The Fiddling Monk

Tasneem Ghadiyali

The Fiddling Monk

Violin Maestro Kumaresh struck his first chord at three years old. By the time he turned five, people had flocked to his concerts to hear the living legend play. As Maestro Kumaresh grew, his life began to reflect the serene thoughtful music that surrounded his every step. Philosophy joined his passion for music. Now known as the Fiddling Monk, Maestro Kumaresh inspires people to think deeper and find joy through not only his glorious music but his insightful words, like the ones he offers us here.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Life is a joy best expressed through music. There is so much to understand along this beautiful journey. The fun, joy, curiosity, and experiences we gain all together bring in an incredible kaleidoscope of emotions. We are passionate because we are human. Life is fun.

How did you become interested in music?

My father and brother are my gurus. My father held violin lessons in Kapur. When I was three years old, I picked up my father's violin and played a tricky phrase in a song called Varnam. Everyone was stunned. I had a natural connection to music. I learned to play from then on.

We are all musically inclined in one way or another. Melody attracts us in multi-dimensional forms. Whether writing, studying or playing music, we are all students of it. Every one of us, even animals and plants, is a musician. It is the divine song transcends any specific religion, race, color, or division.

Why are you called the Fiddling Monk?

The inner dimension of life has always interested me. I like Adi Shankara Ji, the great Mahadev of Kanchi, Ramana Maharishi, and Vivekananda Ji's philosophies. They hypothesized that the body structure is not bound or limited. There is something more to it. I find that thought process attractive. Being a musician, I understood that music is beyond time and space, and so are we. Our external dimension makes us stick to the exterior, so I became a fiddler. And in Tamil, we say that the mind is a monkey. It keeps on jumping, so the key to the monkey is with a monk. So I came up with the name Fiddling Monk.

What keeps you playing the violin?

We have this unique process of categorizing things. You're either one thing or another. There is no in-between, and I'm not a big fan of that. We are all spiritual beings. Each one of us has good and evil within us. But we often think otherwise because we limit ourselves to borrowed knowledge from books or speakers. We must remember that we are intelligent people and capable of inspiring others and ourselves. We should be our first inspiration, not somebody else. That's what I feel. Nobody knows us better than us. Music keeps me fresh, gives me new ideas, and helps me understand myself.

If you could go back and give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

If someone would ask me, who would you want to be born as if you were born again? I would say that I would not trade life journey. I am happy with what brought me here and have nothing to complain about. I am delighted and contented. I still have the energy to do what I love, unravel music, and try new things. I have enthusiasm in me. I can communicate my thoughts to my students, and they are doing well. And I am still performing!

Any advice you have for aspiring musicians and the younger generation?

The world moves at a swift pace. For example, Instagram wants everything fast and capsuled. It's good, but it's not sustainable in the long term. So I would say it's good to be a master of one than being the jack of all trades. Choose one path and work on it. Set yourself for long innings. If you look at life numerical-wise, you live for 100 years and adjust for childhood, sleeping, sickness, etc. You only get 15,000 to 20,000 days. So what are we going to achieve? What are we looking for? We often look for external appreciation from people than our own. Will my boss be happy? Will people like me? How many followers do I have? How many people clap at my concert?

The first thing we need to do is learn to appreciate ourselves. Am I happy with myself? That is the most crucial question you need to ask yourself. Not detachment to others, but total attachment to yourselves, is what we must learn.

Do you think there are age limits to playing the violin?

So I get reviews on my website and one day I got a message from a 65 years old man playing the violin, and how he is getting better and better day by day. There is another lady who is around 55-57 years old. She is rocking it with the violin. Our limitations are only in our minds because of the borrowed knowledge. Humans are made limitless.  

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