Now that the first days of the class have waned, the regular onlookers have begun to thin out, and we are more able to recognize who is actually here for the full 21 days, we are finally able to introduce the students. Here they are–our new family.
Anandnadh is the first of the students I met. He comes all the way from the city of Cochin in Kerala. A long time student of Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan, he studied in the traditional Gurukulam system of attaining his skills on the violin. This means that he left his home to come live in the home of his Guru and performed daily tasks like any family member for the entire duration of his studies. He has returned to live there now as a welcome family member for the duration of our violin repair course and has proven invaluable to us because of his wonderful spirit of helpfulness. He is a beautiful violinist in the Carnatic style of classical music. He is possessed of a tranquil spirit which is an inspiration to anyone lucky enough to be in his presence.
Anbarash is from Chennai and works as a professional musical instrument repairman. He is our class comedian and is extremely devoted to his work, in our studio and his own workshop. While attending this course full time, he also finds time to meet with his customers every day by sacrificing his lunch break, but he is still always on time for class. His smile lights up the workshop on the darkest of monsoon days. He pays great personal attention to seeing to it that I am happy and don’t have to lift a finger to fetch a tool or a cup of tea. He finishes the day by telling me that every day in the class is a better day. In short, a beautiful soul…
Natarajan comes from a family line of makers of the traditional South Indian Veena and resides in Chennai. He brings wonderful hand made custom luthier’s tools to the class along with some of his instruments and carvings for our enjoyment. Many of these tools were made by his father and are still useful in Natarajan’s able hands. He speaks no English, but we manage to communicate on an instinctual level about the luthier’s skills that we both bring to bear on the tasks at hand. He has a keen eye for spotting the slightest irregularities in my work and getting me to correct them with his smile and the twinkle in that eagle eye of his. It is because of gentle people like him that we put such effort into learning Tamil language.
Sangeetha hails from Chennai, comes from a family line of violinists, and has never studied woodworking at all. She braves the sharp tools required for our work and shows great dedication to learning these exacting tasks with patience and humor. She makes certain that I ring the bell in a timely manner for lunch break and tea time with gentle reminders, so that all may take a well deserved rest. Fortunately for her, and unfortunately for the rest of us, she landed a good job in her field of expertise and has now had to suddenly leave the program. We will miss her greatly, but she remains a member of our team in our hearts. Happily, she will rejoin us in the festivities on the final day of the course.
Venkoba is the head of his own musical instrument factory in Chennai, producing primarily electric violins and guitars. He brings a great deal of knowledge in production methods to our class and is the most likely student to gently challenge my traditional old world methods. A veritable magician who can pull pegs, nut blanks, and other ebony products and helpful tools from his pockets in our hour of greatest need. He is quick to understand the principles and theories of violin tone and customer relations. Venkoba makes me think…
Venkataraman is also engaged in the stringed instrument repair profession in Chennai. Pressing on in the course despite suffering a fractured wrist at it’s outset, he also brings a deeper understanding of production methods to our group. During our breaks, Venkataraman regales me with tales of the great Carnatic composer Sri Tyagaraja and his relationship to the family line of Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. His interest in music knows no bounds and I’m delighted with his curiosity about our fiddle playing. He is as inquisitive of our strange western styles of music as he is interested to educate us about the deep philosophies of the Indian music and anecdotes.
E.D. Murali also hails from Cochin in Kerala. A carpenter by trade, he has become devoted to violin making and has already made quite a few instruments. Largely self trained in the luthier’s art, he nonetheless brings a great deal of innovation and skill to our group. Deft of hand and quick to understand the aesthetics involved in the non-invasive conservator’s method of repair, he is a valuable member of our team and is already proving, able and willing to help out the other students when I might be otherwise engaged. I am pleased to learn that he and Anandnadh are already planning a collaborative effort in their home town. I’m certain they will be of great benefit to their musical communities.
Kannan, our videographer, is a master of fading into the woodwork and making himself invisible, all the while weaving his way through our lives with his cables, camera, and giant tripod. He is literally the light of our lives, since the illumination from his camera gives us the best view of our work of any lamp in the room, and it is sorely missed when he turns it off. He has a great sense of humour and has mastered the tricky art of inserting “cool, dude!” into his English. I can’t wait to see what sort of documentary might come of his work.