Archive for July, 2010
Most Secretly Done
And so the boy who plays for our city has tied the knot. And did it, as the Man from Madras Musings notices, with a secrecy that would do any conservative Tam Brahm proud. Not that Tam Brahms are conservative any longer. Today, their weddings have become big and fat, encompassing such “essential elements” as sangeet and mehndi ceremonies, events that MMM thought were celebrated only north of the Vindhyas.
But to come back to Chennai’s boy and his Super secret wedding, the electronic media was understandably miffed. After all, they strut around imagining that they have complete rights over anybody and everybody’s life and cannot imagine that such a wedding could have taken place without their knowing about it. And so, each channel, MMM noticed, scaled greater heights in ridiculousness. One kept flashing photographs of the bridegroom with the usual caption of “Breaking News” below it. The same photos were reversed after an interval to give you the illusion that these were new. As for the bride, most could get visuals not bigger than an effigy on a postage stamp and then it could have been anyone. Another channel decided that this may be the best and most tactful moment to have a retrospect on all the women that our boy was linked to, all these linkages of course being fanciful speculations on the part of the media itself. Photograph after photograph of these women was displayed and MMM shudders to think of what the bride’s feelings would have been had she decided to channel surf on wedding day. A third channel decided to interview people on their reactions and for this they chose those who were as connected to the celebrity groom as MMM possibly was. Most of the respondents looked as though they were happy to be on television and one, a music director who had clearly never held a cricket bat in his life, even speculated on whether marriage would affect hero-of-the-day’s game! And so it went on. All it lacked was a Big Fight programme starring some of our politicians on whether the wedding had their blessings.
The next day, having given up the whole quest as a lost cause, one channel decided to speculate on where the honeymoon may be. And so it goes on. MMM is waiting for the day when the union will be blessed and we are treated to a survey of gynaecologists and maternity hospitals that may deliver the bundle of joy. Some environment friendly channel may even attempt interviewing the stork.
Do It Now
The Man from Madras Musings lives in a house that is large enough to give each of his family members a certain amount of privacy, but the television, which is located at the heart of the home, penetrates through sound where others cannot. And MMM without an option, has to listen to a daily forecast of what the stars foretell. The character who rejoices in the role of astrologer is a cherubic individual, all ash and vermillion and is usually positive in his outlook. But there are days when in MMM’s view, he oversteps his.. er.. brief.
What MMM means is that Monday morning is hardly the right time to advise a sun-sign that this was the best moment for thinking of progeny. “Venus and Jupiter are in the right positions,” he said, without batting an eyelid. “If you are thinking of having a baby, this is the right time” he added without a blush. “Don’t postpone” he continued just in case some of his flock were having ideas of going off to work. MMM could imagine hundreds of hopefuls calling up their respective offices to ask for permission for other and more pressing duties. Well, good luck is all that MMM has to offer them in their endeavours.
Torch and Sword
Last week MMM was on one of his walkabouts and what should he see but a group of self-appointed law-enforcers going about a main thoroughfare tearing down sign-boards in English. They were of course well within their rights for these shops had not yet implemented the new order. The police ensured that there was no untoward incident as the papers are fond of saying. In any case, whoever the person was who had selected these uprooting agents had done a good job. Each man’s strength was the strength of ten judging by the ease with which they plucked off sign-boards and felled iron posts with a simple wave of the hand.
But they could have at least spared the road signs that said “No Left Turn” etc. These were also uprooted and taken away in what can only be described as maniac zeal. Of course, none of these was really carted away. The mandate was to uproot and cause chaos and that was that. So the sign-boards and hoardings remained where they had fallen, hindering an already chaotic traffic. The next morning, the garbage collection agency had a good time. For are they not paid by weight for the garbage collected?
It is for long that the Chief and the Man from Madras Musings have puzzled over who this road could be named after and then we finally gave it up. But the Corporation, perhaps enthused by this search has embarked on a process that, so MMM learns, is referred to technically as the milling of roads. This has given most of our thoroughfares a curiously grizzled look as though they had been shaved with a blunt razor. This is a precursor to relaying the macadam and in a departure from the past, it also apparently prevents the continuously rising road levels, which as you know hold the secret to your garden one day becoming a kind of sink for all the neighbourhood storm water. But what puzzles MMM is that after the milling, nothing much has happened. The rains came in most unexpectedly and deepened the ruts caused by the milling. After the milling, when will be the filling?
No matter how much the powers that be try and inculcate a love for the local language, the Man from Madras Musings notices that it is everyone’s aspiration to speak the Queen’s, no matter that such persons are labelled in our rich local lingo as either Peter or Mary depending on gender. A friend who was unfortunate enough to have a burglary went to lodge a complaint and was asked to write out a First Information Report. He, being familiar with the lingua franca wrote it out effortlessly in Tamil and was even complimented for his talents by the local police officer. And then the man decided to impress MMM’s friend with his English. “I am sorry sar,” he said. “You are having an untime”. MMM’s friend understood it to mean that this was a bad period in his life which was why the burglary. As long as the message got across, we have to be thankful.
My article on Munro appeared in yesterday’s Hindu. The paper edition had a brilliant photo of the statue taken by a Hindu photographer.
In Carnatic music, it is often possible to identify an artiste from the demeanour of the audience as it streams out at the end of a performance. Such an exit poll would often show excited conversation, vehement arguments, eulogistic praise and sometimes sheer awe. For one artiste alone, the audience invariably left the hall in complete silence at the end of the performance. For that artiste invariably made the audience join him in worshipping music. It was a communion between a musician and many musical souls and that experience left the audience in a state of bliss for describing which silence was perhaps the best tribute. That artiste was KV Narayanaswamy or KVN as he was fondly referred to.
KVN was born on 15th November 1923 at Palakkad to Viswanatha Bhagavatar and Muttulakshmi. The father was a violinist. Grandfather Narayana Bhagavatar and great grandfather Viswam Bhagavatar were musicians in Krishnan Attam performances, a dance form of Kerala and Viswam Bhagavatar had been honoured by Maharajah Ayilyam Tirunal of Travancore (r 1860-1880AD). From very early in life it was clear that KVN would shine as a musician and his conventional schooling was therefore given up when he was in standard VII. He had his initial musical training under his father and also his grandfather. His first concert took place when he was very young, at a village near Kollengode. His grandfather not wanting to intimidate the boy by his presence hid behind a pillar and was very proud to hear the audience appreciating the child. Indicating shades of forthcoming musical excellence, KVN spent hours at home singing with his head inside a mud pot because he loved the sound effects. None stopped him from this peculiar habit and it was perhaps due to this that he developed such an astounding sense of fidelity to pitch.
The mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer was a close friend of the family and took on KVN as his student. From Mani Iyer he learnt niraval and swara singing. Needless to add, a strict control over laya or time measures was instilled in him thanks to Mani Iyer. On Mani Iyer’s recommendation he also learnt music for a while from CS Krishna Iyer then resident at Kalpathi. In between there was a short film career as well in 1937 when KVN, who was extremely good looking by then was asked to act in a movie produced by BV Rao. The film bombed and KVN bade goodbye to films.
In early 1941, he was sent to Madras to observe and learn from violin maestro ‘Papa’ KS Venkataramiah. When Papa’s family moved to Tanjavur in 1942 following the evacuation of Madras, KVN followed suit. It was clear however that given his training under Mani Iyer and Papa, he would soon gravitate to Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, the then numero uno in Carnatic music and the one whom both Mani Iyer and Papa literally worshipped. The introduction happened in Madras at Devakottai House, present day AVM Rajeshwari Kalyana Mandapam in Mylapore in 1942. KVN became a student in residence under Ariyakkudi’s care and soon became a faithful adherent of the Ariyakkudi bhani. He began accompanying his Guru in concerts and here again such was his unerring sense of pitch that he was always given the honour of tuning the tambura. Training under Ariyakkudi also meant performing several household chores along with other disciples such as B Rajam Iyer and Madurai Krishnan, all of which KVN cheerfully accepted as part of his tutelage. In the meanwhile his own career progressed and soon he was in demand. In 1947 he made his appearance at the December festival of the Music Academy, Madras. His first major concert in Madras city however was in 1954 when at the instance of Mani Iyer he stood in for his Guru who excused himself from a Music Academy performance. Over the years he emerged as the most popular concert performer in the Ariyakkudi tradition. However unlike his Guru who excelled in the madhyamakala or medium tempo, KVN began to specialize in the vilambakala or slow tempo as well. In this he was influenced by the styles of Musiri Subramania Iyer and the Veena Dhanammal family among whose members was Jayammal, the mother of T Balasaraswathi, and she taught him padams and javalis. These influences gave a soft, soothing touch to his music and enhanced the bhava or emotional element.
As a result of these influences, a KVN concert had all the winning elements. The structure was largely Ariyakkudi’s, for KVN too began with a varnam and presented a number of pieces from what was truly an enormous repertoire. The songs he had learnt from Ariyakkudi were presented in the same style but with the little slower gait and enhanced emotion that were his own hallmarks. His knowledge of most south Indian languages ensured he presented the lyrics most faithfully. His niraval was superb and full of bhava. He invariably included a ragam tanam pallavi suite. The emotion laden shlokas and viruttams that he sang in the second half of his concerts were unparalleled. Among the end pieces the song “varugalamo ayya” from the Nandan Charittiram of Gopalakrishna Bharati was an eternal favourite and in later years so was MD Ramanathan’s “Sagara Shayana Vibho”.
KVN married Palghat Mani Iyer’s cousin Annapoorni in 1948. They had three daughters and a son. It was a happy union till her sudden death in 1962 which left KVN bereft. In 1965 he married his own disciple Padma who later also began accompanying him in his concerts. He had a daughter through his second marriage. KVN was a man of great discipline true to his Gandhian ideals. At the same time he was loving and gentle and this resulted in several disciples attaching themselves to him. He taught them all with equal love and affection. In 1962, KVN joined the Central College of Carnatic Music Madras, now the Isai Kalluri and retired from there as Professor of Music in 1982.
KVN’s concert career spanned almost sixty years. He was a frequent performer in India and overseas locations throughout this period. His first major concert abroad was at the Edinburgh Music Festival in 1965. The same year he was invited by the Wesleyan University for a two year teaching stint. Many of the major awards came his way. These included the Sangita Kalanidhi from the Music Academy (1986), the Padma Shri (1976) and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi award (1976). Perhaps the award that in name best summed up his music was Nada Brahmam which was conferred on him by the Narada Gana Sabha in 2001.
KVN’s biography was written in Tamil by the veteran journalist and music lover Neelam in 2001. This was translated into English the same year by Justice VR Krishna Iyer who was a great admirer of KVN and his music. KVN passed away on 1st April 2002 after a lifetime in music, much mourned by fans all across the world.
This was written as sleeve note for an album released by Charsur of a live concert by KV Narayanaswamy
The recent road-renaming exercise has brought out several fringe elements that have been putting in demands with no awareness of history. While that is understandable, what cannot be allowed is that a historic body like the Chennai Corporation simply listens to them and accedes to their requests. Chennai has always been a city that accepted the past and took it in its stride. It was gracious enough to retain statues and commemorate personalities who did well by the city and the country, no matter what was their nationality or country of origin. Why, the Corporation has not even contemplated changing the name of Ripon Buildings as the former Viceroy’s sympathy to Indian aspirations is well-known. That it will extend the same kind of understanding when it deliberates over the latest demand to uproot the statue of Sir Thomas Munro is to be hoped for.
It is not without reason that in the years after independence, successive Governments left Munro undisturbed. Here are some excerpts from Munro’s statements and writings which will show how much he sympathised with India and what a vision he had about the country’s future.
- (On the presiding over Indian crimes by European judges): I have never seen any European whom I thought competent, from his knowledge of the language and the people, to ascertain the value of the evidence given before him. The proceedings in our courts of judicature, which in our reports make a grave and respectable appearance, are, I know, frequently the subject of derision among the natives.
- (On why Indians ought to dispense justice for themselves): It is absurd to suppose that they are so corrupt as to be altogether unfit to be entrusted with the discharge if this important duty; if they were so, there would be no remedy for the evil; their place could never be supplied by a few foreigners imperfectly acquainted with their customs and language.
- (On the British attitude to Indians): Foreign conquerors have treated the natives with violence and often with great cruelty, but none has treated them with so much scorn as we, none has stigmatised the whole people as unworthy of trust, as incapable of honesty, and as fit to be employed only where we cannot do without them. It seems to be not only ungenerous, but impolitic to debase the character of a people fallen under our dominion.
- (And lastly, on how, when and why Britain should exit India): Your rule is alien and it can never be popular. You have much to give your subjects, but you cannot look for more than passive gratitude. You are not here to turn India into England or Scotland. Work through, not in spite of, native systems and native ways, with a prejudice in their favour rather than against them; and when in the fullness of time your subjects can frame and maintain a worthy Government for themselves, get out and take the glory of achievement and the sense of having done your duty as the chief reward for your exertions.
In many ways his understanding of India was unequalled and he was a greater friend of the country than even Ripon. On him Rajaji had this to say: “Whenever any young Civil Servant came to me for blessings or when I spoke to them in their training school, I advised them to read about Sir Thomas Munro, who was the ideal administrator.”
Here are some basic facts on his life. Munro was an old India hand, having served the Indian army in the wars against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. He stayed on to administer some of the territory taken from Tipu and here learnt the principles of revenue survey and assessment. Based on this experience, he opposed the bringing in of the zamindari system as prevalent in Bengal into South India and suggested the more humane ryotwari system of land revenue. In 1814 he returned to Madras from a stay in England and implemented judicial and police reforms. He became Governor thereafter and founded the systems of revenue assessment, general administration and education, all of which have been followed with modifications over the years. Munro died of cholera while on tour of the Ceded Districts in 1827. In his lifetime and after, Munro commanded enormous respect from Indians. It was customary to name children as Munrolappa and he was also one of the early Britishers to be commemorated in song. The famous composer Ghanam Krishna Iyer created a piece on him which is unfortunately lost.
The same fate ought not to befall his statue. It ought to stand where it is, as a symbol of honest, efficient and sympathetic administration. It should serve as a guiding light to administrators as Rajaji had wished. In fact it would not be a bad idea to translate some of Munro’s statements into Tamil and inscribe them on aesthetic tablets and erect them in the vicinity. They will not only serve to keep his memory alive but also help educate some who labour under the mistaken impression that all of the British Raj was evil and all colonial masters were dictators.
Last week, the Chennai Corporation released the list of 52 streets that it proposes to rename in order to commemorate Tamil scholars. Madras Musings has maintained that while the Corporation is well within its rights to do this, it would do well to consider the difficulties to which residents on these roads will be put to. Also as our researches have revealed most of the roads were named in the past after colonials who owned property in the respective areas, these names need not necessarily be retained though it does mean doing away with a piece of history. But the Corporation ought to at least consider retaining the names of a few people who have contributed to the city’s growth through their hard work and foresight. Many of these men’s legacies are still being used and enjoyed by the citizens of Chennai.
Anderson Road: If it’s the road in Nungambakkam, then remembered here is Dr. James Anderson, who first encouraged the study of the flora and fauna of South India.
Balfour Road: Dr Edward Green Balfour founded both the Museum and the Zoo and helped in encouraging Islamic Studies by enabling the establishment of the Mohammedan Library and the Madrasa (now on Anna Salai).
Binny Road: How can we forget John Binny, founder of one of the ‘Big Three’ in the early industry in the South and whose successors founded the textile industry in South India? He lived on the site where the Connemara now is.
Coats Road : James Coats was the engineer of the Corporation who was primarily responsible for making T Nagar a reality.
Davidson Street: Acting Governor Alexander Davidson was responsible for the first postal facilities in the South.
Frazer Road: After all, Frazer planned the City’s water supply that stood us in good stead for over a hundred years.
Jones Road: Named after JR Jones of the Madras Corporation who worked on ensuring water supply from Red Hills. Jones Tower in the reservoir commemorates him.
Madley Road: J.W. Madley was responsible for pioneering the city’s drainage.
Molony Road: J.C.Molony, a Civilian, ensured that Madras received a treated water supply. He also authored the book ‘A Book of South India’ which carries a warm and loving portrait of Madras city.
Moore’s Road : Sir George Moore of the Corporation of Madras was responsible for Moore Market and Moore Pavilion of the SIAA where he promoted Madras sport etc.
Norton Road: Eardley Norton was one of the city’s best-known and most capable lawyers ever. He was also one of the founders of the Indian National Congress. His father, John Norton, was the Advocate General of Madras and their kinsman George Norton was also a leading advocate, who launched the petition that led to the founding of the University of Madras.
Stephenson Road: Stephenson was responsible for establishing the Perambur Loco Works from which grew ICF.
Surely, these men are worthy of commemoration? That apart, Madras Musings is of the view that this would be the right time to have some roads commemorating the founding fathers of the city. What about having roads named after Andrew Cogan, Francis Day and Beri Thimmappa?
Interestingly, both the Corporation and those who have suddenly begun vociferously demanding the renaming, display a lack of awareness on roads that have already been renamed – so much for the thought that such exercises actually commemorate any personality. Warren Road was included in the Corporation’s original list without realising that it has long since changed its name to Bhaktavatsalam Salai in memory of M Bhaktavatsalam, the last Congress Chief Minister of Madras (Tamil Nadu) state. Old habits die slowly in Chennai and not many were using the new name. Another instance is the recent demand from a certain political party that Bells Road in Triplicane ought to be renamed after Ma Po Sivagnanam. They should know that the road was renamed Babu Jagjivan Ram Road several years ago.
There was a time when the Man from Madras Musings, young and romantic, wistfully looked at those with fan followings. How would it be he wondered, to be chased by paparazzi, be asked for autographs and receive fan-mail in the hundreds. But with age, a receded hairline and a waistline that threatens to get out of control at the slightest excuse, MMM realises that he is happier without it. But here, in this city of ours, MMM realises that there is no escaping the tyranny of the fan clubs, even if the idol of their worship is someone else.
The other day, MMM was driving along with nary a thought on his mind other than his own idol, the Chief. But he could see that traffic was slowing down and it came to a complete halt just in front of a cinema theatre where fans had congregated to celebrate the release of the latest film starring their chosen hero. The frontage of the theatre had been completely covered with what could possibly enter the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest piece of vinyl fabric. It depicted the hero in various poses, now shirtless, now running, now grinning, now grimacing and here and there jumping in and ripping the stuffing out of hundreds of villains. In case you wondered if this was King Kong, MMM assures you that at a couple of remote corners he was also depicted doing some kind of jujitsu with a girl thereby indicating he was good at light romance as well and therefore not simian. In front of this “field of cloth of vinyl” (with due apologies to Henry VIII), stood a towering cut-out of who else, but the hero once again. All around stood the faithful, awaiting the signal for worship to begin.
Busloads of fans were arriving at the gate and there was a posse of law-enforcers, both government and self-appointed, trying to regulate the ebb and flow. But chaos as always ruled. Music from the idol’s past classics blared and the worshippers were dancing to its beat, melody being non-existent in any case. Then a couple of probably a chosen inner circle began climbing a scaffolding that was flanking the cut-out. They were armed with what looked suspiciously like milk sachets and on closer inspection proved to be nothing else but. Having reached the pinnacle, they chewed off the edge of the sachets and proceeded to bathe the cut-out with milk. This was the signal for several standing below to anoint the hero’s nether regions with more milk as well. Not being able to get close enough to pour it on the cut-out, they simply pressed the sachets which squirted the milk with nozzle-like action on to the idol.
This having been done, garlanding was the next step. Huge floral garlands were hung on the sodden cut-out (ugh!!). Camphor was lit and waved after which worship was concluded. Everyone departed, happy and satisfied. MMM’s chauffeur informed MMM that now their spirituality was sated they would be going elsewhere for ‘spirit’ual uplift. All this at 11 in the morning! Talk about elevenses and no wonder we are a spiritual country with a spirited population, always on a high.
MMM moved on. But on his return journey, he could not resist taking a look at the theatre once again. Being rather full of what can be termed the milk of human kindness, the cut-out had bent forward almost in an attitude of benediction. As for the vinyl, it was being neatly cut into small pieces and taken away by scores of the less-privileged. Enquiries revealed that they served as water-proof covering for huts. At least someone benefited from it all.
A Learning Exercise
The Man from Madras Musings is quite clear about it. The Chennai Corporation has only mandated that all shops and establishments need to have their names written in Tamil script. They have NOT asked for English or other language words in the names to be translated into classical Tamil. But that has not deterred quite a few from swinging to the extreme right, so to speak. An establishment named Born Babies has now a signboard stating Piranda Kuzhandai. So here are a few words that you may need to know next time you go shopping.
Nagalagam – Xerox facility
Viraivu Unavagam – Fast Food
Pandaram – Store (MMM is rather puzzled about this. He knows that store in Sanskrit is Bhandaram and Pandaram in Tamil means a mendicant. So how does all this add up?)
Kulir Panam Arundagam – A cold-drink/soft-drink bar, not to be confused with bar which is Madu Panam Arundagam.
Araikalanangal – Furniture
Varaiarukka Pattadu – Limited (as in Pvt. Ltd)
Perundu Niruttum Idam – Bus Stop (this is not to be taken seriously if you use buses. Certainly the bus drivers do not taken cognizance of such signs and stop anywhere they please).
Mugavanmai – Agency
Pani Kuzhaiyam– Ice cream parlour.
What would Pizza Hut be? While the translating of Pizza may keep language specialists involved for some time, Hut is fairly straightforward.
MMM is of the view that you would be better off investing in a dictionary in any case.
Re-Renaming of Roads
The Man from Madras Musings, to quote an old poem, wonders much and sorrows more over this entire re-christening of roads. And nothing puzzles him more than the problem of Ellis Road. You would not be far wrong is stating that MMM is spending sleepless nights over it. But if this is his condition, what about the city’s civic body? MMM can picture the hard-working souls who man the place going around in a frenzy, debating on what should be done. Among the list of road names that were to be retained was Ellis Road ostensibly because he was a Tamil scholar. The original Ellis, after whom this road was named is NOT FW Ellis, the scholar of Dravidian languages. As correspondence in this paper has shown, it commemorates Francis Ellis, a member of the Council of Fort St George in the 1690s who was known for sharp business practices. Francis Whyte Ellis, whom the Corporation seeks to commemorate, came much later on the scene. The Corporation ought to clarify that in retaining the name for Ellis Road, it is in effect rechristening it. MMM recommends a news release to the effect that F Ellis Road is now renamed as FW Ellis Road. MMM also suggests that in order that people don’t mistake the Corporation as being partial to a man who was sharper than a serpent’s tooth and more twisted than a corkscrew, the signboards for the road ought to read “FW (and NOT) F Ellis (Dravidian Scholar and not Member of Governing Council) Road” Confusing? But that appears to be the whole purpose of the exercise anyway.
Paddhati – Papanasam Sivan kritis sung by DK Jayaraman
This is an album about two gentle and great musical souls. The first is Papanasam Sivan, the 20th century Carnatic music composer whose music and lifestyle mirrored that of great composers of the past, thereby earning him the title of Tamizh Tyagiah. The second is DK Jayaraman, a leading Carnatic star vocalist, who among his many musical talents, was known for his emotion laden renditions of several of Sivan songs. That was not surprising, for Jayaraman had been a student of Sivan’s and had witnessed the process of creation of several of those songs in the first person.
Sivan (born 1890) moved to Madras city in 1931 and settled in Mylapore in order to be close to Karpagam and Kapali, the presiding deities of the temple there and who had completely enveloped his being. A large corpus of his compositions was to be dedicated to them. Around the same time, Damal Krishnaswami Dikshitar, in order to further the promising musical career of his daughter DK Pattammal (b 1919) also shifted with family to Madras city. Pattammal began learning music from Sivan in 1933. A keen observer of the proceedings was Jayaraman (born 1928), Pattammal’s younger brother. Soon his own musical talents began to surface and he too became a student of Sivan’s in 1937. Both brother and sister were to remain Sivan’s students till his demise in 1973.
Sivan considered them to be his own children and often spoke of them in the same vein. He often expressed the view that the duo could not be excelled in the manner in which they captured the musical essence of his songs. They too responded and as Pattammal once recollected even prevailed on Sivan, who was by then a busy music composer for films as well, to set a song or two in the tunes of popular Hindi film hits! Pattammal soon became a busy concert and recording artiste and played a vital role in propagating several of Sivan’s compositions. There were occasions when she learnt a song from Sivan in the morning and recorded it the same evening for a 78 rpm disc. Later she was also encouraged in her playback career for films by Sivan and her songs for the film ‘Tyagabhoomi’ (1939) for which Sivan composed the music and in which he also acted, became great hits. Among these was the stirring patriotic number “dEsa sEvai sEyya vArIr”. With marriage and the consequent increase in domestic responsibilities, Pattammal could not come to Sivan as often as she wished. But the lessons for Jayaraman continued unimpeded.
Studying at the Muthiah Chettiar School, Jayaraman came into close contact with R Rangaramanuja Iyengar, the man who would later compile the Kritimanimalai, the series of books containing the works of the Carnatic Trinity and several other composers. Iyengar, who was teaching at the school had been one of the earliest to notice Sivan’s talents and had in 1934 organised the publication of Keertanamalai, the first compilation of Papanasam Sivan’s kritis. This teacher greatly encouraged DKJ in his tutelage under Sivan.
The Carnatic world took notice of DKJ even when he was a child for his singing talents were much appreciated in a radio play in which he acted the role of Prahlada with Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar acting as Vishnu. Over the years, he made it to the concert platform, first as an accompanist to his sister and later as an independent concert artiste. He chose to live in Kanchipuram for a while in the 1950s but returned to Madras in the 1960s whereupon the close association with Sivan resumed. In 1960, when Sivan turned seventy years of age, the celebrations witnessed a concert by DK Pattammal and Jayaraman, comprising Sivan’s kritis alone. Between 1962 and 73, Jayaraman was a regular at Sivan’s residence, often sharing a simple meal with the Guru’s family and discussing several musical matters. On one occasion Sivan enquired of DKJ the titles he had received and when the latter listed them, suggested that the title of “Nada Brahmam” ought to be his. He wrote the same in a copy of a book of his songs and gifted it to DKJ who cherished the same. DKJ later also joined the bhajanai ghoshti (devotional song group) that Sivan led around the four Mada Streets of Mylapore each year during the month of Margazhi (Dec/Jan). He continued to participate in it till his own passing in 1991.
Writing about his close association with Sivan in an article penned for the magazine Sruti in the 1990s, DKJ said, “All the songs of Sivan to which I helped bring fame were learnt by me directly from the composer himself. He would sing the lines and I would repeat them. Because of his respiratory ailment the words would come out in spurts, somewhat disjointedly, as he sang. Sometimes he would rest quite a while before completing a line. To me this handicap made no difference, for the beautiful sangatis he produced glittered like diamonds.” Among the songs of Sivan that DKJ made famous were gems such as Nekkurugi (AbhOgi), sAradE (dEvagAndhAri), sEnthilANDavan (kharaharapriya), enadu manam (harikAmbOji), unai allAl (kalyANi), mAta (sriranjani), bAlakriShNan (dhanyAsi), nambi kETTavar (hindOLam) and pAdamE tuNai (valaji). Besides, DKJ also gave fresh life to several of the classical songs that Sivan composed for films, by bringing them on to the concert platform. He sang the MS Subbulakshmi hit from the film Savitri (1942), ‘manamE kaNamum’ in several of his concerts.
The Gokulashtami concert at Sivan’s house was an annual feature. DKJ joined Sivan on most of these occasions and later was to recall a particular year in which he joined Sivan in rendering several of his songs on Krishna such as bAlakrShNan (dhanyAsi) and tEril ErinAn (kalyANi), besides the works of other composers.
In September 1973, DKJ had to leave for Calcutta for a concert and before departing requested Sivan to record a few songs on tape for him to learn from. Sivan obliged. By the time DKJ returned, Sivan had passed away. The tapes containing his voice became DKJ’s treasured possessions. Shortly after this, DKJ was slated to perform at the Navaratri series at the Ramakrishna Mission, Mylapore and he dedicated the concert to Sivan’s compositions. Most of the audience was moved to tears.
DKJ trail blazed a remarkable career in the field of Carnatic music in the years following Sivan’s death. It was a pity that the Guru was not around to witness the success of disciple. DKJ continued featuring several of Sivan’s songs in his concerts and despite a busy concert career and indifferent health, kept up the annual Margazhi bhajanai tradition at Mylapore along with Sivan’s daughter Rukmini Ramani. In December 1990 DKJ received the highest of Carnatic music’s awards, the Sangita Kalanidhi from the Music Academy. Sadly, he passed away a few days later to the lasting regret of his fans. Truly it could be said of him that like Sivan, he had no enemies, for such was his loving nature. He has left behind numerous concert recordings in which the songs of Sivan continue to shine and dazzle like the diamonds to which he had once compared them.
This write-up was the accompanying sleeve note for the Charsur album of a live concert of DKJ’s featuring Papanasam Sivan’s songs. The concert has DKJ speaking often, sometimes giving hilarious footnotes to some of the songs.
Wandering about in Vepery this morning at 6.30 on an elusive search for Veda Vilas, once the home of the Jagannatha Bhakta Sabha, my friend Karthik Bhatt and I chanced upon this building where much of the Subbunagam-Grace Stephens drama must have unfolded more than a century ago. This is the Emannuel Methodist Chapel.
For those who did not read the story – http://www.hindu.com/mag/2010/02/28/stories/2010022850220500.htm