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The first time I came across the phrase 'graha bheda' was in a book called Sangeetha Darpana by Prof. Ramaratnam. For someone who exactly knew the aarohana and avarohana of three or four raagas, a detailed discussion of graha bheda, it's possibilities and limitations were too much to swallow. What? Getting Kalyani from Shankarabharana and todi?
Luckily, I had the luxury of having my grandma's old harmonium at my disposal.
By now, every kid on the internet and his or her baby-sitter know that the transit of Venus is a once-in-a-lifetime, twice-in-a-lifetime, or never-in-a-lifetime event. So, I am not going to dwell on that aspect of the transit!
In 2004, when the Venus transited the Sun, I was in the wrong part of the Earth .
Did you ask what do I mean by being “on the wrong part of the Earth”? You see, the transit is an event seen when the Sun is over the horizon. So if the planet were to go in front of the Sun during the night-time, hard luck. Just like a solar eclipse.
Transit 2004 Visibility Map from Wikipedia:
Luckily, I was in the right part of the Earth in 2012, so I did not want to miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Transit 2012 Visibility Map from Wikipedia:
Adding to my luck, I was invited by a friend to watch the eclipse from his backyard telescope. Since Venus is so small compared to the Sun, the transit of Venus is better appreciated with an optical aid.
And here is the fantastic view through the 9-inch telescope – captured on my mobile phone.
We also looked through a welder’s glass, and it looked cool too. But could not take a picture through that. By the way, did you notice the sunspots in the picture above ? Compare them to Venus, which is about 12000 miles in diameter – and the enormous size of the Sun spots does strike you!
Who hasn’t heard of the Agatha Christie whodunit “The Mousetrap”? It’s running in a London theater for about 60 years. So when I came to know that there was a production of the play being staged at Altarena Playhouse in Alameda, I was really excited. Quite natural, considering that I’m a true Agatha Christie fan.
When I booked the tickets, the lady on the phone insisted that there wasn’t a bad seat in the theater, and there was no need for assigned seating. I took it with a pinch of salt. On the day of the show, I did not want to take any chances, and left early enough to take care of the 40 minute drive with sufficient margin for the mad Friday evening traffic.
Alameda is a town on an island in the San Francisco bay, just across a bridge from Oakland, CA. The moment we entered the town, we were greeted by houses with an old time feel. Not much traffic on the street. When we reached Altarena theater, to my surprise, there was no parking lot for the theater! I parked on one of the side streets and went to the box office to collect our tickets.
The theater is located where where a grocery store operated back in time, when big box stores weren’t the norm. That explains the absence of a parking lot. It seats less than 200 people, and there is no stage! The set in in the middle of the theater with a few rows of seat set on three sides! As I was told, there is not a single bad seat in the theater!
The stage(!) was set in the center or the auditorium. The set depicted a day in 1952. Six guests arrive to a guest house, Monkswell Manor, in rural England.
Unfortunately, the weather Gods are playing bad, and there is a snow storm. And there is a murder in the house! The play deals in events that lead to the murder, and then deciphering the crime to reveal the identity of the killer. And if you’re new to Agatha Christie’s writing, you’d be very much surprised. And you’d be surprised if you had read the original story, “Three Blind Mice” as well, because Agatha Christie has slightly altered the plot, to make things more suitable for stage in this play. Just like in the London version of the play, the audience was asked not to reveal the identity of the killer
Although I’d read the short story, Three Blind Mice , and it’s play version, The Mousetrap before – I enjoyed every moment of this play! The set, costumes, music – everything took us to a different part of the world! Because of the way seats are laid out, I felt being a part of the play, rather than being in the audience!
This was very well produced, to say the least .
Looks like this place puts on excellent plays, an hopefully, I will catch some of the future show’s at Altarena. If you’re a theater buff in the San Francisco bay area, I suggest you to watch their page, for a very different theater experience.
Did you ask if there is a movie version of this play? No there isn’t. Originally when the play was produced, the contract said it could not be made into a movie until 3 months after the last stage show. Well, the stage shows haven’t stopped since 1952, and it might be a long wait if you want to see the movie version, looking the way it’s still going strong. So what’s your next best bet? Keep checking local productions, to see if anyone is staging The Mousetrap in your area!
Today is the first day of Vasanta – the spring season. Although spring can’t arrive in an instant, for the calendar, we need to have an official start of spring, and that is the Vernal equinox. From today, the days get longer everyday, till the summer solstice. In India, spring is associated with koels singing in mango trees, and the smell of jasmine flowers.
In California, there is no dearth of flowers during spring!
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many singing birds. But to make up for that deficiency, I’m posting here a recording – of my composition, sung beautifully by “Arvind”.
Arvind, is known as IndianMusicFan on Twitter world, and his website is http://www.aboutindianmusic.com/
Click on the play button to listen to the composition.
The composition is in rAga kAmavardhini, that is also known by other names as Kashi Ramakriya & Pantuvarali. You can read why this rAga has so many names, in this old post here.
Your feedback & comments on the composition are welcome!
My first book “Hamsanada”, a collection of Samskrta subhashitas translated into Kannada was released in Bengaluru on July 16th, 2011.’
You can buy a copy of the book at Aakruti Books, Bengaluru (www.aakrutibooks.com) and some other bookstores in the city as well. If you want to buy the book online, please go to http://saarangamedia.com/book/hamsanada.
If you are outside India and wish to buy a copy of the book, please leave a comment here, or write an e-mail to hamsanandi at gmail dot com requesting a copy.