There are days when techie and mridangam artiste Erickavu N Sunil is up in the wee hours of the day. One of his students in the US, Balu RS, logs in via Skype by 5 am for the day’s mridangam class. “He used to be my student when he was working in Technopark and wanted to continue the classes even after moving abroad. If he is travelling, we have classes at night, by 9 or so,” says Sunil, one of the directors of Zesty Beanz, a company in Technopark. Students from West Asia and Germany also learn from him through Skype. He also teaches some of his students at his home in Chengottukonam.
Talented musicians and dancers in Technopark, who take time out of their tight schedule to learn and perform, are much in demand. And among them are a few who’ve taken on the role of guru as well. These busy birds have set aside the weekends to teach. Veena artiste Anand Kaushik, working with an MNC in the IT hub as a “software architect”, has been teaching the instrument at his home at Kaimanam for eight years now. “Weekdays are for the Indian students in West Asia and the US who learn via Skype,” says Anand, son of veteran veena artiste Ananthapadmanabhan.
Carnatic vocalist Anjana S travels on weekends to her home at Kollam, where she runs a music school with her younger sister, Aiswarya S. “We both teach vocal music at our school and have teachers for violin and mridangam. I am also taking lessons from Umayanelloor Jayan sir via Skype or WhatsApp. Since I can’t learn directly from him, I log in via Skype when he takes classes for my sister at our home in Kollam,” says Anjana.
Another artiste-cum-guru from the campus is Sruthy Thampuratty, a classical dancer, who runs a dance school with her friend, Lakshmi Mohan, at Kowdiar. Trained in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi and Kerala Nadanam, Sruthy opened the institution a year ago. “I am a trained dancer and didn’t want to let it go even when I got this job. There are many working women who find it difficult to pursue their passion for dance because of the odd timings at dance schools. When some of my friends and colleagues shared this with me, I thought of doing something for them. So we’ve classes only on weekends,” says Sruthi, currently pursuing her masters in dance from veteran Padma Subrahmanyam and learning Bharatanatyam from Sibi Sudarsan of Kalakshetra. “I travel to Chennai once a month to learn from Padma ma’m,” adds Sruthi, a former student of Girija Chandran.
They assert that it’s not difficult to hold a full-time job and also learn and teach performing arts. “I enjoy music and my profession. So I don’t feel stressed about it,” says Anand. In Sunil’s case, teaching has been an integral part of his life, having started it even when he was studying in college. “Back then, I would commute to Haripad, my native place, from Thiruvananthapuram, on weekends to teach mridangam. I began online classes after I started working in Technopark. Even though I have changed companies and often travel for programmes, I don’t miss out on the classes because I enjoy being a teacher. It’s extremely satisfying when students play what I teach them,” says Sunil, a student of mridangam great Mavelikkara Velukutty Nair.
Sruthy points out that being a guru is a learning in itself. “I have around 30 students at my school, which include kids and adults, many of them who work in Technopark. Even though some kids join the school only to learn an item for competitions, there are a few who are serious about dance. Their dedication motivates me as a guru. I think I have improved myself because of my students. Also, since I am learning from a legend such as Padma ma’m, I can impart what she teaches me to my students,” Sruthy adds.
For Anjana, being a guru is all about carrying forward the legacy of her family. “I can’t think of a life without music and running the school has never been a strenuous affair for us,” says Anjana, adding that people of all age groups learn at her school. “We have grandmothers in the group,” she laughs.
“I have a holistic approach towards music. I want my students to learn music through the veena and not just learn how to play the instrument. I teach only those who are willing to learn and appreciate music. Whether it be freshers or seniors who join the class to restart their music training, within a few sessions I can understand whether they are in for the long haul or not. I discourage those who want to take lessons only to take part in competitions,” says Anand.
Sunil too is selective and prefers one-to-one teaching to taking lessons for a group. “When you are teaching a percussion instrument, individual attention is important. I should know whether they are able to grasp the fingering technique correctly and that’s difficult if there you are teaching a group,” he says.
Now that the Navarathri season on, these artistes are looking forward to celebrating Vijayadashami, the tenth day of the festival, in the company of their students with pujas and performances.
A fortnightly column on life in tech street
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