Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Jagatheeswaran, Jaga to all his friends, died shortly after this tribute appeared in Chennai Online some years ago.

By V Ramnarayan

"I'll call him Eswar in this little appreciation, because he hates publicity and would feel extremely uncomfortable if I were to use his real name. He is a rare human being, a genuine lover of music who knows how to celebrate music and musicians and has for years silently supported the music he loves. When I last visited him, he was recovering from a long and debilitating succession of illnesses. At the best of times a slightly built man, now he was skin and bones, looking frail and helpless, curled up in his bed. He was deeply depressed; his poor health had rendered him so. Just home from a long spell at a nursing home, he was convalescing, but the path to total recovery was slow and arduous.

The one thing that kept Eswar going through this period of sickness and rehabilitation was Carnatic music. There were three little cassette recorders on his bed placed at different positions, so that he could reach for one of them without exerting himself, whichever way he had turned as he tossed around restlessly. Wonderful music was flowing from one of the players on the day I visited him - a recording of a sixties cutcheri of Semmangudi Srinivasier, T N Krishnan and Palghat Mani Iyer.

Until a few months earlier, Eswar's small ground floor flat was the regular venue of chamber concerts he arranged every month. A must on his monthly calendar was a recital by P S Narayanaswami, a fine vocalist from the Semmangudi stable, and one of the most liked and sought after teachers among today's young stars as well as aspiring young musicians. At these intimate performances by 'Pichai Sir' as he is known to one and all, the audience list usually reads like a roll call of honour at the Music Academy. Regular listeners include Sanjay Subrahmanyan and his wife, Unnikrishnan, Vijay Siva, Manoj Siva, Sriramkumar, Shashank and his family, Ranjani and Gayatri and their parents, Eswar himself and a number of PSN's disciples, besides the two providing vocal accompaniment on the day.

There is much interaction between the performers and the audience, with the musicians among them sitting within handshaking distance of the artists and encouraging by gesture and voluble appreciation. Often it's a case of Listeners' Choice and the opportunity to listen to certain nuances of particular compositions or ways of improvisation unique to his school. While the whole experience is emotionally satisfying for the lay listener, for the musicians, accompanying as well as listening, it is an academic exercise as well, serving to help fine-tune certain aspects of their music.

Eswar has been organising these concerts with great love and care, often making his own requests as to the composition of the performance. Besides Pichai Sir, other musicians who regularly attend these soirees have also performed at Eswar's drawing room. I have heard memorable recitals by T M Krishna and Sanjay Subrahmanyam there for instance. The audience is usually around 25-30 in number and can on occasion fall below ten, but that has never made any difference to the quality of music at this very special venue.

Though a south Indian, Eswar was born abroad as were his parents, and shifted permanently to India only in the recent past. Hailing from a family rich in music, he is himself a trained musician and has a very sound knowledge of music theory. A professional in the service sector, he retired a few years ago following a setback in health. A frequent visitor to Madras during the music season in the years past, he decided to settle down here and could be seen regularly at concerts, before his recent illness.

I was delighted to see Eswar at a small temple concert a couple of weeks ago. He could not stay till the end as he grew very tired, but he was totally absorbed in the music while there. The day he recovers fully and goes back to his regular routine, the many musicians who like and respect him will be happy for him -- and Carnatic music."

1 comment:

  1. An endearing account of a music lover who lived to share his love for music with the world. May his soul rest in peace.