Thursday, December 11, 2008

Remembering MS Amma


I think it was the year 1997.

I was recording for an audio album at Sathya Studios, Chennai. Half-way through a particular song, I could see people suddenly getting busy to receive someone there at the studio. One person started arranging chairs, another person cleared away the papers and pencils lying on the table. Assistants came up twice or thrice and whispered something into the recording engineer's ears.

I continued to sing, finished my song and came out, only to find none other than MS Amma (who had come to do a recording) sitting patiently on a chair outside the studio !!!

For a minute I was stunned and stood speechless. The next thing I did was to prostrate in front of her and get her blessings.The people there apologized to her, for having made her wait outside the studio. But do you know what MS Amma said ??!! She said," குழந்தை பாடிண்டு இருந்தா, பாதில நிறுத்த சொல்லவே கூடாது,அல்லது continuity போயிடும்" (the child is singing, we should never interrupt anyone while singing, lest the continuity gets disrupted)!! Such was her humility ! She had waited outside till I had finished that entire song !

The Year 1999:

I was invited to sing at Puttaparthi on the occasion of the birthday of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Saibaba.

At this point, let me first write briefly about Sri.Ra.Ganapathy. He is one of the most fortunate souls to have had a wonderful association with the Paramacharya of Kanchipuram and who has authored the wonderful volumes of தெய்வத்தின் குரல் (Deivaththin Kural). Ganapathy Anna, (as we all call him) also has an association with Bhagawan Sathya Saibaba for many years now. He has composed several songs on Bhagawan, set to tune and sung by MS Amma.

(MS Amma holds my daughter on her lap)

So while preparing for this particular concert, when I approached Anna for a few of his songs, he arranged for me to learn two or three songs from MS Amma ! I went to her residence and had the fortune of learning two Sai Bhajans from her- Janani Sayee in Purvikalyani and Leelaanataka Sayee in Kurinji. I was amazed to see her simplicity, when she readily agreed to teach an upcoming youngster like me !

The next incident was in the year 2000:

Violinist R.K.Shriramkumar asked me if I would be interested to sing in MS Amma's house in Kotturpuram on one of the days during Navarathri, for about an hour-and-a-half. I was delighted at this opportunity and was present there as scheduled. Sitting in front of her, with just a Sruthi-Box and no accompaniments, I sang. There were a few other friends of MS Amma present. She closed her eyes and listened with rapt attention.

After this concert, she told me something that really stunned me. A week before this particular concert at her residence, I had sung on radio. MS Amma referred to this radio program and said, "நான் radio'ல கேட்டேன்,ஸரகுண பாலிம்ப ரொம்ப நன்னா இருந்தது" ("I heard you on radio, you sang Saraguna Palimpa very well"). I thought, "What?? MS Amma remembers what I sang on radio a week back??" I just couldn't believe my ears. Then she asked me," நீ தப்பா எடுத்துக்கலைனா நான் ஒரு விஷயம் சொல்லலாமா?"( can I tell you something if you wouldn't mistake me?"). Still under the shock, I just weakly nodded. She pointed to two or three places in that radio concert, where I could improve and gave me pointers as to how to do it. She also gave me tips on voice modulation, methods to take care of the voice and so on. I just cannot forget this experience.

11th December 2004:

The inevitable happened.

I was one among the thousands, who had thronged to the residence of MS Amma at Kotturpuram, to pay our last respects to this great soul.

Almost the entire city of Chennai- from VIPs to lay persons, from fans to musicians were gathered there, grief-stricken.

Such was the aura that MS Amma had created.


Sathej said...

True, a legend beyond doubt! Nice recollections..

Padma said...

Truly a great human being..I believe she is always there with us..It nice to read to such experience especially for some one like me who was unfortunate not to see her and also here her perform live..Thanks for sharing ur experience...

Anonymous said...

Nice nostalgic, cherishable moments captured with fondness and tranquility. I would say, you have been blessed to be associated with such a ground to earth genius personality. Her blessings will take you forward to your destiny.

Very good write up too. Infact, I envy your command over the language and ability to thoughts, emotions, situations in black and white.