"With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” - Oscar Wilde
It was about 1988 that I came across Ilaiyaraaja, the music composer. Before that, I've listen to his movie songs but they are predominantly commercial fare and I have not heard music that could stir one's soul. Due to my mom's Hindi favorites collection, had a much earlier introduction to the Burman's and Kishore Kumar.
It was in 1988, I came to know about an album named 'Nothing but wind' getting released. The name was different and that I was reading my way through the Russian masters (thanks to Mir, Rathuga and the Progress publishers!) around the same time has introduced me to a world of music which I never had a chance to listen to but has been written about rapturously.
So it was that I decided to buy this album. But those are days before the MP3s and Ipods. We had a cassette player and I am not sure how much this one will cost and of course, where in Madurai will such an album be available. Luckily, courtesy of my love for the road side shops in the Town hall roads, I have seen the big shop Keeshtu Gaanam near the bus stand and thought I can try it there.
Before such a step can be taken, there was a small issue of the money to be arranged. The cassette cost about 30 Rs or thereabouts. But it was lot of money those days, given our family situation. So I have to beg my mom on a daily basis to get it. The standard answer is why don't you get it recorded at Joe Mama's shop. Joe was a friends of my father who ran a cassette- recording/selling shop near my school. And more importantly, it cost about 8-9Rs for recording if you give a older cassette. I tried to reason that he may not be getting this one.
So it was after a lot of wrangling, I could get that money and remember going to the 'Geethanjali' near the St.Mary's Church in Southgate to get it. It was a real big shop and I was dying of embarrassment to ask for it. And while cycling back, I really couldn't contain my happiness in getting it.
For ears that are used to the 4.5 minutes movie songs with set pattern of music and lyrics, it was very hard to adjust to just movements of strings or keys. I realized I cannot play it like I used to play the movie songs, real loud. I have to play it at the right volume, at the right time to enjoy it. It took a long time for me to get there.
But when it did, I remember the nights at my study table, when I used to play the 'Composer's breath' or 'Chamber welcomes Thyagaraja' and read through the Tolstoy or Pushkin, heart was throbbing with so many feelings which never could be put into words or replicated elsewhere. Nothing makes me happier than the right book or the music.
Later I got 'How to name it' recorded at Joe mama's studio.