Saturday 24 October 2009

THE COLOSSUS OF VEENA / PART 1

The Veena Yogi, Smt. Kalpagam Swaminathan is 'Akka' to my mother ,Smt.Kamala Aswathama(who was from Hubli and did her gurukulavasam for 2 years in Smt.Kalpagam Swaminathan's house in the years 1956 to 1958). My mother had the honour of accompanying the stalwart in many kutcheris, and got to meet many legends like Sri. Boodalur Krishnamurthy, Sri Tiger Varadachary,Sri. Musiri Subramani Iyer, Sri. T.L.Venkatarama Iyer and others. Earlier as a student of Kalakshetra, she had the great fortune of coming under the direct tutelage of greats like Sri Mysore Vasudevachar, Sri M.D.Ramanathan and Sri.Karikkudi Sambasiva Iyer.
(Incidentally,during Sri.Mysore Vasudevachar's tenure in Kalakshetra, my mother, as a student and hostelite of Kalakshetra had the greatest fortune of washing his "panchapathram" (pooja utensils), sweeping his pooja room and decorating the pooja altar with "kolam" everyday throughout her student career. Since she was the only student who had sound knowledge of Kannada, Sri.Vasudevachar was able to communicate with/through her.
My mother met him for the last time when I was little baby. Carrying me to his house, she sought his blessings while he was in bed. He had blessed me by placing his hand on my head! The very next day the newspapers announced his sad demise!)
My parents' alliance materialised during my mother's gurukulavasam days in Smt. Kalpagam Swaminathan's house. I literaly owe my life to Smt.Kalpagam Swaminathan, who is more like a grandmother to me, but I call her "Teacher" like all her other students.
I remember the days when I was a mere child of 6. I would walk from 2nd main road to 7th main road, R.A.Puram to learn from Teacher. I used to love the sight of the "parijatham" flowers lying scattered in her garden, I used to rush to pick them up to tie them carefully in my handkerchief. All the while Teacher used to call out from the house, "Gayathri, SeekkiramVaamma!" Till today I associate the smell of Parijatham with Teacher.( Listening to her veena today, I am not surprised that she reminds me of a divine flower like "parijatham"!)
I had the honour of accompanying Teacher in Stella Maris College as a tiny tot of 7 ( in 1968 or 69). On stage she encouraged me like a loving grandmother and let me play the veena in my own childish way.
After so many years, in the recent Veenotsav09, when Teacher opted to play on my veena after my performance. I was thrilled! I felt that her touch on my veena had sanctified the vedic instrument even further.
As I watched the amazing display of her true nature, which is veena, she seemed like the colossus straddling the Veena arena, formidable and imposing in her knowledge of every aspect of veena playing and musicanship. Years of veena-sadhana without aiming for anything other than the divine pleasure of veena-playing have elevated her to the status of a nada yogi. Veena is an extension of herself and vice versa. Any distinction between herself and the veena has been dissolved through her soulful penance on veena, today the veena and Teacher have become one and the same!
Yesterday's "Samvada" held by Sampradaya had Teacher sharing her experiences and ancedotes with Smt.Suguna Varadacari. Her spontaneous expressions, disarming in their innocence were as forthright and assertive as her veena-playing. With Teacher seated in front of the banner that read "Sampradaya", she figuratively seemed to convey that she was many steps ahead of "sampradayam", reaching out to the Absolute through her veena. This veenayogi lives and breathes veena most naturally, and veena is simply her way of life. Natural dedication and devotion towards veena and traditional veena technique have laid the pathway towards contacting the divinity within herself. Divine radiance gushes forth in the form of heavenly resonance through every note that she produces on the veena. The heaviness (azhuththam) of every note produced by her fingers is laden with heavenly nectar! She is a yogi living in our midst today!
What are the striking aspects of her yogic abilities?

(Photograph-Veenotsav09, organised by Brahma Gana Sabha and Mudhra on 10/10/2009.Teacher playing on my veena, I am sitting behind her.)