By K.G. Vijaykrishnan
I was a precocious nine year-old when I was taken to a family friend’s house to listen to Dr. Sripada Pinakapani’s recital in New Delhi in 1961. My comment had been on the mispronunciation in the text of the Kalyani composition Matim dehi which I had just been taught. The next and real meeting took place sometime in the year 1982 in Hyderabad. Dr. Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana had graciously called the AIR where I had just finished a live broadcast and invited me to his place to introduce me to his guru, who was staying with him that day. I went with great trepidation, as an unknown entity whose primary interest lay in completing a doctoral thesis and securing a job at the university. I did not follow up on the blessings he readily showered on my playing.
Having been in the realm of higher education and research for the last thirty odd years, my first reaction to Dr. Pani was the fact that he belonged to a unique breed of teachers, who contrary to the Indian gurukula community, believed in recognising and nurturing nascent talent yet. He passionately crafted his own style after much search and held on to it with supreme passion; yet, as a teacher par excellence, he recognised the need to let a million flowers bloom, creating diversity from a single source. We just have to look at the distinctive, diverse styles his major disciples went on to create to recognise his true greatness as a teacher of eminence. May India encourage more and more teachers like him in the sciences, humanities and the arts!