Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Untitled - 6

Padmhasini was born the youngest of 3 children to Jayalakshmi and Sudarshanacharya Thirumalai Aiengar in Paramakudi and was brought to the then Madras when she was 5 years of age. I have heard the family had establishments in Madras, Ramanathapuram and in Paramakudi for education and business purposes. 

Mr Aiengar had 3 siblings, the eldest Sudarshanacharya Tirupathi Iyengar, next was my thatha, S T Aiengar (I don't know why he had this interesting spelling to his name. Wish I had begun blogging when he was alive), Sundararajan and the youngest Ramaswamy. Jayalakshmi had two siblings, Sriranga and Srinivasan (alias 'Ambi' the famous nickname!). I hear Ambi died when mom was very young. Sriranga paatti is still alive and refuses to smile when a picture is clicked :p

S T Iyengar or Mutha thatha was the Chief Engineer in the Electricity Board of the Madras Province (Madras Province included Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Orissa. He apparently worked in the Pycara dam project as well). My Thatha, Aiengar was Garrison Engineer in the Army. Sundararajan joined Delhi Secretariat as Under Secretary and went on to retire as Deputy Secretary of Atomic Energy Establishment. He had worked with Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. Ramaswamy served as the Government Printer in Aden during the British Rule there. Apparently every time he came home on holidays every 2 years or so, he would ship his car of the moment and the car would arrive before him at Bombay port. And he would drive down from Bombay to Madras in about a day and a half. I wonder how the roads were then that he could manage to do that!

Now the family had memberships at Brahma Gana Sabha, and Narada Gana Sabha considered the leading Sabhas of those times. They rented out the premises of Music Academy to stage their programmes. Also another reputed Sabha of those times was the Parthasarathy Swami Sabha. It had its own locus standi unaffected by any competition. The family had donor memebership in all these sabhas. The family was more interested in watching dramas and the performances of popular musicians. These concerts and drama visits also was a social exercise where everyone flaunted their latest jewelry or Saris. Mom was famous for her Venkatagiri saris. Talking of these sari I hear they costed between 13 rupees and 200 rupees. Apparently the 200/- sari had zari all over. Hmm :) I hear Venkatagiri had an exclusive position among cotton saris. 

Balakrishna Sastrigal, the great Harikatha exponent was the first major influence on my mother taking to music. Her taste in Carnatic music was in people like Smt D K Pattammal, Sri M D Ramanathan, Brindamma, Muktamma and the like, where there was erudite scholarship and sedate musical flow. While this was going on her attention was drawn toward Hindustani classical music thanks to a certain "Jaggu Mama" (Mr Seshadri) who were occupants of the first floor in the same house my mother's family lived. He was a great connoisseur of Hindustani music and he used to take my mother to all the Hindustani classical music concerts of Chennai. His wife, Mrs Jayalakshmi Seshadri was a Veena exponent, one of the prime disciples of Kalpakam Swaminathan. Since Mrs Jayalakshmi wasn't too interested in Hindustani classical music, Jaggu Mama took along this teenaged girl to all these concerts. He first introduced and educated my mother about the nuances and intricacies of Hindustani music, making her listen to various LP Records of concerts. 

We still maintain a lot of these LP Records even today.

T S Balakrishna Sastrigal was a stalwart of Harikatha Kalakshepam. Harikatha Kalakshepam as such required mono-acting skills, and Sri Sastrigal was a matchless genius. His assistant on stage used to sing brilliant music. Harikatha Kalakshepam in those days always had a very good singer, supporting the Harikatha exponent. In Shastriji's case, he had a fantastic musician supporting him (Will get back to you with the name) and the amazing sangatis he used to reel out in Tyagaraja Kritis or the amazing delineation of ragas he used to hum in the background while Sastrigal narrated some of the sequences was to have been experienced live to know how the  "Background score" was interwoven in a live Harikatha performance. It was like cinema on stage. Sastrigal used to cry. He used to laugh. You could see a woman in him. You could see a child in him. Sometimes he would be the father. You could literally see Dasharatha on stage. You didnt need to imagine what Dasharatha would have been like in front of Kaikeyi begging for mercy for Raghava (Rama). With music, tears, emotive dialogues and finally how Dasaratha fainted was enacted by him. It was something that was etched deep in my mother's memory. He was a genius. And a genius of those times has no parallel in present day existence. Life then, offered the leisure, peace to gradually take in and assimilate to be permanently stored in the subconscious mind. 

Taking to Hindustani classical music of course was the contribution of Jaggu mama (aka Seshadri)

And thus were the first seeds for a life long aspiration to music sown.

To be continued....

**A lot of the content here is narrated by mom and is reproduced verbatim. 


Kalyan said...

This is getting better and better. Wish you had written an autobiography. It has been a good experience so far getting to know about your lineage.

Anonymous said...

you are too good at this.....super narrative.


Chinmayi Sripada /Chinmayee said...

This is something like this, aint it? Only that its the biography of my mother :)

MMC said...

Chinmayi ji, I'm at a loss for words now......this is quite fascinating & makes me long for these sort of experiences in music, which I've not been fortunate to have....Pls continue......God Bless....

Kalyan said...

Sorry I was not specific.I want you to write a book and release it.

Avinash said...

A book can be published. Intresting and motivating