Technology and music go hand in hand. Many technology professionals have proved their mettle as singers. K S Neethu Mol stands out among art-loving techies because her forte is the less frequented 'aksharashlokam,' or antakshari of Sanskrit verses.
The Microsoft engineer is a known proponent of classical literary pursuits such as 'aksharashlokam', 'kavyakeli' and 'sthrothraparayanam'. She has bagged several awards in these items at school and university arts fests as well as competitive Sanskrit recitals.
Neethu draws inspiration from her family. Even her older sisters are specialists in the fields. They too work for technology companies.
Neethu was raised in an ordinary farmer family in Kottayam with no apparent links to the “elite arts”. Her mother taught all the girls poems and Sanskrit verses. "She loved when we performed on stage,'' Neethu said.
"When my sister recited a Sanskrit verse in school, a teacher initiated us into Sanskrit studies and poems. My two sisters – Bindu and Indu and I studied Sanskrit up to the tenth standard. Teacher Savithri was our first guru. We also learned from her husband Viswanathan Nair. He is the one who founded the Kairali Shlokaramgam. His daughter Aryambika V S, a winner of the Kendra Sahitya Academy's Yuva Kala Pratibha award, is in charge of the institution now.
“All three of us went to the SRV NSS High School at Chirakkadavu. All of us were toppers in our batches. The younger two of us had been crowned Kala Thilakom in the Sanskrit arts festival in Kottayam district. I topped 'kavyakeli' for five successive state-level school arts festivals.
"I later went to the Government Engineering College at Palakkad to pursue a degree. I continued to participate in arts events. My sister and I have participated in the poetry-based reality show, 'Mambazham'. I reached the semifinal rounds in the show."
Juggling work and passion
“Microsoft and my arts career are in different planes. Whenever I get an off day, I tend to learn a new verse or a poem. I love to teach my children. If you have a passion, then it is not difficult to find time for its pursuit,” Neethu said.
She has been working with Microsoft for seven years. As a project head, she has a hectic schedule. The daily commute through the busy Bengaluru adds to the pressure. Her husband, Deepu Krishna, is a doctor and their daughter is five years old.
“All these have not hampered my interests in my passions. I have a sound base and it helps when I get on a stage to perform.” she said.
Her husband, a consultant doctor with the Apollo Hospital, is a mridangam artiste. He often accompanies Neethu on stage. His mother, Shaylaja Warrier, is an artiste too. She encouraged her daughter-in-law to revive her career after the birth of the child.
“My first performance after marriage was at the Sankaracharya Mutt in Mysore. I have been performing there every year for the Vinayaka Chathurthi.”
Neethu's oldest sister Bindu is in the United States with her family. The other sister, Indu, works in Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram. Her husband also works there.
Indu is still active. She never misses a chance to perform and often returns home with a handful of awards. Her husband, Erikkavu Sunil, is a reputed mridangam artiste. He is an 'A' grade artiste attached with Akashavani and Doordarshan.
Music in office
“Microsoft is an ideal platform for me. This place convinced me that nothing could stop me if I were serious about a pursuit. There is a collective of musicians in the office. We keep organising a modest show once every month. The company organises a bigger show every year,” Neethu said.
“The Kerala government's Malayalam Mission is one of the greatest rewards for me. Its project is intended to teach Malayalam to the children of expatriates. The Bengaluru unit is one of the most active in the mission. It is led by Damodaran Master.
“My association with him gave me an opportunity to teach children poems. I go there every weekend with my daughter and volunteer to teach the children. I could also be a part of the team that sung the mission anthem, 'Vazhka Vazhka'.
“I am reliving the joys experienced by my teacher, Vishwanathan. He trained all of us but never received any fee. That has prompted me to make sure that my children learn the language too. I am serious about teaching her. She already recites small poems," she narrated.