Sunday Routine | Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon: Before the Songs, a Precisely Made Chai

July 6th, 2013

GREET THE MORNING I’m a very early bird. I wake up by 5:15. First I lie in bed and do my little affirmation. It’s kind of a hello to the day.

CHAI TIME I have a very precise tea routine. I use fresh spices. I brew the chai with very special leaves, ginger, cardamom and milk. I have that with those Britannia rusks. As children we ate them growing up. It’s a reminder of home.

INHALE, EXHALE Then I do my pranayama meditation for 30 to 40 minutes — different cycles of breath — always the same number of repetitions. I say my prayers — first to the sun god, then the chants for protection, destruction and creation.

Dave Sanders for The New York Times

PREPARE FOR CHOIR I get the instruments and music together. Sometimes I might have composed a new piece the day before. I get ready in my Indian clothes, and I’m very precise about when I leave. Choir starts at 8 o’clock sharp, and we have never started late in three years.

PRAYERS Before I go down to the car, I do my prayer ceremony, asking for the day to go well. I light the lamp. I ask for blessings from my father, who passed away, all my ancestors, just the lineage — I have pictures of everybody. I believe there are universal spirits and energies that guide us, so I ask for wisdom and to stay in the light. At the temple, I go and say a prayer to the god of energy, god of Ganesha, god of beginnings. I sing a chant as I walk around the nine planets. I ask for compassion.

THE SINGERS Whether there are three people there, or 10 or 50, we will start saying om at 8. Many of the people are in their 70s and 80s. Their lives were so different before this. My life was very different before this. Most are not professional singers. Initially, I thought it would be a choir about music. But I just saw the love and the enthusiasm these people had and then decided not to cut anybody. It’s not about perfection of anything because I tell them they’re perfect as they are.

Dave Sanders for The New York Times

CANTEEN STOP The temple canteen has the best food from South India. The moment they see me they’ll make a special café au lait. I pick up food packages for my brother, for my friends, for my husband. Normally the back of my car is full of little containers — steamed lentil cakes, cabbage, potatoes. And amazing sweets — different forms of lentils and sugar.

CATCH A SHOW Everyone says Sunday is a day of rest; Sunday is my busiest day. When I get home, I look at my work files. Then my husband and I will often go catch some show. Recently we saw the Combo Nuvo at the Blue Note.

EARLY DINNER Dinner at Elio’s is the family time. We’ve done this since our daughter was little, and it’s the time we catch up on her school, on our lives, on what’s bothering us, what’s making us happy, our little fights, our little discussions — everything happens at this dinner. We get the same dishes — pappardelle with mushrooms in brown sauce for my husband, capellini primavera for me, and for my daughter, penne with tomato sauce. At the end, they give us these little cookies. If they ever run out, they’ll go scrounge some because we are just besotted with those cookies.

Dave Sanders for The New York Times

TUNE OF HER OWN Then comes my music-and-me time. I sing, I compose. Sometimes I might not be that inspired and finish at 10:30 or 11. Sometimes I might look up and it’s 1 in the morning. Once in a while I switch on “Real Housewives.” I think it’s Orange County but I can’t keep track of these women. I watched a couple of shows because I couldn’t believe people could talk this way to each other.

LULLABY When I go to bed, I have a chant that I play; it’s 29 minutes and 15 seconds. The moment I put it on I’m fast asleep.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.