Today is Thanksgiving, a major holiday in the USA. We celebrated with another busy day in the workshop, teaching as much as possible to the course participants. We’ve been at it now for nearly two weeks, and put in long days and often long evenings, since we are frequently interviewed after hours by reporters and photographers. Then blogging about the experience if there is any time left and the house computer is willing. It is often cranky, and the internet can sometimes be down for several days. The incessant rains seem to creep in everywhere, making everything malfunction. Quite the different experience from the reclusive life of the violin maker tucked away on the hill in California.
Mr. Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan has made some very astute choices in the selection of this year’s course participants. At first I was skeptical of the two young gentlemen, Aryan (left) and Nagaraj (right), who came to us from a piano store, of all things. However, as it turns out, they both trained for two years in Mumbai (Bombay) in a program presented by none other than the venerable Steinway firm, and they bring considerable technical handwork skills and conceptual abilities to bear on our projects. They speak outstanding English and shriek with laughter together with us when we make feeble attempts to learn Tamil from them. They have a great sense of humor, and when I take revenge for the Tamil teasing by having them pronounce the names of the important violin makers and bow makers of Italy, France, and Germany, they squirm and howl good naturedly, rolling their eyes with the difficulty of the task. Fair is fair; we all guffaw as one unit.
Then there is Ranjit, who has traveled all the way from Malappuram in Kerala to join us. A carpenter by trade, he has already made a very passable violin without any formal training or other input. He also brings quite a pallet of skills with hand tools along and has no problem adapting immediately to the problem solving and focus specific to our craft. He works precisely and swiftly, and it is often difficult to keep ahead of him and keep him busy. He always arrives in the morning before us, even though he has a lengthy walk across town. He loves our fiddling, so of course that makes him irresistible as an esteemed colleague!
Finally, there is Anbarasu, our only returnee from the first course two years ago. He runs his own shop in Chennai, yet finds time to enjoy our teaching. He gives us the opportunity to check his progress after the intensive course held in 2013, and he doesn’t disappoint. His sweet nature is infectious, and he tells me I should be a film actor because of the facial expressions I make in an effort to overcome our language barrier. He has spent his whole life sitting on the floor while working, quite common in India, and it is amazing what he can do down there, holding the work piece with his feet.
All of these gentlemen prove to be a tremendous resource for us, as it is impossible to remember every last little item that we need to bring from the US in order to make this course a success. They all know how to find materials and supplies that we didn’t even know existed in India, and if those don’t exist, these guys know how to improvise them into existence. We never cease to be amazed at their resourcefulness.
The record rainfall and flooding, along with personal difficulties, have cut our numbers down to these four, but they are the Fabulous Four. Together, they have accomplished as much in these two weeks as many established shops in the US might accomplish in a similar time frame, with Alex doing a stellar job of carrying half the teaching load. When the visitors have all gone, and everyone is concentrated on their own project, the productivity arising from the tranquility is nothing short of astonishing. Awesome job, dudes! My hat’s off to you all!
It is my personal desire that they each become a teacher of our art to future generations, a monumental and ever so necessary task.