end up clicking them.

Ashok Malhotra : Nov 3 at 8:49 PM

Apteji welcome back after a long long break with recharged batteries from your diverse travelogs. Medagaskar and Kenya are both exciting, unique as well diverse places and we would love to hear your entire stories. The unique rock formations of Medagaskar are world famous. Association of Kenya to India is also very old and its culture and cities have been evoked in the good old films n songs. I still like to hear the good old song "Mombassa-Mombassa". The Kenyan names of Zanzibar, Masai mara also cross the memory. Please go ahead with your travelogs. Thanks
Thottappilly Premachandran : Nov 3 at 9:05 PM

I know that ur trips involves bit of trekking also. In case you permit outsiders of your group,  some from this group may like to join next planned trip where  there is only a limited trekking is involved.

Apart from this we, in AEPWF was also thinking of some trips of our group members . I am told DAE retirees in Kerala regularly meet and undertake local trips. Dear Apteji, can you suggest and take some lead.

Ravindra Apte : Nov 3 at 10:50 PM

Regarding involvement in planning fun trips, my experience is trekkers are misfit for planning it. They simply have different understanding of feasibility, hardship and fun.

Here are the links to pictures again, hopefully they would work. 
Shah Nawaz Ahmad : Nov 3 at 11:41 PM

Mirza ki taraf se ek aur, unke liye jo khil na sakey:----

sab kahan kuch lala-o-gul mein numayan ho gaien
khak mein kya suratein hongi k pinhan ho gaien

Not all, only a few are destined to  bloom and grow
How many flowers lie crushed in dust, none may e’er know
Ravindra Apte : Nov 4 at 12:28 AM

You are quite right on Indian connection with Kenya. The trade is still in the hands of those Indians, migrated years back. They are there more than three generations. The hundreds of acres of rose green houses in Naiwasha were owned by an Indian. Surprisingly when our guide gave this info, he said after three generations and Kenyan citizenship the person is Kenyan only. 
In the hotels one could get chapati and all Kenyan know what it is chapati, only they don't know how to make it in right way. We had chapati made like a pancake and cut like a pizza. 

You are right about the famous rock formation of Madagascar, they are in the south region. Our interest was with the Lemurs in the wild and since we had limited days we were in the eastern region of M. We missed out on the rocks as well as the baobab avenue. But the visit to Andasibe made for the loss. The other parts of Madagascar are exploited for mineral. France devastated the country for chromium and looted the forest for mahogany and rosewood. Today most of the mines are passed their peak production. Canada has interest in mines, especially that of zirconium.    

It is strange how the communities adopt certain customs and rituals. Madagacy  society has very strange custom of honoring their ancestors. This came to our knowledge when we visited the Ambohimanga, the spiritual center and old residence of kings. The guide showed the royal tomb and explained how it is generally laid out. It is a long deep trench and on both sides there are bunks on which the remains of the ancestors are placed, rapped in fine cloths. Every seven years they grave is opened and the remains are taken out, re-rapped  in fine cloth and re-buried. There is a big feast and presents are exchanged. I thought this old custom might be a history, but it is not. Our guide said just last year he has shown the great grand parents to his son. 

All communities have their own versions of after life and they way to remember the departed. They pyramids stacked with gold and  other items and mummies, the Chinese emperors tombs are famous examples. Even the Nabataean nomads of Jordan had the City of Dead, Petra. In Petra I saw the three halls for the great feast lasting of a week, which occurred once in a year. (similar to our पक्ष / पितृ पक्ष )  There are no remains of the dead as they practiced keeping the bodies on a rock pillars for the birds like the Parsi. But the dwellings of the dead are a remarkable work of rock cutting. There are hundreds of such places both great and simple. Closer home we have the samadhi, chattri (छत्री), विरगळ, सती हात to honour  the departed and keep their memory strong. Some times the desire to honour and remember the departed may take the shape of beautiful Taj Mahal. Since we are closely associated with these practices we don't find them odd. 

Even in today's world the idea of after life is carried to a ridiculous level. In North East I have seen a Maruti 800 car being buried along with the departed Naga chief. The story goes that periodically money is buried in the grave, you see to run the car the Chief will have to buy the petrol and the prices being riding rocket the money must be used fast. The grave vandals had reduced the car to a skeleton and robbed the money. Hard luck for the Chief.  

Dear Ahmad Sahab, Good you thoughtfully translated the couplets. 

But Sahab, what about those flowers which bloomed and whose fragrance wafted on the gentle westerly wind and they were never aware of it. 

Ravindra Apte  
Ashok Malhotra : Nov 4 at 7:32 AM

    Perhaps another way to look at the "flowers that did not bloom" is.. "those having a selfish motive of not to share n spread their fragrance".
  Apteji, thanks. You are not only lucky to see all the exotic places in this world but also having the God's gift of the prose. Reading your mails leaves a strange mix of melancholy and envy b'cause it matches with my partially fulfilled ambitions. I am also reminded of the reading of "Gulliver's travels".
   Is Petra derived from pitr? 

Ravindra Apte  : Nov 4 at 12:45 PM

The name Petra is not derived from pitr (पित्र / पितर). It is derived from Greek word for rock.
K.Natarajan : Nov 8 at 6:26 AM

Virtual communities! 

The materialistic aspect of travelogue apart, the philosophical thought of  virtual communities and the introspective ‘why am I tempted to put in a mail to this group once in a while?’  of Shri R yay Apte
  geared me down to this belated response.

Like the determined existence of lemurs, close to extinction, but still steadfastly fighting nature to survive by organizing themselves into different ‘groups’,  the retirees from a unique and purposeful organisation of a sensitive technology, suddenly find themselves without a mooring, and, refusing to settle down to the dull retirement, place themselves in a matrix of different rows and columns  of their creation for a virtual survival and respond from the virtual group of a row or column, as they deem fit.
The motive force is not safeguarding mundane interests like pension etc, or even timepassing,   but , I believe, to preserve the link with our past !

The mass of the virtual group of any row or column creates its own virtual gravitational force to pull the element to respond(or to create) . An element may occasionally feel detached, apparently away from the field of influence, but the ebb and flow of gravitational waves  is sure to pull the element into its fold , sooner or later!

Shri RY Apte’s ‘virtual communities’  and the rhetoric question posed, are  nice thoughts!

anand ghare : Nov 8 at 9:40 AM

I had read an article long long ago titled "Tourists are not travelers".
I might have made more than a hundred official tours  and almost equal number of journeys to various different places in my personal life. Though I was keen to see the places of interest, natural as well as man made and tried to taste locally made food,  wherever I went, it was still only as a slightly more interested tourist.  I am understanding the difference between a tourist and a traveler after reading the accounts given by Shri Apte and talking to him, rather listening to him speaking passionately about the people he met whether in North East India or Africa and now Lemurs, a species I had not even heard of.
He has asked some questions at the end of his first mail. I was hesitant to respond because I do not think to be competent enough to address those questions. I can probably only say पिंडे पिंडे रुचिर्भिन्ना कुंडे कुंडे नवम् पयः।, (meaning every person has a different taste and every pond has different water). So I will not hazard a guess about our virtual or Distant community. It is certainly not homogenous.

Anand Ghare

Ravindra Apte : Nov 8 at 5:38 PM

The Communities

Shri K Natarajan has explained the operational mechanism / principle of virtual / distant communities. I think it has other dimensions as well.

The virtual communities / groups are attractive as they provide a degree of anonymity. You could express your, not so savoury opinion and get away. But in our group there is hardly any anonymity and still I came to know the many shades of personality of the members of the group, which were not revealed when we were interacting on daily basis. One reason could be we were interacting strictly on need based, in the sanitized atmosphere of office and office procedures. It revealed only our competence or lack of it in technical issues or procedural maze or ability to negotiate hurdles in a meeting or being a team member. But as a person you were unknown to many with whom you interacted.

As for you Sir KN, I worked with you for many years and thought I knew you well enough. As a boss you gave an impression that you have no life beyond office, so immersed you were in the technical details and matters of office. (You still show those traits!) Yes I was aware of your deep roots in logical and rational thinking and your rare ability to call a spade a spade without malice. But only in this group I came to know about your breadth of reading and interests from scriptures, philosophy to classical music. It was you who introduced me to T M Krishna’s music and his personality; I had only attended his lecture on freedom in creativity.

Another person is Shri. R. Rustagi. I came to know him before I joined PPED, you see he had visited the training school along with Shri Mahadev Rao to woo fresh trainees to join PPED. He was successful in his mission, some 20 of joined PPED. Later I interacted with him in matters related to the instrumentation of reactivity mechanism and later for the Secondary Shut down System for NAPP. When he left for greener pastures of US and came back to sell the valves, I was still there. I had never suspected his interest in Tulsi Ramayan, his exposure to scriptures and philosophy, his deep veneration for Indian culture and tradition (even though I know the NRIs are more Indian than we Indians). And how gravitates all things to yoga.

I never knew, Anand Ghare writes so lucidly on diverse topics. That is because even though we met, it was in the confines of office, which discouraged informal chats. And that’s why there were many groups for informal interactions. There were those tea groups, lunch groups or buddies, the after lunch stroller’s group, the bridge players group and yes we had that trekker’s group. These groups were rather exclusive, the criteria may be any,  of batch mate, of the same section etc. Rarely one engaged in informal chat outside their group. I remember Mago used to engage is such chats when he was learning Marathi and wished to try it out. He had seen the Hindi version of the controversial Marathi play Sakharam Binder. He wished to know how the Marathi audience has received it. Once by chance I met him and S N Ahmad, after the film show at Metro. The film was that Govind Nihalani classic, आक्रोश. We ended up in the nearby Irani restaurant dissecting the powerful film. I remember the comments of Ahmad when we were discussing the characters, played out by Amrish Puri and Naseeruddin Shah. He said the character of Amrish Puri had made peace with the system. I think many a time this insight helps in knowing how the system functions and why people act the way they act. Such interactions were rare outside the groups.  

The retiree group is a first group which has brought us all together and provided a common platform to interact. Yes it has provided a degree of anonymity, I am sure, for some I am just a name; the way I find it difficult to give a face to a familiar name. There is a transparency in the writing style of members. At times it uncovers the deep seated beliefs and preferences and political opinions bordering on the reason and rationality. We are known to each other for so long that we don’t mind presenting the way we are. And how many times we are going to meet face to face? There is an escape hatch as well, of simply vanishing, when the things being too hot for our liking and still we can keep tabs on what is going around.

As KN has put it the motive force for the group is to preserve the links to our past. Yes it is very true, where would I share my memories from my office days, other than this group?

Ravindra Apte



Ravindra Apte : Nov 11 at 6:31 PM

In Aug - Sept I traveled through Kenya and Madagascar. Here is a brief video account of the same.  

For planning the tour of Kenya the prime attraction was the yearly migration of wildebeests and zebras. Of course the wild life attraction was there, but then we had the idea of a safari in our trip to Tanzania in Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. That was more than 10 years back. For this trip, we decided to visit different habitats and in that process chose five national parks / reserves. It gave an opportunity to understand how animals adapt to the habitats. But it also required long, on an average 250 km, drives between two parks / habitats and with the conditions of roads it meant 6 to 8 hours of drive. We traveled from north to south south-east and through the geological marvel of Rift Valley, running from Red Sea to Mozambique a length of 6000 Km. 
All of us have seen, myself a number of times, the excellent coverage in documentaries of Discovery / NG TV channels, of the great migration from Serengeti to Masai Mara of the wildebeests daring the river crossing, saving themselves from the jaws of crocodiles. We were lucky to witness the migration. We have to jockey our vehicle, one in a crowd of 50, to the spot and struggle for the best possible angle and film and at the same time marvel at the scene. Yes, my video coverage is no comparison to the professional job, but to tell the truth the most professional documentaries fail to give the real feel. For that you have to see the live action yourself. 

Our Madagascar trip happened because I could not avoid the temptation to visit it when we were so close to it from Kenya. A biodiversity hot spot being reduced to a desert. It is a fairly large country and the interesting spots are dispersed, with the poor connectivity one has to spend days to cover all the interesting places. We had limited days and budget (yes Madagascar is expensive) and so we concentrated on our main interest The Lemurs.  

On the net there is a reference of a 1932 talk by Shankaracharya of Kanchi, in which he shows the connection between Madagascar and India comparing the names. Yes many of the names sound to have roots in Indian names. But in the local language they may not have the same meaning. But no doubt there is Indian connection. As in rest of East Africa the trade, especially of gold, is controlled by the descendants of the brave and enterprising Bohara and Marwadi traders who migrated years back. Madagacy people believe in astrology, the good time and the concept of Rahu Kal. Our guide informed us the Indian astrologers are the best and in great demand. 

Here are  links to two videos  

        African Safari     (32 minutes)

        Lemurs of Madagascar    (26:30 minutes)

Ravindra Apte   

Ravindra Apte <>
Nov 12 at 1:22 PM


Kenya is not well known for birding destination. But on our Safari we saw many birds, thanks to our guide and driver, Anthony, who was a bird enthusiast and never complained for halting vehicle for bird observation. Some of you may enjoy the video. Here is the link to video, Birds of Kenya about 30 minutes. 

Ravindra Apte


Ravindra Apte <>
Nov 12 at 10:28 PM

Dear Anand Ghare,

This is the last video from my Madagascar trip, may be you would like it to be included  in your blog.

Chameleons are interesting creatures. Their ability to change the body skin color to match the surrounding background is amazing. I am fascinated and wonder how the feed back mechanism must be functioning to have a perfect match. It is a ripe subject for a PhD and many have actually worked on it.

Ravindra Apte 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Am I free? - An inquiry by a singer

It is said "every man (or woman) is born FREE". The new born child is free to do whatever it can, though it can do very little. It is also totally dependent on others, mainly mother, for its basic needs, protection and perhaps even survival. The dependence of the child on others gradually reduces as it grows in to adulthood, but simultaneously its freedom gets curtailed as several restrictions are put by the other members of the family, the society, the state, etc., the lawmakers in general. There has been an on going tussle between the people who make rules, those who want to abide by the rules and those who want 'freedom' from the rules that appear tyrannical, inconvenient or just needless. The rules, regulations, conventions, laws etc. also get changed over time and are replaced with new set of rules.  It is a dynamic situation.

There was an interesting discussion on the freedom of an artiste. It has nothing to do with the society or the state or their rules and regulations, law and order etc. but all within the domain of art, of giving expression to ones urge or feelings in the form of his art. A very fine point indeed.  

To start with the fundamentals, whether an artistes has any specific purpose in his mind? Has set some goals in his life? Or he has just an urge to express! Whether he is working only for his own satisfaction or wants an applause from others? whether from the connoisseur or the average or large audiences. He has to choose his priority. Again the question is, if he produces something that people do not like, he may not get the platform to exhibit his works. The artiste in this discussion wants to remain with in the Carnatic classical music and wants it to take to the masses in slums, but the usual audience wants him to sing the classical music as they are used to listen and appreciate. So he chooses to please the audience or at least the organizers and also cry for freedom, complaining about restrictions. His dilemma appears to be he is not able to connect with right people. The people whom he wants to connect do not understand or appreciate his skills or his form of music and he feels restricted while playing for the gallery. However, a very famous artiste is able to exhibit what common viewers may feel trash as great pieces of art and gets away with it, perhaps the viewers have a different perception of art.  

I think the contradiction or confusion is with in the mind of the artiste or the viewer or the audience, about expectation versus actual.

Interesting discussion on this blog led to further insight in the life of Mr. T N Krishna, the notable Carnatic classical singer, impact of technical progress on art and the different view points of different listeners.

"Ravindra Apte"  wrote on On Jul 16, 2017 7:05 PM
From Ravindra Apte

Pune is having an excellent commendable tradition of having memorial lectures. One such lecture is in the memory of Prof. Ram Bapat. Which I have attended for last few years. Another not to miss lecture is in the memory of late music director and teacher  Bhaskar Chandawarkar.  The topics chosen are truly from liberal arts. 

On 15th July there was the Ram Bapat memorial lecture by Carnatic singer T M Krishna. The title of the lecture being " Am I free? - An inquiry by a singer". I had no idea of what he may speak, but generally I thought it could be on present atmosphere of tolerance / intolerance and freedom of speech and expression.  The fresh clue being the order by the film certification board,  of beeping out the words "gou" "Gourakskak" , "Modi" and "Gujarat " from the documentary on Amrtya Sen.  Well, the singer's inquiry was far beyond it. 

I don't have much knowledge of music as such and far less of Carnatic music. But I do recognise  a good music and no doubt enjoy it. I know there are a few connoisseur of Carnatic music in our group and hope some one may illuminate the topic further. 

The lecture was preceded  by a video clip of T M Krishna's "Chennai Poromboke Paadal ft". Here is a link to it. 

       Chennai Poromboke Paadat
( In the course of lecture Krishna said use of the Chennai Tamil in pure classical Raaga itself is considered scandalous. )

Krishna said though both the Hindustani and Carnatic musicians claim they have got more freedom than the other school, in reality the music itself is bounded in different frames of socio-political, cultural and aesthetic. Music is intangible it has to be only felt and so each individual perceives it differently. This individual perception is true in other forms of art such as painting and theater. But the adjectives of pure or divine  are used with only music. Once the concept of purity comes there will be a  polluter also.  Who is he / she? The association with divinity brings in its own restrictions. In fact right from the initiation in music one is put in a atmosphere which conditions you in a system without your knowledge. Carnatic music is pure brahmanical  manifestation embedded in divine bhakti expecting certain bhava to be present in the kriti. The artist knows in  which particular way of presentation,  the audience will feel the bhava and he simply manipulates as if he is pressing certain buttons. He may fail on certain times to press the buttons in proper sequence and that is the bungled up concert.  The artist's desire to listen to the applause of the audience controls the presentation. There are gender and cast biases in musicians.  

One way of getting freedom will be to abandon the classical music, but how one can experience it staying within the system of classical music? In the process of seeking freedom one will shake the very foundation and that is dangerous.  Few persons have capacity to change the system, but the new system also slowly evolves its norms and conventions ultimately resulting in taboos. Essentially an artist's quest for freedom keeps him away from becoming a performing machine. 

At the end there was a delightful dialogue with Sadanand Menon, well known critique. The program ended with Krishna singing a Tamil kriti invoking praise of Allha. 

I found the lecture interesting. Considering other art forms such as the western paintings it was restricted for a long time to decorative biblical art form of churches. The Greek and Roman sculptures had no place for common man not having the ideal physique or an old or disabled person. No doubt the art was great and till today treated as master pieces. Did the artists of that time felt their freedom is restricted? It took the age of renaissance to liberate the art from the shadow of church. The impressionism movement really brought in fresh air of colours and subjects. It was followed in quick succession by cubism and abstract art forms. Was it not the quest for freedom? I think freedom is dynamic it has to explore and experiment and to feel the freedom every generation, every artist every person has to come out of the frame which denies it. 

Ravindra Apte 

 Ashok Malhotra   On 16 July 2017 at 23:17    
Sh Apte's small treatise on divine classical  music and some of its connotations with other art forms shows another of his veritable talents, in this case inspired by the presentation of TM Krishna on Carnatak Music. 
   His attempt to define freedom of expression within the tight boundaries and limits of the classical music was not very much unlike the Ghandhiji's "Experiments with Truth". 
   Though I felt a few contradictions in his paragraph "Music is intangible, it has to be only felt and so each individual perceives it differently. This individual perception is true in other forms of art such as painting and theater. But the adjectives of pure or divine  are used only with music." 
    So, if there are individual perceptions possible, the freedom is inbuilt.
    Moreover, though I am familiar with the "fine art forms" expressions like "pure music" is rarely heard. 
   Leaving aside the popular folk music or the Lok Sangeet, that in itself is boundless and timeless, the Indian Classical music system is considered one of the most advanced n developed in the World. The forms n themes of the Western Classic Music are also much more complex and expansive, that have their own Church music, Operas,  the Concerto, Symphony, Sonata the mixed Vocal and Instrumental styles etc. but, so far as I know, the freedom of styles in any music form, without distorting it's characters are always encouraged. Modern composers in fact lay down their own standards. Thanks
Ashok Malhotra
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 "Ravindra Apte" wrote On Jul 17, 2017 12:12 PM
Dear Ashok Malhotra,

I agree with you that the folk music is boundless. In fact all forms of classical music be it Hindustani, Carnatic or Western are distilled from the folk music. Intentional sophistication is introduced to cater for the so called aesthetic views of the privileged class. In fact the present style of Carnatic classical is evolved from Harikatha style from Tanjavur. 

When I mentioned adjectives of " pure and divine" for music, I was referring to the purity of raaga, which is sacrosanct in classical performance. You say " if there are individual perceptions  possible, the freedom is inbuilt." But this freedom is of the audience and not of the singer or performer.  Would the desire of the audience to perceive the music in a certain way only put restrains on the artist? This can happen in other forms of arts. I think that is what happened with M F Hussain when certain section of viewer desired to perceive certain forms in a particular style only. This perception about an artist or an art form make result in a peculiar situation. It happened with Hussain only. Let me tell about it. 

It happened donkeys years back. There was a well advertised exhibition opening in Jahangir Art Gallery. It was of M F Hussain. I admire Hussain for the poster style layout of this painting, the evocative bold brush strokes and his explosive color combination. Naturally I planned a visit to the gallery. The exhibition was titled " Abundance of White". It was occupying both halls of the Gallery. Those of us who visited would never forget  the exhibition. 

When I entered the hall, I got the impression that I have come on wrong day, may be one day earlier of opening day. The hall was littered with old news papers, packing straws and long lengths of white  cloth was hanging haphazardly, some of the cloth was folded on the ground also. When I inquired, I was told, the exhibition is open and what I am seeing is the exhibition. Same story was true in the second hall also. One had to thread his path through the dumped items. I tried to decode the presentation but in vain. Other spectators were also confused and trying to make sense. I found one lady reading the scattered news papers to find some clue some where. Then I realised I am taken for a ride, there is nothing mysterious about the exhibit. I was furious for a while. Then I reflected on what I am furious for. I came with a mirage of perception of an art form and when the mirage is shattered I find my sensitivities attacked? What right do I have to hold on to a mirage in the first place?  

There was a gentleman who was literately fuming and needed to vent. He struck a conversation with me. He said he came all the way from Dombivili to see this heap of rubbish? We cursed and abused Hussain. After a while we reflected Hussain enjoyed his freedom of expression, the art gallery enjoyed its freedom to allow its halls to be used as dumping ground and we enjoyed our freedom to curse and abuse the artist. What we are complaining of? Actually we should thank Hussain from bringing us out in the vibrant environment of art gallery, else we would have spent the afternoon lazing on a couch.  We had a hearty laugh and proceeded to enjoy a nice cup of coffee.   

Ravindra Apte 
Ashok Malhotra  Jul 17 at 12:52 PM
Apte ji,
  Thanks. I knew the half chink in my argument but hoped it will escape the scrutiny. (un)Fortunately it didn't.
   In the Art world the Artist-listener-critic is one entity, intertwined. Shakespeare, Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci or MF Hussain, in fact all artists are still being interpreted in as many ways as the critics as to what is their creation about. That's the only degree of freedom available to any artist. No art form can survive without the freedom of expressions. China's artists e.g. Li Weiwei had to suffer extreme ignomity n leave his nation at the expense of his freedom. Salman Rushdie had to explain his isolation pains in his book "Joseph Anton". There are many more cases n history is full of them.
   I would conclude by saying that at least in India the Artists enjoy as much professional freedom as available any where in the world or as they can afford, amply visible in their yearly jumbhirees at the cultural festivals. Thanks.
Ashok Malhotra

Anand Ghare   Jul 17 at 5:41 AM
Ravindra has asked a question "how one can experience freedom while staying within the classical music system?"
I think the answer lies in perception of the word 'freedom'. I personally enjoy living with certain amount of discipline, while others feel otherwise. Similarly musicians enjoy singing within the rules of Sur, Taal and Laya (सुर,ताल,लय) and the listeners like the enchanting classical music it produces. There is still abundant amount of freedom available to the artiste, as we can hear the same Raga sung or played on instrument by different artistes in innumerable ways, within the framework of classical music.
Anand Ghare

Asim Ghosh  Jul 17 at 7:50 AM
The term "KHAYAL"(Drut as well as Vilambit) in Hindustani Classical, implies the full freedom of the performer, keeping  a few boundary conditions viz:particular notes (out of 7 + 5=12) to be /not to be used,. ascending/descending style, at the back of mind.
Rest everything is in the domain of the render , his /her lineage, own style, invention/discovery,etc.etc.
Hence the term -KHAYAL.

-Asim Ghosh.

Ravindra Apte : Jul 17 at 10:27 AM
Dear Anand Ghare and Asim Ghosh,

I think Krishna has no issues with the confines of Sur, Taal and Laya of classical music. That is why he is perfectly within the structure when he renders the composition on environmental issue in Chennai Poromboke. Normally such issues are rendered in ballad style by activists in a demonstration or a street corner meeting. Krishna wants it to bring it in the sophisticated confines of a concert hall of privileged audience. His problem is in his desire to connect the Carnatic classical music not only to devotional aspect of human nature but to the other issues which directly affect the humanity. Apparently Krishna finds he is restrained in doing so.   

As for the much talked about the freedom of singer to develop the raaga in his own free flowing style, Krishna had a different perception. He said as a musician I can tell with full confidence that there is nothing spontaneous in a concert. All the moves are rehearsed again and again, in fact he said the musician listens to the expected applause in his head while rehearsing, which spurs him on and on. So where is the freedom? 

I think, Krishna is seeking freedom from such confines and not from the strict discipline of Carnatic classical music.   

Ravindra Apte 
Asim Ghosh - Jul 17 at 11:56 AM

"...........Nothing spontaneous in the concert .All the moves are rehearsed............."

Just a second opinion:

Rehearsal/practice {sadhna}is the only way( marg )for any "To be acquired" skill, & there cannot be any short cut for that.

The saying goes -- Stage performance {showroom} always remains 60 to70% of rehearsal (workshops) for even apt performers too.

Surely, for beginners ,it is definitely 100% mugging or "Ratta".

The way any student for any subject viz:Science(Physics, Chemistry,Biology),Maths, Literature, has to practice (rehearse) continuously to acquire the mastery/confidence so  that any unseen problem/question can be tackled with previously learnt formulae or technique,within the stipulated time, to come out of exam hall will flying colors.

The same way in pure  Classical performance ,in time {"SOM"} has to be returned /honoured.In between, some rehearsed some extempore nuances are supposed to come.
The more the mastery ,more of latter variety is bound to come ,provided inner quality is in abundance in  the performer.

Just my thoughts,
No compulsion to agree/disagree.

-Asim Ghosh.
K.Natarajan <>
To Jul 17 at 11:09 AM
AM I FREE  is a profound philosophic topic, definitely not confined to traditional music alone.
T M Krishna's qualms about carnatic music being confined to a particular community, in the name of preserving purity, though himself coming from the same elite community,, and kept within the narrow bounds of Bhakthi as the sole purpose and within very strict grammar discipline, are well known.
The award of international honour to him was also viewed with suspicion of  some hidden agenda  by the purists!

While dealing with a topic, already dealt with in our group, some reference to the old will be helpful for continuity and reassurance to the sender that it was read!

In the midst of the flood of topics, I recall , and give below, a

quote from mail dated Feb 4
" In this context of award winners,
sometimes international awards are given with some political axe to grind.
The Magseyse  award given to  T M Krishna, a celebrated carnatic musician from South India, did kindle some murmurs amongst the traditionalist upper class.

He comes from an orthodox brahmin family, still resented the great art of Carnatic music  being a sort of  legacy  amongst that group only. He tried to carry the great Carnatic music to the slums of Chennai, bordering on blasphemy!

An extremely talented artist, with also some strong anti conventional views intendering carnatic music, the latest is his giving a full performance in a Chennai city bus!

I am giving the link below for your enjoyment of this satire on tradition!
With warm regards,
K.Natarajan Chennaites/videos/ 1217723084986417/   "  unquote

 views may differ on perception of the word 'freedom'. vs  'living with certain amount of discipline',  opens up a fresh vista for discussion!

With warm regards,

Ravindra Apte - Jul 17 at 12:47 PM
Dear Shri K Natarajan,

I was not exposed to the music of T M Krishna. Yes his Magseyse award was mentioned in his introduction. During the lecture Krishna himself informed that he comes from a privileged family background and he has seen success early in his musical  career and that too with much ease. 

Many creative artists suffer from this syndrome of lack of freedom. I think it is a question of channelising the creative urge.

Ravindra Apte   

C. V. S. Sudhir Babu : Jul 18 at 8:33 PM
Only mother nature has total freedom of expression, nothing else, in her creation. Only human beings are given more degrees of freedom. Civilizations and cultures develope with an agreed common ristrictions on degrees of freedom.
If one person says his work is freedom of expression, the other towards whom it is aimed also has the same right.
Ravindra Apte : Jul 20 at 9:31 PM
Dear Anand Ghare,

Interesting to take the topic to a blog. I would like to add on the following.

Further on T M Krishna and the issue of artistic freedom.

On accidentally stumbling on the artistic achievement of Krishna, I searched and listened to his music. I listened to the rendering of "Krishna nee begane baro ..." the Kannada composition. I have listened it from different singers, all are charming. But in Krishna's singing there is deep pathos and yearning which is palpable. My admiration of his art increased. Then came his kind of an interview in of all the magazines " National Geographic - Traveller (India)". (For those who are not in the know - National Geographic the well known, more than 125 years old magazine, a perpetual delight to read any time any issue,(incidentally I am subscriber for last 40 years), started a sister publication Traveller. Its India specific version started some 5 years back. I am subscribing it for last four years.)  The magazine has destinations in India which you have not even heard of, along with the other popular destinations and how to organise your trip to those destinations etc. Of course it has other international travel articles and destinations.

The July 2017 issue of NG Traveller is a special one, its 5th anniversary issue and the theme is " I Travel Therefore I Am". (A tongue in cheek parody on the philosophical question). There are many interviews of not so well known travelers and travel writer. T M Krishna is one of them.

In 2010 on a trek in Milam glacier in Himalaya's he was hooked on to climbing. He found a climbing partner in Badri Vijayaraghavan and his journey to high mountains began. He first climbed Stok Kangri (20187 ft) in Ladakh. Then a 20000 ft peak Huayna Potosi in Bolivia, Mount Elbrus in Russia and planning to climb Cotopaxi in Ecuador this season. All these peaks are popular in non professional climbers. They are well guided and well arranged. They are exotic and pricey destinations. The point is he chose to spend his fortune earned in singing to get the high on a mountain summit.

On climbing he says " I think climbing is both a science and art. The art aspect is in the very act of climbing; mentally it requires clarity, discipline, acute awareness and copious endurance to deal with the fatigue that almost always seeps in. And then of course, there  is the technique of climbing - how you walk, how you rest - which is the science of it". What he does when he reaches the mountain top? He does what he knows best SINGS.

To whom or for whom he is singing? How do you compare his singing on the mountain top to his singing in Chennai bus? All artists crave for appreciation, to be always in limelight and for that echo "You are great". They are tormented by the thought of loosing the top notch position if they have one or how to get it by any means if they don't. This pressure is so huge for some of them that they fall for additions and substance abuse and squander the gift they have. Is Krishna singing on the mountain top to these disturbing demons of his to lull them or to the mother nature or to himself telling the glory of music?

I myself have reached some of the mountain summits. As the first wave of exhilaration of achievement passes, I become aware of the business of climbing down. It is more likely to fall into stupor after the exhaustive climb. I try to keep my other companions active and persuade them to start climbing down after a reasonable time. To keep a normal breathing pattern is hard at 20000 ft. How does Krishna manages to sing? Does he have the same control on his aalap and taan? I think it does not matter to Krishna, he is in fact  listening to the perfect ideal music, draped in glowing bhava and dancing in divine rhythm in his own voice.

I am impressed by his mature thoughts on climbing and I quote " I'm also always intrigued by what is perhaps the most interesting thing about the process of climbing - you don't run while climbing; you take short steady steps and never stop. Nobody is ever in hurry; climbing reinforces the idea of slowness. It's about focusing on every step, every moment. It's about being measured and consistent. It's a lot like life; you just have to keep going and as long as you do that, the summit will come." With this sort of frame of mind I am sure Krishna will seek what ever freedom he is seeking, I wish him that.

Ravindra Apte      
Ashok Malhotra : Jul 20 at 10:09 PM
   Amazing story about Sh T M Krishna, in the wonderful words of Sh Apte. Today I feel even more honoured to be in this group n come across such real life persons and their passions.
    Mountains have a magic of their own and once you are trapped in that, it assumes the form of a life long passion. आप्टे जी, यह दिल मांगे मोर Thanks
Ashok Malhotra
Ravindra Apte <>
To Jul 21 at 4:05 PM
From Ravindra Apte,

Dear All,

I think, I am really getting snared in this thing of Artist's Freedom. The only way to get freedom from it is to write about it. Fortunately Anand has provided a perfect getaway vehicle of his Blog and there are friends like Ashok and Kishore to encourage me to use it. I am going to cut the threads of this snare one at a time.

Technology and innovation

Remember the era of gramophone? When it first appeared on scene many were excited that now the music of the maestro is going to be stored for posterity. Only hitch was they have to perform within three minutes. Many of the masters of Hindustani music refused to subject to this tyranny. Their style was different could not be exhibited in the ubiquitous three minutes record. May be they were not convinced of the fidelity of the records to reproduced their music. Still many of them were lured to the tyranny of three minutes, may be for the money associated with it, may be secretly they wished to leave their permanent mark in the court yard of the musical  heritage.

But do you really think the three minutes record really show case the music of the maestros of the begone era? My uncle, who was an ardent fan of Balgandharv, the legendary singer and stage actor of Marathi theater, refused to listen to the records. Agreed the records were recorded when Balgandharv was in his declining period. But that was not the point. My uncle's objection was that the three minutes music, contaminates his memory of the all night legendary performance and the music that he still listens in his head. So were not the legendary maestros right in declining to record their music? Did we compromised their freedom of choice by alluring them?  And as for the fidelity of music have you never heard how the hand cranked gramophone sounds when not running at the speed at which it should? In my childhood I have played with it and got scolded, Was it an urge to experiment or mutilate? To day I do the same thing with my Sony Sound Forge  software, in this era of digital hifi music. Not only me in my crude way, but the top rated music studios are doing the same thing in the name of creativity or enhancement of the musical quality.

The freedom is never free. It has to be earned and guarded may be some times with denial of the choices or some sacrifice. I remember my first encounter with the baul music of Bengal. I was travelling in a train in the sleeper compartment to Guwahati. As usual the compartment was full and crowded. It was approaching evening and the tired passengers were engaged in listless conversations. A white dhoti clad baul singer entered the compartment with his ek tara. Soon with his melodious voice he transported the listless passengers to a different level. The simplicity of his music was elevating his devotion and yearning. I was spellbound. At the end of the song, one of my co-passenger, a Bengali Babu exposed to the baul music, requested for a particular song to be sung. Though the baul singer was singing for alms, he politely declined saying that the song is not suitable at this time in this environment. For him his freedom of choice was more important and he guarded it with a painful sacrifice.  

Ravindra Apte
Ashok Malhotra <>
To Retirees Association Jul 21 at 8:32 PM
Privacy and Freedom in the new age:
   An excellent comparison to drive home your point on limitations of freedom Apteji, illustrating the snaring and shackling of Balgandharv vs the wanton n abound freedom enjoyed by the baul singer.
   Yes, there is nothing like absolute freedom. Mostly we sneer at the man made shackles on our freedom, that are well understood as explained to us by the legislations n the society.
    But there are also natural shackles as well as Godly ones. One may say where's the boundary between the two. As I understand the natural ones are those that normally won't happen being against the scientific laws how so hard you may try or wish for. The Godly ones are those that may or may not happen inspire of us and their understanding are beyond our present comprehension.
   There is an excellent ongoing debate  in the SC on "whether our right to privacy is fundamental or not".
    Invasion of one's Privacy, that was never doubted in our days, has come to the forefront of our "basic freedom rights" since the new age of "social media" that is run by the big US conglomerates on central platforms. The sharing of personal info by one's choice is not the infringement per se as of now, but the chance of its being misused by the unscrupulous ones increases many fold n the responsibility of the organisers in protecting you in such instances needs to be legislated. It is a basic tenet that what you ask for and possess also entails a responsibility and accountability factor on you.
   The courts seem to be wearing round to the idea that each purpose for each private info you ask for, needs to be stated and it's use beyond that purpose will tantamount to an infringement of privacy. But there is one form of life style that our scriptures define as enjoying maximum freedom and that is the life of a Yogi. But now we have a Yogi as a CM n Sadhvis as MPs. Brave New World sir. Thanks
Ashok Malhotra
Anand Ghare <>
To Jul 21 at 10:13 PM
I read a line in a modern school textbook. It said 'displacement' is a relative distance between two points. So are velocity and acceleration. They are meaningless unless there is an 'observer.' Each observer may have a different view from his point of view. Simplified relativity!
Similarly, freedom or privacy are relative matters. A classical musician, a listener who attends his live concert sitting at his feet, someone who cannot do that but is interested in listening at least recorded voice, some one who wants to listen it repeatedly, some one who was born after the singer stopped singing and so on. Each one will have different perceptions about quality of their joy derived out of the same music. The singer may frown on the recording as being too poor and far below his class, where as some listener may call it Devine in the circumstances when the better is not available to him at all. The person who attends concerts looks down up on people who listen to music in the comfort of their home as they are missing the real thing and is also angry on they getting to hear the music with out taking the trouble of going to the concert.

So it is relative and not absolute!

Anand Ghare

Ravindra Apte :22/07/2017 at 7:36 AM
Anand points out the necessity of an observer for evaluation of a phenomena. All performing arts expect an audience / spectator. While in the stage of learning you need a guru to point out your mistakes and show a way to improve upon. But then there comes a stage in the artists career when he knows in his heart what are his / her limitations and strives to broaden those limits to gain a larger space for his performance.

Does it necessary that the audience has to be judgmental responding to the performance? True in the tradition of performing arts the great poet saints like Tyagaraja and Purandar Vithalla sang to an audience. They sang for the God. Their audience accepted whatever music in whatever form in whats so ever quality. The other judgmental mortals just happened to be there.

Was Krishna following the same tradition when he sang on the mountain summit?

Ravindra Apte  
anand ghare : at 6:08 PM
I had pointed out that different observers view a phenomenon in different lights, giving the example of different listeners  a classical music concert and its recorded versions. They may form their own opinions or just enjoy the music to a in different degrees. They need not necessarily be judgmental.
 One may call it being judgmental to an extent, but each one of us is by the very nature. Even a one year old child expresses consent or descent based on the judgement he makes.

Whether the audience should be judgmental on the quality of a musician and whether that should curtail his FREEDOM is the topic of this discussion. Well, the audience also loves its freedom. If it is rowdy, it will heckle a bad singer whom it does not like, if it is civilized, it will sit yawning or leave and not return.

Why did Mr.Krishna sing in the solitude on top of a mountain peak? Obviously for his own satisfaction! He would not have a Mrudungam player to give him beats (Taala). So his singing will not fit in to traditional Carnatic style. He had his full freedom!

On the lighter side, I too enjoy FREE Style singing in bathroom.

Anand Ghare