Culture trail

Spoonful of music – Nisha Rajagopal on food and music

What is the food that you associate with Ragams? Could you name a few ragams and the food that comes to your mind when you think of them?

  • I don’t tend to associate food with music, generally. The only thing that strikes me immediately is Reetigowlai and upma. I first started learning from Shri T R Subrahmanyam at the Pittsburgh Balaji temple. He taught me Ragaratnamalikache in Reetigowlai during our first class, which lasted more than 3 hours. That was my first experience of such a long and intense session, at the age of ten. At some point I was so hungry that I burst into tears. Poor TRS Mama couldn’t understand why I was crying and I was too timid to even talk to him. Finally my father figured out that I was hungry and told TRS Mama, who was so upset that he took me to the temple canteen and bought me upma himself!  To this day any time I eat vegetable rava upma I remember TRS Mama and Reetigowlai!

What is your favourite dish served in the Sabha canteen during the december season?

  • I love the food at Gnanambika at Narada Gana Sabha and I try to go and eat there at least a couple of times. I have a huge sweet tooth so whatever sweet they have as the daily special is a must try for me.

What would you love to see on the table after a long and strenuous concert?

  • Most days, just Rasam Saadham and/or curd rice. Although I do admit to an occasional craving for pizza or chaat!

If you were to cook while singing, what would you cook and what would you sing?

  • I’m actually much more interested in eating food than cooking it! When I am cooking, I’m usually singing whatever happens to be on my mind at that time. This Deepavali, I made beetroot halwa. While I kept stirring the halwa for more than an hour, I found myself singing Atana. Perhaps the rhythmic patterns of the raga went well with the stirring tempo of my spoon! I do like to bake and I used to do quite a lot of it before my son was born. I like the fact that it’s very precise and literal, as opposed to cooking which is more vague and individualistic. Again, any singing I do while baking is more about what mood I’m in, or what song I’ve recently learnt, or what raga is stuck in my head at the time.

Nisha Rajagopal

If there was a dish you would love to cook up to impress your spouse, what would that be?

  • Given how health conscious my husband is, anything I cook which is “super healthy” is enough to impress him. That in itself is a bit of a tough ask. I hear this all too often – “Can you make something really delicious, which is low in carbs and fat and high in protein (and whatever the latest craze is at that time, for example, anti oxidants)?”He loves South Indian food but doesn’t eat it very often. Quinoa salad, healthy soups and amaranth stew are some of his current favorites and he has now discovered millets, for which I am searching for recipes.

 (Nisha P. Rajagopal is a promising young Carnatic vocalist. She commenced her training in vocal music from her mother Vasundara Rajagopal, and later received training from T. R. Subramaniam, Calcutta Krishnamoorthy, Suguna Varadachary, and P. S. Narayanswamy.)


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The musings of two Chennaiites seeking to discover the world through food and travel. As they open themselves up to adventure, the accompanying puliyogare, travels well and ensures that the idea of home is never lost

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