Chinnaveeran, 71, has many talents. He is a flute maker, Carnatic flautist, welder, mechanic, linguist and an Agriculture Science graduate. He has achieved all this despite being differently abled.
Visually challenged since the age of two and orphaned at seven, Chinnaveeran who belongs to Kurumbapetti in Dindugal, set about charting his own destiny at young age. He moved from the Salem Blind School to the Poonamallee Blind School in Chennai and finally attend a three-year course at the Tata Training Institute in Gujarat. He then went on to earn BA from the Ahmedabad Agriculture College. In his free time, he studied and passed the Pundit examination in Hindi, took a diploma in Carnatic music, started a dairy and poultry farm and even a ‘mithai’ shop!
Snatches of old Hindi film songs, a Mohanam raga alapana or ‘Sare Jahan Se Achaa’ may greet one at the All India Handicrafts Fair held at Sri Sankara Hall in Chennai. The music emanates from Chinnaveeran’s flute; he plays flawlessly as he is surrounded by the many reeds that he has lovingly hand-crafted.
“I began making my own flutes in the 1960s. I leant the craft from my friend K.K. Swami who was a flute maker. I would ask him endless questions about the raw material used, the process, etc. He was amazed at the perfection and finesse of the first flute I made: its proportion, the look and the notes that flowed out of it.”
But how does he actually craft a flute? Says Chinnaveeran, “I choose the right bamboo and take the exact measurement. I use a metal stick whose diameter is be the size of the hole I need to make. I heat the metal stick and make a hole in the bamboo by placing the end of the iron rod on the bamboo, measuring distance etc. with my fingers. Similarly, I make the other openings. Experience, touch, musical knowledge and intuition is all it takes! There are three types; for Carnatic, Hindustani and Western classical music. Each one has a different sruti.”
Chinnaveeran has made flutes for maestros including Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Mali and Prapancham Seetarama Sarma. He has trained more than 1,000 students, both foreign and Indian at music school and more than 100 in the craft of flute making under a two-year training scheme offered by the Handicrafts Marketing Centre, Nagercoil.
“I am perhaps the only flute maker in the world with such a problem,” says Chinnaveeran proudly and signs off with the notes of a haunting Mohammad Rafi song, accompanied by his son Yogeshwaran also a flute maker and flautist.
Keywords: Hindustani music