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Saturday, September 19, 2009

M.S.Amma

The first time I saw her , I was a tiny tot of 9. The venue was Sri Parthasarthy Swami Sabha, Triplicane, Chennai. Late Sri Venkatakrishnan, the former secretary of the sabha invited me to garland the legend during her concert. I remember Smt. Radha Viswanathan accompanying her, and nothing else. I could register the presence of Smt. Radha Viswanathan because of the legend's frequent and personal interaction with her on stage, through smiles and gestures. I was totally oblivious to anything or anybody other than late Smt. M.S. Amma, that was the power of her magnetism! The sheer beauty of herself and her voice swept me off my feet and my gaze remained unwaveringly glued to the sight of her all through her memorable concert.

When it was announced that Baby Gayathri would be garlanding Smt. M. S. Subbulakshmi, I literally ran up the stage in my two plaits and half skirt. I had to be slowed down by Sri. Venkatakrishnan as he gave me the garland. As usual I was aware of bemused smiles of the audience and organisers at my childishness, (at the age of 9, crossing my silver jubilee concert, I had come to accept people's indulgent smiles as part of my life). As I neared the stage, I was aware of M.S. Amma's keen gaze on me and her sweet and loving smile. To the mind of a nine year old, she seemed motherly,yet out of reach due to something extraordinary about her. As years went by, I was able to define the extraordinary quality as divinity which lent her an almost visible golden aura around her figure, attracting and magnetising people by her physical presence and golden voice.

I have been one of her millions of admirers over the years, never attempting to disturb her by seeking an appointment. I knew she was a celestial being, a "Gandharva Sthree", and that her birth on earth was a karmic design.

In 1994, when Karthik Fine Arts conferred the Isai Peroli award, I was particular that I should receive the same from M.S. Amma with her blessings. I was overjoyed when she accepted to present the award and for the first time sought an appointment with her to invite her personally.
She received me warmly like a typical, traditional housewife. There was nothing even remotely starry about her! I was struck by her daintiness and her absolute femininity. She exuded vulnerability making her seem almost childish. It may sound weird, but I felt a strong surge of protectiveness towards her, I wanted to hug her. I was even awestruck by my own reaction to her, as I normally do not get overly carried away by feelings or sentiments and worse still, demonstrate the same (on the day of the function, my wish came true when she embraced me on the stage after presenting the award)! In the course of our conversation, I was surprised to learn that she listens to all the AIR morning and night concerts, and had great things to say about all the musicians, including myself. I told her that I listened to her Annamacharya Krithis (my favourite being ,the first volume which has "Sriman Narayana", "Manujudai Putti"' "Bhavamulona", etc.,) whenever I felt the pangs to visit Tirumala and her "Sri Rangapura Vihara" whenever I longed to go to Srirangam. She smiled humbly.

Next interaction with her came when news was out that she would be the recipient of the ultimate award, "Bharat Ratna". I rushed to Park Sheraton, where my florist friend, Mithra used to have a lovely showroom. I asked for the best and biggest bouquet to be sent to M.S. Amma!

Years went by, and I got a special offer from Symphony Recording Company to record a veena version of M.S.Amma's Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatham, Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam and Bhaja Govindam. Even though I wondered how any instrument (due to lack of sahithya) could fulfill such a mission, I readily agreed as it was primarily a divine project and not only that, it was a reproduction of the vocal version of none other than M.S.Amma herself!

Sri Rajesh Dhupad, who heads the recording company is another great admirer of M.S.Amma.He was particular that the album should be released by Amma. On being contacted, Sri Atma told us that she was extremely sick to go out anywhere.It was then decided that the album should be released at her bedside by M.S.Amma. The title of "Sangeetha Kala Saraswathi"(conferred by Symphony) was presented to me by Amma lying in bed, with her frail hands. I was extremely upset to see her so small and weak. As I reached for her feet to take her blessings, she stopped me and hugged me tightly with her bony arms, kissing my cheeks and forehead. I knew that I had received the ultimate blessing through outpouring of love in its purest form, coming from a celestial being like her.I was moved to tears, at the same time I was also concerned that she should not strain herself. Sri Atma, Sri Rajesh and my husband were standing at a distance watching us. Amma still held on to my hand tightly and spoke something about her childhood, which I could not comprehend due to her weak tone. I was worried about not being able to understand what she was trying to convey, all I could decipher was her frequent mention of "Meenakshi"(obvioulsy Madurai Meenakshi).The rest of it went over my head, as I had no inkling of the various names of friends and relatives she mentioned. I told her, "You are Meenakshi". She shook her head, not accepting what I said. I told her that is the truth and even she does not know of it. She kept refusing and I left it at that, not wanting to strain her.Parting was painful, I wondered if I would be able to see her again.

Mylapore Fine Arts Club awarded me "Sangeetha Kala Nipuna" in the year M.S.Amma passed away. While the sabha awarded me, I was painfully conscious of the fact that Amma was bang next door in Isabel Hospital(ICU) fighting for life. I thought of the irony of how close she was, yet so far! The very next day, her demise was announced and I was literally shattered! I rushed to see her body. There was a huge gathering and wading my way through the crowd I placed the garland on her. She looked calm, peaceful and divine. Her karma was over, her music had burnt any remnants of karma and she had gone back to where she belonged- to the astral plane of celestial beings. While I was doing the 'pradakshinam' around her body, Sri Atma stopped me midway to tell me, "She was extremely fond of you". As someone tuned to cosmic messages, I felt it was M.S.Amma who was expressing herself through Sri Atma. I felt comforted. My concert in Mylapore Fine Arts came a week after her funeral and I played all of M.S hits in my concert, dedicating the concert to her memory. I also instituted an annual price for music competition winners in the name of Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi in MFAC.


In the following year, I dreamt of something fantastic! In my dream, I was listening to Smt. Raji Gopalakrishnan's performance (she is one of the artistes whose music I admire)and the venue was Hamsadhwani. Somebody was holding my hand and I turned to see that it was Amma who was holding my hand, sitting next to me. She smiled at me and told me, "I like Raji's singing so much, that is why I came." In the morning I woke up feeling happy about my dream and wondering if there was something significant in Amma figuring in my dream. I discovered that it was Bharani Nakshtram (Amma's star) that day! I was stunned at the significance of my dream!Drinking my morning cup of coffee, I wafted through the Hindu. To my astonishment, Raji Gopalakrishnan's name was in the entertainment column, announcing her concert that evening in Hamsadhwani in the memory of Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi!!!!!!!!!!!It was not only Bharani Nakshatram that day, the same Raji Gopalakrishnan was performing in the same venue, Hamsadhwani and the subject was "M.S.Hits"!I was flabbergasted and immediately placed a call to Smt. Raji to share my dream with her. I also called Sri.Atma and late Sri Ramachandran, secretary of Hamsadhwani to share about my dream!

On every Bharani Nakshtram day, I think of her mentally seeking her blessings.





















19 comments:

Home said...

Vow, what an interesting dream! Her music was indeed divine. I have never seen her or heard her live. Nice to read your experiences with her, Gayathri ji.
Music Lover

SAI<=>MUSIC said...

VG mam

You are simply the best!!! Awesome post and its so nice to read such anecdotes about a soul that had purpose! I just expressed my little desire of such a post and I got it so soon!!! Think its my lucky day. I must tell you something. Today I gave my full fledged vocal concert and in a way MS amma and you are linked. My main song was "Saroja dala netri" and nobody could forget MS amma while singing that song especially while singing "Sadashivuni Rani" and as I always dreamt I had veena as my accompaniment instead of violin and the people who came liked the concert, although I feel I fell short in some areas. Anyway, I am so happy that I had the fortune of having veena vibrate at the same time as my vocal chords rang and I truly cherish this concert so much mainly because of the veena. An as always you are an inseparable entity when one says "veena" and thats how you entered the story(if you were wondering!:))

Regards
Sai

E.Gayathri said...

Der Music Lover,She was indeed divine. It is my pleasure to share my feelings and experieces with you.

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Sri SAI,
I am very happy to know that a musician is following my blog!May I know your name?
Thank you very much, I was anyway planning to write about M.S.Amma, I thought around her b'day and during Navarathri would be the ideal time to post an article about her divine self.
I am happy to know that you had veena as an accompaniment for your concert.
It would be nice to know the names!
Thank you so much for your appreciation.I agree with your observations about 'Saroja Dalanethri'.
Regards

SAI<=>MUSIC said...

Dear VG mam,

I wish your word was true, but I am not a musician(full-time). I am Sai Sundhar and I have been and still am a student of music and Gayaka Kalanidhi, Embar Sri Raghava Simhan(brother of Sangita Kalanidhi Embar Sri Vijayaraghavachariar) is my Guru. I have just completed my engineering and am going to work for a leading software company called "Infosys" and am about join in a week's time at Mysore. Shri Sivaramakrishnan(A regular columnist in Sruti magazine)played the veena for me and Shri S Sundar played the mridangam.
I have been an ardent admirer of veena since when I was young and most importantly your handling of the veena. I really wish I would become a musician someday and may your words come true with the divine blessing and also from my Guru and greats like you.

Regards,
Sai Sundhar

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Sri Sai,
I am very happy to know that you are a music practitioner of performing level. Your Guru is indeed great, coming from a renowned lineage. Very happy to know that you are in Infosys, all the best in both in your software career as well as in music. Please convey my best wishes to your accompanying artistes too.
Regards,
Gayathri

Mom15 said...

Wow! What an article! I was very very touched reading about your description on her specially towards the end of her life. Indeed she is the one and only one M.S. Her voice, her personality.....Thanks for the wonderful article. Indeed you are blessed to have had those encounters with her.

SAI<=>MUSIC said...

Dear VG mam,
The one thing I am really happy about going to Mysore is that, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn some Kannada compositions of composers like Kanakadasa, Purandaradasa, Seshanna, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, Vasudevachariar and a lot more in their native land itself. I gat this amazing Guru at Srirangam while doing my Engineering degree at Tanjore. This is again a blessing in another form I guess. I only wish that the software industry doesn't take away all my time and I could continue with learning and practicing music. Thanks a million for the wishes and such encouraging words from a person at your level(par excellence!) is a real boost and motivates me to do better not just in music, but in other areas of life too. I would just love to be in touch and take your blessings and advice in future.

Thanks

Regards
Sai Sundhar

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Mom 15, Thank you for your kind appreciation. I was indeed fortunate to have met her a few times and knew her a little, it was the Universal love that was between us.She was as wonderful as her music.
Regards,Gayathri

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Sri Sai Sundar, I am happy to know the details about you. I understand how a true music aspirant feels about devoting all his/her time to practice and learning, I hope you find all the time and keep up your energy levels for enhancing your music despite a software career.
I appreciate the reasons behind your move to Mysore. You are most welcome to share your musical experiences and journey with me, it is my pleasure. I wish you all the best in music!
Regards, Gayathri

SAI<=>MUSIC said...

Dear VG mam,

Thanks a lot for that again! It is very nice to hear that from you and your wishes will take me a long way of which I am sure and I will keep you posted about my musical journey side-by-side enjoying your posts which are very useful and good to read, and the best thing is, it is a treasure house of information(of the most needed kind!).

Please keep doing the good work.

Thanks again!

Regards,
Sai Sundhar

Srinivas said...

Madam,
This article is so moving. Thanks a lot, for sharing this with all rasikas. Your benevolence and humility are so appreciable.

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Sri.Srinivas,I spoke from my heart and am very happy to share my feelings/experience regarding Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi with you. Thank you for your kind appreciation,

Saranya said...

Dear madam,
Its a beautiful article about sri MS. amma. I feel proud to have lived in the same time as MS amma. Her Ranga pura vihara was my favorite and I remember the casette where there was bhavayami raghuramam on one side and Ranga pura vihara and kurai ondrum illai was on the other side. I was lucky to go to her home and get her blessings. I was a beginner then and played natakurinji varnam. She also taught me how to play kurai ondrum illa.I've been playing it in almost all my veena concerts.
Your article has surfaced my happy memories of meeting on sri MS amma. Thanks so much!

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Saranya, Very nice to know of your experiences with the melody queen.All the best!

Bharath Rajagopalan said...

Dear Gayathri madam,

Im a young Doctor who just finished with college and your avid fan. I was thrilled to see your blog. I am extremely happy to read your interactions with Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi. In fact i still remember the time when i first listened to your veena version of Bhaja govindam i was moved to tears.. especially after years of listening to M.S amma the first time i heard your veena version i was spell bound madam. All your songs are my favorite. Your songs help me through all my tough days. Thanks a lot madam..

Bhaja govindam links for all fans
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKFvouH8_qE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFQvqyOd_pU


Bharath.

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Mr. Bharath, I thank you very much for your kind appreciation of my veena and Bhaja- Govindam in particular. Thank you for the links! Nothing gives me more happiness thsn to know that my music has helped a soul during tough times, I am really touched!
Thank you again,
Gayathri

Kalyaani said...

Dear Gayathri Amma,
Like millions others, I am also a devoted listener of MS Amma and you. In fact two years back I unexpectedly was exposed to this divine musical experience through one of my friends, who presented me MS Amma's Melaragamalika and your Veena Classical. That time I neither knew the language, nor did I have any exposure to Carnatic Music. Only I could feel that every stike of the strings of Veena was speaking to me, was trying to communicate something. It was a beginning of a journey for me at the end of a seemingly endless darkness in my life. Now there is not a single day when I do not listen to MS Amma or you at some part of the day.
Thank you so much for sharing your divine experience with MS. I listened to your Bhajagovindam and Suprabhatam. As I always feel, the absence of Sayithyam is never felt in your recital as you make Veena speak..

E.Gayathri said...

Dear Ms. Kalyaani,
Your lovely comment has touched me once again!Thank you for your kind compliments about my style of playing.Smt.M.S.Amma has been my inspiration behind recording Bhajagovindam and Suprabhatham.
Regards,
Gayathri