MY AMMA, GURU AND GODDESS
My first memory of respected and revered Amma goes way back when I was a little girl around nine years. My grandmother Smt.Yadugiri Devi who brought me up, was an ardent devotee of Amma’s music. Although she herself was not a singer, being from a conservative family, Yeggamma as she was called, was a lover of ‘pure’ and ‘chaste’, (I have to stress on the words today) Carnatic music. In her opinion, there was none other than D.K.P.Amma who was the finest singer on earth, a doyen of Carnatic Music even in those days. Such was Yeggamma’s total conviction and confidence in Amma’s music.
Her rasa and bhava laden sangeetam with perfect enunciation of lyrics, be it in any language, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam or Sanskrit, proved her virtuoso. I have attended D.K.P.Amma’s concerts with Yeggamma and many a time seen her quitely wipe the tears from her eyes. It was an emotion filled atmosphere when the listeners were lost in touch with the world. Such was the calm strength of Amma’s music pervading over the rasikas and making them enjoy and experience the tranquil state of mind. As for me, I have grown in such surroundings and listening to Amma’s divine music, not to mention the high musical sense of Yeggamma who could only accept nothing but the best. Throughout the years that followed, the faith and belief in Amma’s music remained intact in my family. It is not something that happened in days, weeks or months – but since my childhood. If it is the traditional margam I follow in my Bharatanatyam, it is same pure ‘Pani’ of D.K.P.Amma’s music that I treasure, cherish and follow even today.
Should I say Amma was a treasure-house of musical excellence, an encyclopedia on compositions of great singers like the Trinity, Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri or a true nationalist, singing and propagating the songs of Bharatiyar?
Despite my frequent travels to perform in India and abroad and earlier even while I was working in films, I would always make it a point to see her and spend as much time to learn music from my Guru. Time to time, while learning, I would be changing my sitting position. Then I would wonder and ask Amma how she was able to sit in the same sitting position and sing for three hours. She would smile and ask me, “Do you think I would ever be able to dance like you for even one hour?”. Her mind always worked like magic.
Amma always said that I could sing well and make a fine concert singer, had I not become a dancer. Yet, at the same time she would say “not that you are a wonderful dancer”.Maybe some day, I do not know when I can proudly prove that I am Amma’s worthy shishyai. Amma was not only my Guru, she was a loving mother to me, always caring and endearing and she would patiently listen to me whether it was my joy or sorrow. I could never hold anything from her. To me she was a true Goddess on Earth. Whenever I entered her home, she would beam into a happy smile and fondly call me ‘Papa, va va’. I would rush and fall at her feet. Her blessings poured from her noble and compassionate heart. Every word she said went down deeply into my heart and nothing else mattered because she had blessed me with the joy of life.
It is difficult to describe what her blessings mean to me. In all the years that have gone by, there are several incidents and occasions to write about Amma – they cannot be written in a few pages. To mention just one or two.
How can I forget, when I first contested the ‘Lok Sabha election from South Madras in 1984 and became Member of Parliament’!. I went to take the blessings of D.K.P.Amma and Mama. They were extremely nice and sweet but Mama did not like the idea of my getting into politics in the first place. He was upset with me and questioned as to why I should have opted for that kind of …………. (I do not wish to repeat the harsh words), when I had such better things to do like music, dance and so on. Before I could say anything, my Amma gently took up for me and told Mama, “Why do you have to taunt the poor girl?. She is capable of doing good work and whatever she does, she tries to do her best”. I kept quiet but felt much relieved, “Bless me Mama, please do not be angry with your daughter”, I pleaded. Mama put both his hands on my head and smiled and Amma was so happy for me.
When Amma was in New Delhi to receive the ‘belated’ honour of Padma Vibhushan, she had already told me that I should be present with her, which I promised to do. It was a great and proud moment for all of us. But you could never imagine Amma to feel excited or thrilled about it. None of the awards and titles ever mattered to her. Amma was always a person who took everything in her stride. Her childlike disposition remained unchanged. She was simple, unassuming, dignified, calm and collected, gentle and kind and above all, she was humility personified. Her goodness was amazing. Amma was an extraordinary human being, an epitome of compassion. She was never conscious of her rare ennobling qualities. That was her greatness.
She was all rolled in ‘One’ like the saying goes “The ‘One’ remains, the many change and pass”.
My beloved Amma will ever remain in the hearts of all those who love her. Believe me, it is not easy to find one so lovable.There can be nobody like Amma.
I just adore my Amma, Guru and Goddess on Earth.
I shall always remain as her “Papa”.