Lalgudi Krishnan, whom I will refer to from here on as Krishna, has been so generous as to put me up in one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever been in while visiting India, The Residency. Being an old hippie budget traveler, I tried to get him to move me to some cheaper digs, but he gently convinced me in his irresistable way to stay put here. He is definitely spoiling me! So I am on the 9th floor in the executive level, with a beautiful view over the city, air conditioning, a giant very comfortable bed, cleaning service, sweets delivered to the door daily, 3 telephones, mini office, safe for storing valuable items, mini bar refrigerator (which I’m not touching), hot shower, and a foot massage machine. I’m glad I didn’t insist on moving. There’s also a complimentary breakfast, but I will get to that later.
Now to the jet lag–pretty devastating after such a long flight. Got in at 3 a.m. and proceeded to sleep for about 15 hours on the first day, so that was clearly one day lost. Krishna was busy that day producing the music for a documentary, so he didn’t have time to meet with me anyway. On day two, somehow I managed to sleep until9:30 a.m. and barely struggled into breakfast, forcing myself to eat a little yogurt and some fruit, my appetite devastated by the jet lag. By 10, I was back in the room and the bed was so enticing, I figured it couldn’t hurt to lie down a bit. Fifteen minutes later, I was awakened from the sleep of the dead by the phone ringing–Krishna calling, could I be downstairs in 3 minutes? A splash of water on the face and we were off to check out the hall where I’d be teaching. It met with my finest approval and Krishna delivered me back to the hotel, where I was sore tempted to go to bed again, but soon was meeting with Krishna and Narasimhan, first violinist of the Madras String Quartet. We had a delightful meeting–after all both of these gentlemen are musicians whose playing I have admired for many years. I unpacked the suitcases full of tools and wood and heaped it all on the bed, we took some photos for posterity, then the cleaning crew arrived and spotted the pile of sharp objects and violins on the bed and decided another time might be better. After Krishna and Narasimhan left, I packed away all the woodworking implements into the baggage again, which left the bed looked mighty enticing. Fifteen minutes later, I was awakened from a deep sleep by the phone–Krishna calling, please be downstairs to be picked up by Mr. Venkataswaran in five minutes. Yikes! Splash of water on the face and we were off to the medical supply shop to purchase dental inspection mirrors for soundpost work. Poor Mr. Venkataswaram must have thought I didn’t know what I was doing, my brain was in such a fog, and he had to remind me of some of the other items that I needed from that shop. Then off to the train station to book tickets to Varanasi in December, only to discover that they were all booked up. Figure that one out later… By then it was getting on towards evening, so the day seemed done and the bed was beckoning again. Fifteen minutes later awakened from a dead sleep by the phone again–Krishna this time, could I be downstairs in five minutes?
Big emergency, we can’t use Sri Krishna Gana Sabha hall for the workshop–some sort of scheduling difficulties beyond my understanding. Hurry hurry faster mad dash through the insane traffic of Chennai’s evening madness to view other halls, Krishna furiously weaving through the maze of cars, motor rickshaws, pedestrians, and motorcycles that form this melange of motorized humanity, all melding into one being streaming through life toward whatever it is that brings us all closer to divine realization. Krishna’s take on it all: “If we have so many problems toward the end, we must be near the goal…” We disrupt vedanta classes, we view halls suitable to suit thousands. “After all, this is India,” I’m thinking while fixing my gaze on traffic and potential vehicular disaster, “perhaps we will have this many onlookers during our workshop.” Of course, none of these optional halls are satisfactory, but it was sure an adventure for my jet lagged, sleep interrupted mind. Krishna suddenly comes up with an idea, the brilliant idea, the one and only idea–we’ll hold the workshop upstairs in his home. The spirit of his recently deceased father, legendary violinist Lalgudi G. Jayaraman will be ever present. It’s perfect in it’s poetry, perfect in conception, everything there that a violin maker could need–it’s just simply perfect. Fait accomplit… We begin planning moving the entire operation from baggage pieces in the hotel into his home, where so much of Carnatic violin history was conceptualized by the great master himself. I pinch myself–it doesn’t get any better than this; Krishna touches my arm to assure himself that I am really here and that this is really going to finally happen in “our” India. A moment of silence and deep humility washes over me.