On Friday morning, as I was taking my morning walk (Btw, morning walks are infinitely better than evening walks. Most of you might know. But, this reinforcement comes from someone who had not thought about it deeply until now. I was focused only on getting a walk done, regardless of the time of the day. I feel and experience the difference now big time. Hence, it might help steel someone’s resolve to get this done in the morning itself), I was listening, as usual, to Carnatic Radio on Internet.
They were playing a concert of Aruna Sairam. It must have been several years old. The voice sounded fresh. She told her audience that they might be listening for the first time to a composition of Oothukkadu Venkatasubba Iyer, ‘Vishamakara Kannan’. Since she had popularized this composition so much in recent year, one could deduce that this concert was from many years ago.
She sang the famous song, ‘Ayye Meththa Kadinam’ from Nandanar. Sri Dhandapani Desikar had played that role in the film. It is the 1942 version. Until I began to write this blog post, I did not know that there was one ‘Bhakta Nandanar’ released in 1935 with K.B. Sundarambal playing the role of Nandanar and Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer (somewhat more famously and contemporaneously, his son Shri. Maharajapuram Santhanam must be known to more people) playing the role of the Vedhiyar (Brahmin).
I began thinking about how I have come to know about these things, appreciate and enjoy them. I realized that I owed a lot of this familiarity and appreciation to my father. Then, in my mind, I could list a few things rapidly. Introduction to Shri. M.K. Thiagaraja Bhagavathar’s everlasting melodies, to Shri. Madurai Mani Iyer, to the devotion of Smt. M.S. Subbalakshmi, to the classic and brilliant humour of ‘Devan’ (Shri Mahadevan who wrote in Tamil), to Cricket, to Tennis, to many religious speakers cum scholars – Needamangalam Krishnamurthi Bhagavathar, Srivatsa Jayarama Sharma, K.V. Santhanagopalachariyar, Thoopul Lakshmi Narasimhan, Smt. Sivananda Vijayalakshmi, et al. Above all, temples and temple tours – to Shri. Bharanitharan, to Shri. Tho.Mu. Bhaskara Thondaman (‘Venkatam mudhal Kumari Varai’), to Kannadasan’s ‘Arthamulla Indu Matham’ and, in politics, to Shri. Rajaji and later, to Shri. Kamaraj.
Today, I write prolifically in public forums because his ‘Letters to the Editor(s)’ in those days pointed the way to me. I walked on the same path first.
The list is long and its import sank in before I finished the morning walk.
[Parenthetically, I must add here that to my eldest maternal uncle, I owe the introduction to P.G. Wodehouse]
My father is now more than 85 years old. A physically active man until well into his Eighties, he has shrivelled quite a bit in the last one+ year and barely steps out of his house in Madurai these days. He is not computer savvy. Internet eluded him and he had no patience to master it. So, it is very unlikely he will get to read this blog post himself. But, it is a reminder to myself to put and keep things in perspective, all the time, with all the people.
I am very grateful to him for these because, as we grow older, as we learn to appreciate the ephemerality of many things, we feel a need to graduate to slightly less ephemeral things and so on and so on. I find that these songs, these artists, these scholars and these writers are very important stepping stones. They take us to a different level and, if I may dare say, to a higher level.
To be able to lean on them when we need them, we must know of their existence. I am grateful to him for making me aware of these and creating in me, without deliberate effort, an appreciation for these finer elements and fine people.
Of course, eventually, we will realise that IT is nothing that we worship here. But, that comes much later and, in any case, that is a different matter for a different occasion.