By Rajeshwari Ganesan
On Wednesday (July 27), I woke up to the news of 2016 Ramon Magsaysay awards being conferred on two Indians — anti-scavenging activist Bezwada Wilson and TM Krishna.
I was ecstatic like many other fans who have adored his music and his views (albeit a little critical of the latter). I mean, a Carnatic musician, for the first time since MS Subbulakshmi, is being conferred the prestigious award and it is Krishna! Who would not be ecstatic?
I was woefully wrong. Almost as soon as the news came in, the views on why he does not deserve the award started pouring.
I come from a family and have a circle of friends, mentors and well-wishers who have always resorted to jocularly chiding Krishna (for his music and his views) in my presence just to get me all riled up. My answer to them: The man has a view. He chooses to stand by it despite all the naysayers. The man has ploughed on and never chose to muffle his voice because it fell loud and harsh on the delicately sophisticated ears of the fraternity. His views appeal to the Magsaysay board of trustees. Are we going to oppose the award to him just because his views are different from many of ours? How, then, are we any different from Hitler or Mussolini or the right-winged fringes who find the most base reasons to attack those who do not conform to their views? Are we so vehemently opposing the man every time (with pointless and below-the-belt jibes starting with his ear-studs, his spectacles, his manodharma, and of late, even his voice) just because he opposes everything that we have built our secure fiefdom upon? Because he threatens to shake and question the very core on which we sit cosily, much like the ostrich that has buried its head in the sand? Because he stands to question the sampradayam and the systems that we follow like myrmidons? Or is it because the man chose to be all-inclusive in his approach of Carnatic music that we consider to be exclusive to us? I agree that Krishna is not the first musician who has taken the Carnatic notes to the slums, but he is definitely one of those who have had the strongest impact. And he deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated for that.
I recently read writer Jeyamohan’s blog in which he attacks Krishna thus: “He only yells louder than the others, so he received an award.” I am reminded of the famous dialogue from the film The King's Speech in which Geoffrey Rush playing the speech therapist Lionel Logue eggs his patient on saying, “Why should I waste my time listening to you?” and in a classic moment, Colin Firth, playing the patient, King George VI, retorts, “Because I have a right to be heard! I have a voice!”
Krishna has a voice, and a golden one at that. He chooses to assert his right to be heard. And for those of us who still are looking for reasons to oppose the award to him, I can only think of the crab-analogy elucidated beautifully by Rajinikanth in Kabali. Let us please not be crabs anymore.