4th May 1934 - 3rd May 2015)
It is never easy to decipher precisely as to what one feels for one's first formal Guru. There is reverence, helplessness and most importantly, a void that seems like it could never really get filled. Just a sum of what I am going through now, with the passing away of Sri.Vaigal.S.Gnanaskandan, a selfless human being and a teacher, who, in his quiet unassuming manner taught me a whole lot of valuable lessons - that have stood me in good stead through my musical journey thus far, as well as in life..
A trip down memory lane....
We were living inside the IIT Campus when I, as a little school-going girl, started my formal music lessons with Sir. My mother also learnt from him during this period and there are no words to describe this golden period during my musical learning. He was Producer at All India Radio Madras and he had dedicated his entire life to teaching. His disciples were everything to him. After each class for me, he used to teach my mother and this way, I indirectly learned all those songs that my mother learnt from him.
I started performing in 1986 and there has been no looking back since then. He immensely encouraged me and helped me meticulously prepare for each concert. He was instrumental in increasing my repertoire of compositions of various composers and gladly taught me whenever I needed specific compositions for the competitions that I used to take part in.
There were many occasions when he used to make all his disciples sing together. He taught us many great compositions for these special occasions.
(In the middle is my mother and I am seen to her left. Others in the picture are some of his other disciples.)
The very first Kriti that I learnt from him was 'Maha gaNapatE' in natanArAyaNi of Muthuswami Dikshitar. A staunch follower of the Semmangudi school and having been one of his prime disciples, the kritis that I subsequently learnt from him undoubtedly bore the Semmangudi stamp, be it Dinamani Vamsa, Pankaja Lochana, Brochevaarevvare, Deva Deva Kalayami and so on.
On numerous occasions, my mother and I had the fortune of sitting behind him on stage during his concerts and sing Kritis with him.
It was on 5th May, 1994, that my first audio cassette (there were no audio CDs then) was released under the auspices of Nadopasana. The cassette was under the banner of Kalavardhani.
My Guru spoke on the occasion and blessed me.
This was at Srinivasa Sastri Hall, Luz.
(This was taken a few years back when I had taken my daughter to meet him and get his blessings.)
The only thing that he always used to say whenever we went to him for blessings was
"நீ க்ஷேமமா இரு. கற்பகாம்பாள் உன்னப் பாதுப்பா"
I can go on and on writing about him, but sometimes, no words would suffice the emotions that one goes through.
One thing that has always struck me in all these years is that, my Guru never seemed to have got the recognition that he so richly deserved. He never went in search of name or fame. Selfless service had always been his motto till his end.
Rest In Peace Sir. My humble Pranams at the feet of my revered Guru, Sri. Vaigal.S.Gnanaskandan.
I share this loss with all his other disciples as well as his family.