S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Redeeming another’s debt

By S.M. Sivakumar

MS and Radha in concert
In 1976, a few friends interested in classical music started a cultural organization called Rasikapriya in Ernakulam, Kochi. I was the secretary and we arranged for several artists from all over India to come and perform in our sabha. The concerts were mostly held in the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Hall in Ernakulam. In 1981 we decided to celebrate Rasikapriya’s fifth anniversary in a grand manner. We came to know that M.S. Subbulakshmi was visiting Anandawadi Asram, Malakara town, near Kottayam, sometime in April. However, by that time MS had stopped accepting sabha concerts, except for the two earlier commitments which she was to honour.

As my uncle S.Y. Krishnaswamy, ICS, was a good friend of T. Sadasivam, I suggested that we make use of his good services to request MS to perform in our sabha on her return from the Asram. The proposal was approved. 

So I made a trip to Chennai to meet MS and Sadasivam and was fortunate to get an appointment to meet them. I informed them about our sabha’s activities and the special occasion and requested him to agree for a performance by MS for our sabha’s fifth anniversary. He accepted without hesitation but told me we would have to arrange a few things and explained them to me in detail. 

Ramajayam, a student at the Palghat Music Academy, was a talented young man. M.P. Nair, father of eleven children including Ramajayam, was a low paid employee in the local self-government department in Tamil Nadu and could not pay his fees. The compassionate principal of the college approached Sadasivam to help Ramajayam who moved to Chennai. He would play the tambura for MS and she knew that his family’s debt was growing. Nair had lost his job following a debilitating disease. He had pledged his Koduvayur homestead to get a loan of Rs. 4,000 from a co-operative bank in Koduvayur village, near Palghat. The debt had doubled in 15 years. 

Sadasivam told me that the collection from the MS concert in our sabha should be used to redeem the debt incurred by Ramajayam’s father more than a decade ago. He also wanted me to visit the bank in Koduvayur on my way back to Kochi and collect the details of the exact amount to be paid till the date of the concert in order to totally clear the family debt. I was happy that things were working out this way and that we could have the concert by MS for our sabha’s fifth anniversary. The date for the concert was fixed for 27 April 1981.

As discussed, on my way back I went to Koduvayur and visited Nair’s house. He took me to the bank and we explained the matter to the manager who arrived at the exact figure including the loan amount and the total interest till the date of the concert. I informed the bank manager that the full payment would be made on the day of the concert by MS at the venue before the concert began. I also invited Nair so that the amount could be given to him. Both agreed to come.

It was a great feeling on 27 April when our invitees – the bank manager, Nair and T. Sadasivam – came on to the dais, and we presented the draft for the collected amount to Sadasivam who in turn handed it over to the bank manager in full settlement of the debt of the Ramajayam family.

S.M. Sivakumar (extreme R) with MS and Radha
We had arranged for MS and Sadasivam to stay in the house of T.L. Viswanatha Iyer, President of Rasikapriya (his wife Rajini is my cousin) in Ernakulam. All the accompanying artists were lodged in Woodlands Hotel. Earlier when I went to receive MS and Sadasivam at the railway station I requested them, with apprehension, to allow us to record the concert. To my pleasant surprise Sadasivam said ‘yes’ and I assured him that it would be only for the sabha’s records.

The concert went on for three hours and 45 minutes before a jam-packed audience which included many from nearby towns. Towards the end MS began to sing Maitreem bhajata, with which she usually ends her concerts, but suddenly stopped after the two words. She sang one more song and took up Maitreem bhajata after that. Later I came to know from her daughter Radha, that Sadasivam had signalled to MS to offer one more song before concluding the concert. That was enough for us to understand that Sadasivam was happy with all our arrangements.

I used to call on MS and Sadasivam whenever I visited Chennai and later was in touch with them after I moved to the metropolis. On every visit, MS and Sadasivam would make my daughter Sangeetha Sivakumar sing for them. They encouraged her and blessed her to sing well.

(The author is an actor, a connoisseur of music and longtime Sruti subscriber)

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