I knew Patta ma in the last two decades of her life. My visits to her house on Sunday afternoons started way back in 2001. Whether it was sunny or pouring,therewas an excitement which just carried me to her. It was a special bond,a very comforting relationship. Patta ma would smile and I would smile back. She would insist on sweet savouries and kapi and many times,I sat on the table with the family and took tiffin.Mr. Ishwaran was always a perfect host to me. Exactly at 4pm, attired in white dhoti and jhuba,he would come out carrying a Tennis racket and Patta ma would proudly say,” Tennis k porahangaa.” It was a perfect world of theirs. Pattama was busy teaching and he could continue with the game he loved.Gayathri’s young daughter would join us sometimes. I learnt from Patta Ma 10 songs starting ‘ShanthiNilavVendum ‘which became my natural choice as the last no in my Hindustani classical concerts. It elated some, it intrigued others.Some were critical yet most were happy that a song immortalized by Pattama was being rendered by a North Indian.For me personally, meeting Patta ma was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life. In retrospect,all great souls, Pattama and now Rahmanji have provided me a good reason to pursue my passion for music.
I will always stay indebtedto Mr. & Mrs. Rajagopal, Secretary Nayaki for deciding to open my world and give me an opportunity to spend some most beautiful years’ of my life at her feet. Patta ma in her wheel chair,smiling and looking at me graciously and then I would repeat phrase by phrase and that ever charming smile with love pouring down were moments,I can never forget.This was the beginning of an enduring and fulfilling kinship.
Many classical teachers’ andstudents’came to meetAmma. Mrs. Dharmarajan was always there with her Ghatam .There was so much of fellowship and goodwill. Gayathri and her little daughter, who is a budding artist in her own right provided a great support system. Her son and daughter-in-law next door and her son and daughter-in-law and grandsons from Australia were all a close knit family .It indeed made me feel so much loved and cared for.
Pattama became an important milestone in my life. Whether it were my parentsmy daughters or my special friends’ they all had to meet Pattama.So it was with my father and motherBalraj and Prem,my daughters Preeti and Neeti my son - -in –law Ragu ,Shovana Narayan Kathakdancer,and my cousin Sudha,they all came and took blessings from Amma. I was also particular that Meeraji and Munnaji my Hindustani classical teachers’ met her. It was a hermetic circle,where only the right people met according to the dictates of God.
Pattamawas dearly loved by all. Both Dr. YGP and Dr. Vyjanthimala Bali frequented her place and many times it was the most unexpected chance encounter which brought us all under the same roof. Every one would just groove around Pattama and it was just happiness everywhere. Every one ‘s eyes wore a sparkle. There was a nice feeling of contentment and then time would seem to come to a standstill. Thus passesdyears and months. I was often surprised with mustard or maroon kanjeewaramsarees suddenly landing in my lap and I knew that theDeepawalipandigai was closeby.
Pattama was on wheelchair when I met her. Infact it was her immortalized rendition of Shanti NilavVendum - a composition of SethuMadhavRao in Rag Tilang, at the Music Academy one morning,which changed my life for ever. I had a strong urge to meet with her and there on,my life just centered around her. I would also attend to repairs of her small piececs of jewellery and she was ever so grateful. We loved chatting about jewellery and showed each other our pieces. I was grateful to have become part of her small world where even my tailorArunagiri had been fortunate to have been blessed by Amma as he stitched her blouses.
Pattama was an epitome of a great living culture. Her love for her land,her keen interest in both the practice and theory of Carnatic music was her greatest contribution . She hoped to help others know the great value of Carnatic music and the part that it would play in the improvement and spread of culture throughout India. Recipient of Padmavibhushan a highest National Awardof India and SangeetKalanidhi, India and particularlyTamilnadu can never be grateful enough to this gracious soul for her unlimited love, and music that she showered on her people.
Pattama became synonymous with the melody in music. To quote H.A Popley, one can say that in her case,” every grace belonged to melody,and fitted into its place “.
The melody was played slowly and clearly as a groundwork with its endless variations in accelerated time, occurring rapidly note after note,allperfectly in tuneinto the raga framework and bringing out the prominent notes and phrases like an Allegro variation of one of Beethoven’s Sonatas,During arohna and avrohanasometimes,prominently the melody came to a close with the beat of the sam on the drum”.
Pattama alsoimmortalized Bharthiar’s, beautiful words of devotion and patriotism in her rendition of ,” Parrukullainalnaatuind Bharat Nattu” and in this number one could feel the beating heart of India. As a recognition of her outstanding contribution to Carnatic Music , her humanity , dignity and all embracing love for fellow humans, our Chennai based Amir KhusroSangeet Academy, awarded her the ‘Life Time Achievement Award” in the year 2003.
As our association came to a close with the passing away of Pattama,I wondered over the simplicity and dedication of the woman who had no airs about herself at all. Her only desire was to sing and impact the lives of people around her with music and love. We shall never be able to pay her back for what she gave to the world-a life of love and care enveloped in music.
Amir KhusroSangeet Academy
KM College of Music & Technology-
A Unit of KM Music Conservatory