Aug 28, 2008

When Semmangudi mama stayed at our place.......

Hi ,
It’s quite some time since I wrote anything. It is imperative that one keeps going once they start on something. Have kept postponing my post for such a long time now that the only thing that regularly appears on our blog seems to be our concert schedules.

Last month saw various events happening all across the country to celebrate the centenary of Shri Semmangudi Mama, the Pitamaha of Carnatic Music. Even though this is a bit late, I thought it would still be a good idea to share some of our experiences with Semmangudi mama with all of you. You must be made aware that Mama generally stayed with us whenever he toured Trichur for his concerts. He was a great friend of our Grand Dad, Shri T.B. Ramachandra Iyer and our dad also frequently accompanied him on the Mridangam.

Semmangudi mama was very strict about his routine. He would do all his Anushtanas and only then have even a cup of coffee. During one occasion he was coming to Trichur from Mumbai and his train was quite late. He reached our house well past 12 noon and in spite of incessant requests from the entire family, refused to have anything to satiate his hunger until he was finished with all his Anushtanas. Just to give you an idea about how disciplined he was regarding his Anushtanas.

I must tell you in advance that my brother and I were only in our school going days when this incident that I am going to relate happened. Me in my 3 rd grade, my brother doing his first grade, if my memory is fault less. It was a Sunday, and our entire gang of cousins and friends in the Gramam (village) had arrived for a game of cricket. We never play the game in silence and no sooner than the first ball being delivered, the habitual noise and pandemonium created by this game was gaining in its momentum. Nobody was aware of the decibel levels achieved by their respective vocal chords once they were into the thick of the action. There were guys shouting for so many different reasons. Some of us were cheering our team, some were fighting over the rules and decisions, some voiced their valuable comments about the foot work and bowling action, of which they had no clue, (Definitely an impact of television commentary), some shouting merely for the sake of it, and over and above all this the thundering voice of my Grand ma, who somehow found her way into the scheme of things by incessantly commenting quite loudly about what a big waste of time and energy it was and nevertheless watched every bit of the action attentively. There was also our uncle who was just waiting for one of us to hit the ball at the glass windows or garden, so that the match can be abandoned with immediate effect. Okay, this will give an idea about how electrified the situation was.

Our dear Semmangudi Mama, in the meantime was taking his afternoon nap. He was also under going some Ayurvedic treatment and had to get some good rest. He also had a couple of concerts coming up.

A mind that is tuned to our system of music can indeed have very sensitive ears, I must say. No wonder, that mama was disturbed from his sleep the moment we started playing. And the noise that followed would have created near panic in his heart. As we were playing, we suddenly heard a soft voice from the Balcony above the space where we played. “All of you please go to your houses and take rest. Please do not disturb.” We were used to such comments from our grand mother, but were surprised to hear a different voice express the sentiment. Nobody replied, but the game came to a stand still. Many of us were not even old enough to appreciate the gravity of the situation. For us, then, Semmangudi mama was just another person and he also behaved like a normal person with all of us. Already we were playing against so many odds and protests, and we were like, “just when everything looked okay, who is trying to stop us now”. Anyways finally my brother found courage to reply. “Mama today is Sunday, it is our day, we cannot be quiet, and if you want you can go and sleep in some other room”. Hearing this Mama burst into laughter and asked us to continue to play. For so many years he would recount this day and have a hearty laugh. Years later when we started appreciating the intricacies of Carnatic Music and the contribution of Semmangudi mama to this art form, we can only laugh at our childishness. But of course we were only children then. Belated Centenary Wishes, Semmangudi mama.

Musically yours,
Trichur Brothers

I must thank our parents for refreshing my memory about this incident.