Friday, October 03, 2008

U. Ve. Velukudi Krishnan Discourse in Seattle

Yes. Velu bhai is coming to town. While living in Thanjavur jilla, I often heard people constantly use the word 'pisuru padaama' to describe other people's speech capabilities. It was not uncommon to find this adjective being used in school oratory competitions, social gatherings, and while introducing arbitrary people. People said "Very nice man. Pisuru padaama pesuvaar". The key point to note here is that Thanjavur folks never praise other people. They are known universally for gossiping and criticising everything under the sun. So the rare compliment that they give is usually treasured. 'Pisuru padaama' means that the person talks without using fillers or awkward pauses. The person does not stammer, does not digress, and is never short of the right words. This was an important quality that people in the jilla valued. Thanjavur dialect is not as distinct or uniquely identifiable as my favorite Nellai or Kovai dialect. The subtle thing, I have always noticed in the dialect is the underlying harmony, smoothness and almost a pleasant delivery of words. Evenly spaced gaps between words, the right volume for a word and the subtle drag here and there.

The first time I heard Velukudi Krishnan's Thirupaavai discourse, I was reminded of the few people I met from Thanjavur who'd speak the language with such poise that you immediately began to pay attention. The crystal clear tone and the clarity in his voice is remarkable. The listener is even more surprised when one gets to hear his English lectures. If he does not mix a single English word in his Thamizh lectures - then the opposite is true for his English lectures (where he usually quotes only from Sanskrit literature). His fluency in English is as remarkable as his fluency in Thamizh. Velukudi is not exactly Thanjavur jilla. More Thiruvellarai - which houses a beautiful, well-constructed, gigantic temple. But his clarity in expression is just as good. This skill is probably just the 'pullaiyaar suzhi' of his staggering repertoire. He is in many ways a complete speaker. His voice and prose are so unique and rich that one can spend quite a bit of time describing its singular beauty. The amount of verses he remembers from the Vedas, upanishads, puraanas, ithihaasas, prabhandams, and desika sthothrams - is fascinating. As the son of an eminent Hari Katha exponent Velukudi Varadachariar, he left his C.A practice to continue his father's work (the linked article is a good read inspite of the Prema Nandakumar's queer "earth-scene" introduction).

Another important attribute that attracted me to his lectures was - his ability to create an environment where the listener is led to believe that one is participating in a 'technical discussion' as opposed to a spiritual discourse. I have listened to Balakrishna Sastrigal and Krishna Premi. Sometimes their love for their subject makes them digress so much that a younger listener loses interest in the topic. I am not trying to discredit them. They are very good in their subject matter. Just that in the case of Velukudi Krishnan, a half hour package contained so much information and references to so many verses that it is hard to listen without being alert (or in the case of several hundred grandma's in Ayodhya Mandapam - without taking rapid notes). Most people who come out after listening to his lectures often say "how does he remember so much and quote it without missing a beat".

Some other aspects most listeners like are - the strict punctuality, the no-nonsense approach (he is really uncompromising) and clear diction. If you don't believe the "classroom atmosphere" thing - do drop-in on one of his lectures and witness the sudden hush'ness the moment he begins to speak. Like the way many good speakers do, he'd communicate to you that you cannot make any noise and the lecture will start and end exactly on-time - without saying so in as many words. On the topic of professionalism - one incident that I'll never forget, happened during a discourse in Jayagopal Garodia school. Velukudi was narrating the "kovil Puranam" segment SriRangam and was describing historical accounts on the brutal killing of about 12 thousand Srivaishnavas during the moghul invasion of the temple. It was an emotional segment and one could sense the seriousness in the air. Suddenly he stopped his lecture. A person in the first row apparently had fallen ill (severe chest pain & dizzyness) and fainted. There was the usual 5 minutes of commotion, where that person was put in a car and taken to the hospital. Immediately, without announcement Velukudi continued his lecture. It took people a while to understand that the lecture was ON again. In 10 seconds people were back in their seats, the silence was restored and he went on to finish the lecture bang on time.

I am glad he is coming to Seattle and I am hoping to catch some 1x1 time with him. Interested folks in USA can check out his schedule here and listen to one of his lectures.

14 comments:

Sarang said...

Thanks for the link. I have been wanting to listen to his discourses for along time. Living in HI leaves you witha big time difference that hurts most of the time....

Sarang-

Anonymous said...

velukudi midwest area va ignore pannitaar!

-d.

Lekhni said...

He is crossing the seas :o

Anonymous said...

1X1 time will be a simple...glad to see you youngsters participate! I bet a $100:) - R'.

sundar said...

thanks for the pointer. looks like he'll be here in phx this month. will surely listen to his discourses.

gradwolf said...

ayodhya mandapam? neenga namba area va? murthy,thiruvengadam,bakthavatsalam, srinivasan st. or further? idhu theriyama poche!

curdriceaurora said...

thanks for the links. had seen him on podhigai and wasnt able to remember his name.

Venkat said...

this is an amazing coincidence. Velukudi was in Bangalore last month - Krishnan Kovil Malleshwaram was a mini rock concert..
flat world dan...

R-ambam said...

very much agree with you...on the Impeccable prasangam ! The only reason I am drawn to watch DD these days is this man.

Anupama said...

Velukudi is a part of our household! Pattee and mom are all praise for him. My aunt says in the morning there's just the three of us - me, umaachi and Velukudi. His voice and the 'spashtam' in his speech reflect the clarity in his mind.

nm said...

b,

i attended his lectures in the bay area. very impressive.



in the same lines you may also like the talks by swami tattvavidananda. I have attended his lectures on several occassions. You can find his talks online at http://www.avgsatsang.org/hhstvs.html

-narayanan

Valli Doll said...

Are you part of any Divyaprabandham recitation group in Seattle?

Hawkeye said...

valli,

Yes I am. I was there during last Sunday's recitation. Saw your write-up on AruLaLa Perumal EmberumAnAr. Very good.

Anonymous said...

Very well said about his discourses.I have been listening almost every day for the last few years.He has changed a lot in me.His Bagavath Geetha upanyasams are so lucid and no one has explained to us so well.I was hesitant to touch BG because of its heaviness.Now a days i read Vishnu Sahasranamam almost daily and Chp.12 weekly.He made me understand the true meaning of Bhakthi.My vocabulary is week in describing him.One thing I can add it is all due to Almighty Bagavan Sri Narayanan's Arul we came across this great Upanyasaha Rathnam.Thank God