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Forging ahead with zest

With a winsome combination of enthusiasm and talent, music copyist Antony Arulraj is raring to go.

Just a casual chat with this young man would prove a worthy morale booster for the depressed, a tremendous confidence builder for the diffident.

Raja may be confined to the wheelchair (polio took its toll when he was just a year and a half old) but his aspirations are high — and not surprisingly he is realising each one of them.

Though Antony Arulraj is his name, he is Raja to everyone. Raja is a music copyist. The job sounds vague, even intriguing — and all you can surmise is that it could have something to do with notations.

"That's because I think I am the only one doing this kind of a job in the entire country... at least in Chennai there's nobody else as far as I know'', he laughs.

The computer has been a godsend for Raja. And his life today revolves round it. Copying music, creating new fonts, updating himself on the latest in world music, learning the recent in music software and working on the assignments that his clients give him keep Raja busy through the day. And if allowed to have his way, he would love to work late into the night too.

"But my sister-in-law and brother say that such strain would affect my health. So as soon as I wake up, I come and sit here and stay put till evening", smiles Raja.

To him, his brother Eugene and sister-in-law Margaret Lucia mean a lot. ``She works in St. Louis Blind school in Adyar, so she knows the psyche of a physically impaired person only too well. Her empathy, concern and affection and my brother Eugene's love and care have made me forget my disability totally today'' — the sentimental tone has no self pity, only gratitude and love.

Wherever Raja wants to go, Eugene carries him. Whatever he wishes for, the couple gets for him. And today when he has begun to earn on his own, they look on with pride.

Raja was born and brought up in Nagapattinam. His parents still live there. His brother brought him to Chennai seven years ago. ``The avenues open for me here and the affection showered on me has made me forget Nagapattinam", says Raja.

It was Eugene who first got him a casio and Raja began to play — nobody taught him music at that stage but he could just play. Soon it became an obsession. Raja began to take part in music competitions even outside his hometown and won prizes. ``I had to be carried everywhere but my friends would do it untiringly...", he muses.

He became a keyboard player at the St. Lourdes' Church choir in Nagapattinam and soon became a choir master. ``My friends and I formed a music troupe — Swaram orchestra — and travelled to all nearby places giving light music performances", says Raja.

But beneath all this there was a void, a depression. ``I could only watch other's run about and play. I could not even dream of it."

It was Margaret Lucia who helped the boy at this stage. Whenever she came to Nagapattinam, she would sit with Raja, talk to him at length, and compose verses for him to set to music — all these without talking about his handicap or the depression caused by it. The therapy worked, and how! Today Raja is a youngster brimming with self-confidence. Rightly he calls his copying operations Maeura (Margaret, Eugene, Raja put together).

Once in Chennai, Raja was trained in Carnatic music by R.Subramaniam, Margaret's colleague in school. Then piano lessons under the famous Jacob John (who has had maestros like Ilaiyaraja as his student) followed. ``But how can I play on the piano without using the pedal?", was Raja's worry. ``Forget it, you can", said Jacob John. And Raja went on to complete his 5th grade from the Trinity College of Music.

After Jacob John left for England, Raja began to take piano lessons from Ramesh Vinayakam (one of the music composers for GV's forthcoming film).``It was he who introduced me to the music software `Finale'. I was fascinated by it.''

Raja who learnt music notations on his own, improved his knowledge extensively through all the available music software. Photoshop and Dreamweaver too are familiar subjects for Raja. Musicians work with handwritten scores. The scores for all the instruments to be used in a song — the flute, violin or percussion bits — are all written together. Separating the notes is a time-consuming process and this is where Raja helps.

As he has the time, the necessary music knowledge and is also adept at working on the computer, Raja notates the compositions with clarity in a very short time.

Film music director Shyam, singers Timmy and Augustine Paul, and of course, one of his mentors Ramesh, give him work. Randall Giles from the U.S. is his constant customer. And the notations done by Raja here are sent to the U.S. where they are published. "Randall gives me very challenging scores, for which I have to create fonts. But it is a very fulfilling job.''

You can just give Raja the composition and he can give the scores in the simplest and clearest way possible. `` Publishing music books with notations are now done only in the West. (incidentally, setting up a publishing house for music is one of Raja's aspirations) I can do notations for musicians in a very cost-effective way. And if schools and colleges approach me, I can do it for all their music. And it will help me a lot...", says Raja. He is so musically inclined that he can offer suggestions in the scores brought to him if the composer wills.

"From the bagpiper, tin whistle and African drum, I have fonts for every instrument in the world. And it's not only Western, I can do the same for Carnatic music also. In fact, I can offer my client notations for both together'', says Raja (Phone:4424479).

"Prayer brings victory'' are the words that are pasted right above Raja's computer table. Together with unrelenting diligence it has sure brought in success.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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