VATSALA

To me Smt D K Pattammal was a mother first more than a Guru. And when I say that she was a mother, I can confidently speak for everyone who was fortunate to have had a personal relationship with her in their lifetimes. It was the March of 2005 and I was in my 12th standard holidays. Desiring to pursue music seriously, I went to her house to ask if she would take me as her student and teach me. Though I went to ask that, in my heart I was certain that she won’t admit me for I was at a very preliminary level at that time and was not a good singer. Especially after being rejected to be taught by a very popular musician a year ago before I went to Pattamma amma, I was confident that I was not yet ready to go to great people. But that did not make me to not get tempted to go to her and ask to be taught though there was a very good chance that after all I was going to be rejected by her too and may feel ashamed again.

So it was a morning of some day of March 2005 and I went to her home. The sliding iron grill door outside her Kotturpuram home was fastened and the white wooden door that lay behind it was open giving the visitors a clear view of the passage that led to the hall and the part of the hall that was on the door’s side. Iswaran mama was sitting on his easy chair in the hall reading ‘The Hindu’. On ringing the door bell, mama who was drowned in his newspaper was disturbed. He carefully folded the paper, placed it on the air cooler just beside his chair and started walking briskly towards the door. I am saying ‘briskly’ because mama was in his early 90s and still was brisk and youthful! I was completely surprised much later when I learnt his age because I would never have guessed even in my wildest imaginations that he was 90+. He was a very brisk, active, youthful and an independent man until he died. He would do all his chores himself and didn’t like to bother anyone and took pride in the fact that he was so perfect and was completely independent expecting absolutely nothing from anyone! Coming back to the main story, he briskly walked to the door and a very strict looking Iswaran mama enquired who I was and what I wanted.

I have to say that I was scared of mama for a very long time until we became very close and I learnt about the real affectionate person that was concealed by the strict looks on the outside. So one can imagine how scary I could have been on day 1 when I had to tell him why I was there. I told him I had come to study music from DKP amma and I vividly remember how much I struggled to form sentences! Thoughts like “Oh no! mama himself is so strict; DKP must be all the more strict. Why did I even come! She is anyway going to reject me! What will I tell her if she asked what I knew in music! How can I sing and show to the great D K PATTAMMAL if she asks me to sing!”, etc., raced in my mind. Mama was at the other side of the sliding door when I answered his question and the door was still closed. He went inside the hall again and started speaking, “Patta, un kitta Paatu kaththukarthukku yaro oru ponnu vandhurukka. Vara sollattuma?” [Patta, some girl has come to learn music from you. Shall I ask her to come?]. Fear and excitement increased for me when I learnt that D K PATTAMMAL herself was sitting in the hall (but was not visible to me as I could see only a part of the hall from outside) and that I was standing hardly 7/8 steps away from her! But I could see and hear mama speaking to her. I was prepared to hear a “No you can’t come” when mama started walking towards the door again.

He came and opened the door and asked me to come inside. I was thrilled. I was scared. I was going to see D K PATTAMMAL in person! It felt like I was going to see a God! With a racing mind, I walked inside the hall.

In the hall, DKP was sitting on her chair as beautiful as I remember seeing her in photos and videos. Personally she looked to me like a Goddess. After seeing her whenever I went to temples, when I saw ‘thAyAr’ (Goddess), my mind always immediately remembered Pattamma amma. My mind pictured Pattamma amma in the saree and jewels that thAyAr would be clad in. To readers who don’t have a personal relationship with Pattamma Amma, all that I write may look like superlatives and dramatic. But people in whose lives DKP has been there would understand exactly every word of what I write and would be able to relate themselves with all these.

The second I saw her, my racing mind calmed down and I felt completely at peace not worrying about anything! It would be wrong if I wrote, “she looked at me and smiled”; because she did not look at me and then smile. She waited for me in her chair with a broad smile! She only knew that someone had come to learn music. I was a stranger. Yet she welcomed me home with that signature smile of hers and instantly made me feel at home. It was surprising how all the fears that I mentioned earlier completely vanished before I could blink! She had magical powers. She smiled and welcomed me with a, “vA mA” in a manner as though I was known to her forever and that I was very dear to her! She enquired so affectionately my name, where I came from, etc. “Krishna thanni kondu va”, [Krishna, bring water] she said. Shri Krishnamoorthy was the cook at her home who was not treated like it. He was a part of the family and he and Pattamma amma and mama were mutually very affectionate of each other. She then asked me to sing something after I drank some water and settled down.

I sang Thyagarajar’s ‘brOchEvArevarurA’ in ‘kamAs’. The beauty is that I sang just like how I would sing at my home when I am watched by no one. Such was the ease she made me feel at instantly! It was not only not scary to sing before a legend but it was so encouraging to sing before her! Naan paadum podhu, adhai romba aasaiyaa kettaa. [When I sang, she listened so affectionately (as she always did whenever anyone sang!)]. When I finished, she said, “nannA pAdra mA. un sArIram nannA irukku; unakku nannA varum pAttu” [you sing well ma; your sArIram (voice culture) is good. You have the potential to sing well]. She immediately asked for the calendar to be brought and after browsing it she said, “April 14th annikku Tamizh varusha porappu. Nalla nAl. AnnilEndhu nee classku vA mA” [It is Tamil New Year on April 14th, an auspicious day. Start coming for class from then].

No word can describe how happy I was! I was a very very ordinary singer at a very preliminary level. I was rejected one year ago by a great musician as I was not up to mark to be admitted by a great singer. I was no better one year later when I went to DKP. But unlike most others, her criterion to admit a student was not whether the student was already a good singer but only whether the candidate had the potential to become one. She believed that it was her duty to turn a potential good singer into a great singer. When I sang ‘brOchevA’ to her that day, I made so many terrible mistakes in pronunciation, shruthi, tAlam, swarasthAnam, etc! But still she admired it like a mother admiring her little baby speaking in ‘mazhalai’ language with a lot of mistakes because she understood that I was only in my ‘mazhalai’ phase in music and she only checked if I had the potential to learn and not how well learned I already was. It is impossible to find a teacher like DKP! But for her, I would not be pursuing music today aspiring to become great someday.

She would teach very patiently. When a sangati didn’t come correctly, she would teach the sangati even a 1000 times without getting angry and would ensure that her pupil get it right and is able to sing it correctly. Recorder was not allowed in her classes. But she had a way of recording the song in the minds of her pupils. Today learning without a recorder feels like a handicap and I find it hard to believe that I have once learnt and mastered songs without a recorder! She understood her students thoroughly and knew how to teach for each of them. Like I said before, I was at a very basic stage and was not able to learn and sing the sAhityam straight away like I can do today. Before starting to teach the song, she would dictate the notation first to me and then the sAhityam. In fact writing the notation from her dictating will be like copying the notation from the book. She would even tell “comma”, “semi colon”, “thunai kAl”, “next line”, etc when she dictates. When a sangati’s first half is the same as the previous one and the changes are only in the latter half, she would tell, “adhukku keezha ippidi pottukko mA” drawing in air a ditto mark with her hand. :) Such precise dictation of notation she would give! She normally didn’t teach anyone in the swara-sAhityam style unless a particular phrase was not understood by the pupil correctly at which time she would sing and show the swaram. But she taught me like that because I needed it. She taught each student in a way that that student could grasp.

On seeing a worried look on my face on some days, She would tell, “ippo unakku varAdha mAriyaE irukkum ma; AanAl nee aathukku poi pAdinA ellAm vandhudum” [It would feel now like you didn’t get the song at all; but when you go home and sit to sing, the entire song will come to you] and she would be so right. When I leave the class I would be so worried wondering whether I remember all the sangatis and how I will be able to recollect. And most of what I learnt won’t even come to mind. But when I go home and sing, I would be able to sing the entire song like she taught. It was always amazing how she was able to teach like that!

Once during a class just in a few days after I joined, I was not getting a sangati right even after being taught so many times! She was teaching very patiently. Mama who was sitting on the dining table behind Pattamma amma’s chair in the hall the entire time, stood up, came to me and shouted, “eththana vaati solli kuduppA? Oru vaati solli kuduththA purinjundu pAda vEndAm?” [How many times will she teach? Shouldn’t you be able to understand and sing after being taught once?]. I was always scared of mama for no reason right from my day one and that day when he came and scolded me, I got so terribly frightened and hurt and started crying. He shouted and went back to the dining table. No sound came from me but I was crying so badly, quietly wiping my eyes with my dhupatta (my shawl). Pattamma amma saw me and said so affectionately with a smile, “avar appidithaan mA. edhaavadhu sollindaE iruppAr; nee nannAdhAn pAdara. Nee pAdu ma” [He is like that only mA. He keeps telling something. You sing well only. You sing]. It was so sweet. Like a mother saying, “don’t cry; I will beat the floor” to her crying toddler who slipped and fell down on the floor, she consoled me saying, “avar appadithaan!” :) Sometime after I started singing again, she called mama near and said, “inga pArungOlaEn, ava thalaiya Atindu Atindu pAdardhu azhagA illa?” [Look here; isn’t it beautiful how she shakes her head when she sings?]! :) Such a great lady, a legend, someone who had reached the pinnacle of glory, but she was so simple, totally unassuming and turned into a mother when she saw a child cry and making me happy became her immediate top priority over teaching me that kriti! She did make my crying stop, make me laugh and diplomatically forced mama also to pass a sweet comment about how beautiful my head looked when I sang thereby making up for his previous scolding! :) She continued to teach and I did get that sangati right eventually.

Sometimes when people that were not her students sang to her and even when they did not sing well like trained singers are capable of, Pattamma amma would be very appreciative and encouraging and would try and find out the places that were sung well and would appreciate them for those lines! Thus she celebrated anyone and everyone. She never spoke ill of anyone even in private. She would not talk behind anyone’s back and would tell very plainly, “please stop; I don’t want to hear anymore” when someone spoke about someone to her behind their back. She would tell, “innoruththara paththi namba kitta pEsaravA, nambaLa paththiyum innoruththar kitta poi pEsuvA” [He who talks ill about another person to us, would talk ill about us to others too].

Vijayadasami days were always a nightmare to me. All sishyAs of DKP who are all great musicians themselves would gather at DKP’s house, sit on the hall floor and would learn a new song from DKP amma. I would feel very scared to sit and sing among that crowd. They would all sing like masters after hearing DKP sing a line just once but I would find it very difficult to grasp like they could. After everyone leaves, Pattamma amma would call me near her and tell, “nee naalaikku vA mA. nAn marubadiyum unakku solli tharaen” [you come tomorrow mA. I will teach you again]. And she will say that unasked and very affectionately.

Few months after I joined class, I had registered myself to sing in my intra-college ‘BharathiyAr songs competition’. I came and told about it to Pattamma amma and asked her to teach me one BharathiyAr song. She was very happy to hear that I was going for a competition and taught me so excitedly. She selected ‘pArukkullaE nalla nAdu’ song and taught me. Pattamma amma teaching a Bharatiyar song is something that needs to be witnessed and cannot be understood by any description! It was a sight that I strongly think every citizen should witness in person! How really patriotic and emotional she became when she sang the verses! Though the song is in Tamil and that too very simple Tamil that even a non-Tamilian can understand, she would elaborate the meaning of each line and one should see the way she talks, the way her face would light up, the way her eyes would brighten, the way her shoulders would straighten and et all! She would become very emotional and even start crying many times that today this great country is not how she knew it was!

Both Iswaran mama and Pattamma amma were very patriotic citizens with a heart of Gold! They wished and prayed for logakshemam (welfare of the Universe) and wanted only the best for anyone and everyone. I have seen mama come to amma, sit next to her, hold her hand and tell with tear filled eyes, “manasaE sari illa pattA! Paper padichundu irundhaEn. Nalla newsaE illa! Padikka mudiyala; moodi vechutaEn. Ore kolaiyum kollaiyum pOtrukku!” [My heart is burdened Patta! I was reading the newspaper and no good news! I closed the paper unable to read any further. Only murders and thefts!”]. And on hearing that, Pattamma amma would cry saying, “namba BhAratha dEsham ippidi AaiduththaE” [Oh our Bharat has become like this!]. Such was their attachment, love and reverence for their nation!

Coming back to my competition, she trained me so well and sent me off to the competition saying, “nannA kaththunta mA; nannA pAdra; NeedhAn First prize vAngindu varuva pAru” [You’ve learnt well mA. You sing well. You see you will bag the first prize!]. But I got very scared on stage that day as it was my first stage competition and didn’t sing well. Pattamma amma was eagerly waiting for me to hear about the competition results. I went and told amma about my performance and she said, “paravAlla mA. adhunAla enna! Aduththa varusham nee jeichuduva pAru!” [Its ok mA. What if! Next year you will win you see!]. She was a wonderful teacher and a great human being full of support, encouragement, love and good blessings.

She never once made anyone feel inferior or dumb! She was affection personified! She was a ‘Vatsala’ filled with ‘vAtsalyam’. For those of you who don’t understand ‘vAtsalyam’, it means the affection a cow shows on its calf. One may wonder why can’t it be defined as the affection a mother shows her ward. There is a reason. A Cow (pasu mAdu) unlike other animals does not eat anything that stinks even slightly. But it will lick and clean the body of its calf covered with filth and stink! A cow that does not eat for it that which stinks licks the stinking filth on its calf in order to clean its baby! That is ‘vAtsalyam’. Pattamma amma was filled with such vAtsalyam even for strangers and I have not seen another human being like her.

The day I met her, I addressed her as “amma”. “amma” was the word that involuntarily came to me. When people called her “amma”, it was not merely a respect for her age. They did not call her “amma” because it was the standard way to address elders. They addressed DKP as “amma” because of her vAtsalyam. People literally regarded her as “amma” and she regarded us as her own children.

Her hearing was compromised a good deal in her last years. One had to be loud when talking to her and even then she would not hear/understand a few words. But it always stunned me to see that when it came to singing, her ears had no problem at all! However feebly one sang, she heard it very clearly. When I went even slightly off shruthi (and when I say slightly I mean extremely slightly), she’d immediately correct me. Her hearing was so sharp at 90! Her otherwise compromised ears missed nothing musical! .

In the last year, when she almost stopped talking at all, she was silently lying on her bed and staring at the ceiling all day and all night! When I asked her what she was thinking, she told, “I am chanting slOkam mA;” and she would recall how her father taught her all that, how old she was when she learnt it and all those old stories. She would be so upset that she was forgetting words in between and that she was going from one slokam to another mid way! I am talking about when she was running 91. I would ask her “what slOkam are you chanting amma? Say it loudly” and she would tell the slOkam to me. In the middle she will forget and would get so upset about it and would be talking something about the slOkam and how she forgets these days and would doze off in the middle of the sentence. When she wakes up after some time, she would wake up saying that word/line that she forgot some time ago! Even in sleep, her mind was actively trying to remember the forgotten line/word of the slOka.

If she didn’t forget anything in specific but just fell asleep in the middle of a sentence, she would wake up continuing that sentence. It would be so wonderful to see that. Her eyes and mouth would both open at the same time when she wakes up from sleep. She would utter the word continuing her previous sentence that was left unfinished before falling asleep! Thus she never really forgot anything forever even at 91. That phenomenal was her memory! At 20s I forget so many things every day! Many of us cannot remember some lines/words in songs that we have not been singing for a long time. No amount of head breaking is able to make the mind remember them and we end up referring to the notebooks or CDs or the internet. But she was unlike. Her memory was unfailing! That she forgot words even momentarily (only at 90 and 91 years of age) was excruciatingly painful for her. She wanted to sing and chant the Lord non stop uninterrupted by forgetfulness. But even when she stopped talking outside, she was singing and chanting slOkas within her mind until she died. She did live up to her dream to sing until the last breath and die while singing.

She valued everyone. She valued every mundane gift anyone gave her! She never threw away anything that was given to her. She valued and preserved everything as a priceless possession! She never saw the value of the gift that was given to her. She only saw the affection with which it was given to her. That is what they say about God. Lord Krishna got immensely happy on receiving some ‘aval’ from his loving friend. God only sees His devotee’s heart and not what he offers to Him. Pattamma amma was like that. If anyone gave her a saree, she would open it and see and praise the saree so much. She would tell it is a very beautiful colour, her favorite colour, beautiful design, nice zari, etc. Seeing her face would make the presenter immensely happy! She would get excited like a child. And the next time that person comes home to meet her after however long a time gap, she would promptly remember to wear that saree that he or she gave so as to show them and make them happy! Such a simple human being and she never behaved haughtily! She would do so much for others’ happiness!

Once a few stones fell off her bangle that I presented to her. She never removed that bangle off her hand after presenting it to her. It was not even precious or expensive. But she was so fond of it just because it was given so fondly to her. She told me to paste the stones back and return the bangle to her to wear it again. She had worn the bangle for a long time then and yet she did not take it for granted. She could have removed them and thrown away when stones fell off. Or she could have continued to wear them like that. But she valued the bangle too much to throw away or even remove from her hand. She wanted to preserve the bangle and so got it fixed. I had given it at the shop to paste the stones back and until I got it again and gave it back to her, she enquired every day about when I was going to return the bangle! She wore it back the minute I returned it to her with a big smile!

She treasured everything that everyone gave her. While cleaning up her house after both amma and mama passed away, people were amazed to see what all was preserved by her! Probably, the most mundane collection could have been this. I found that she had carefully preserved my sister’s wedding invitation that was given to her some 5 years ago! And today I have that copy preserved just because she valued it and preserved it. The emphasis here is not on “5 years” because there were other items that were more than even 70/80 years old or even more! The emphasis is on the wedding invitation. Normally people throw away such things past that date but she threw away nothing that was given to her. I myself didn’t save a copy of my sister’s wedding invitation but she had preserved it.

If she preserved every gift so carefully, we preserved whatever she gave like a very sacred possession. Getting something from her hands was regarded like PerumAl prasAdam by everyone. Once when I went for class I remarked that her saree was very beautiful. It was a very beautiful black saree that someone sold her at her door. I just said casually. The following week when I went to class, she was waiting for me so eagerly and the minute I entered the hall, she said with a broad smile, “vA mA. unakkudhaan kAththundaE irundhaEn” [come mA. I was waiting for you only] and saying so she took the cover on the bed beside her and handed it to me saying that it was for me. I didn’t know what was inside. I opened the cover and saw that she had bought a saree for me identical to what she was wearing past week! Isn’t she amazing? I asked her why she did this and said that I didn’t expect anything like that and that I only casually remarked that her saree was nice and refused to take that saree. She said, “enakku oru ponnu irundhA nAn vAngi thara mAttaEnA? Andha mAri nanachundu dhAn unakku vAnginaEn. Nee andha podava azhagA irukkunu sonna pOdhu, unakku vAngi kudukkanumnu aasaiyA irundhudhu. adhAn varavazhachu vAnginaEn. adhaE karuppu colour kaEttaEn. illanu sollitA. Idhu unakku pidichurukkA?” [If I had a daughter, won’t I buy for her? That’s how I thought when I bought for you. When you remarked that that saree was beautiful, I desired to buy one for you. Hence I sent for the saree to be brought again and bought it. I asked for the same black colour. But it was not available. Do you like this one?]. Of course how can anyone not like what came from Pattamma amma’s hands! It is one of my very sacred possessions! I remember how on many days I will not wash my hand after returning from class because Pattamma amma would have kissed my hand or I will not wash my face because she would have kept kunkumam on my forehead giving her blessings!

I realize that this writing is becoming a very long one. But it is not possible for anyone to stop talking when talking about DKP! How she would bless people was something that no one on this earth other than those fortunate ones that got her blessings could have ever experienced anywhere! When women visitors leave our homes, it is customary to give them kunkumam. But how Pattamma amma did it was an out of the world experience!

She would ask the kunkumam dabba (kunkumam box) to be handed to her and Shri Krishnamoorthy would give it to her. In that dabba, she carefully collected all the kunkumam from all temples. She would take a pinch with her fore finger and thumb, place the thumb on the forehead of the visitor and give her blessings not taking away her thumb from the forehead until she finishes giving blessings! Why is that statement about not taking her finger off the head so important? Because her blessings can go on and on for even five full minutes! Has anyone seen or received blessings like that from anyone else? Perhaps 5 minutes may not sound like a big time. But if you think so, you should attempt to give your wishes to someone for 5 minutes keeping a timer in hand. It would be impossible to go beyond a minute or perhaps two by some very rare people! She would speak so affectionately and sincerely from the bottom of her heart and confer all the blessings that the person can ever dream of!

She would meticulously say every mundane to mighty thing keeping her thumb on the forehead, “nannA, dheerkAishOda, vyAdhi illAma, nannA pAdindu, santhOshamA, nannA kalyAnam Agi, nalla purushan kadachchu, nannA azhagA kozhanda porandhu, ……..” and it will go on and on and on! And today everyone that she blessed is leading happy lives and none of her blessings ever failed! When going for exam she would bless, “Question paper easyA vandhu, onakku therinja kelviyA vandhu, nannA ezhudhi,…..” etc etc etc. Whether a known question comes or not in the exam, it was always so indescribably fulfilling to hear her blessings and it gave so much confidence!

I was going for classes on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturday she would have blessed me like that while leaving. And on Sunday again she would do the same thing. Just because she blessed me only the previous day at great length, she wont cut her blessings short the next day. She was a giver. She would give anything and everything for anyone and most importantly she gave her immense blessings to everyone and wished everyone the best and yOgakshEmam.

She won’t stop with blessing during that moment in front of people. She really prayed for them all the time at home. There was a PillaiyAr vigraham in the hall and He was her favorite deity. Even in her last days, she would ask to be taken to Him in her wheelchair and she would sit in front of Him and pray for everyone who may have visited her that day or earlier, people that she knew and even people that she didn’t know and for the country. She won’t just tell, “Everyone must be fine”. She would meticulously name each person and place separate petitions to Him for each of them! If I mentioned that my neighbor was sick while talking to her, she would include him also in her endless list of prayers! She would pray loudly sometimes forgetting her and the surroundings and would converse with God as though He is really physically present there, “PillaiyAr appa, Jayashree’s neighbor is unwell. Please he should become fine and be happy and everyone in his house must be happy” etc! I don’t think even I would have prayed for him!

Once she was hospitalized after she experienced a heart attack and it was not her first attack! She herself was in a very bad shape. At that time, someone in her Chinese disciple’s (whom she named ‘Mohan’) home also had a heart attack. When I went to the hospital to see her, Mohan had come too. On seeing him, a very concerned and worried Pattamma amma asked, “Come Mohan! How is he (or it was a she perhaps. I can’t remember) now? I was so worried and was praying all night that he should get well. Is he well now?”! And she was relieved only after hearing a, “yes he is out of danger now” from Mohan. She herself was admitted in the hospital after a serious heart attack and even in that bad shape she was praying for another person in China whom she has not even seen! Such was her vAtsalyam! She was affectionate with everyone. Even with dogs and cows and fishes! Pattamma’s love for animals and their love for her is something that can be written as a separate article by itself and considering the length of this writing already, I am fighting hard my temptation to write all about that!

Iswaran mama used to give me the letters that came to them after reading them to be read to Pattamma amma and one day one letter had come from some lady who lived in an orphanage. That lady saw DKP’s concert on Doordharshan in that past week and wrote a very emotional letter to Pattamma amma. Only a few lines was about how great the concert was and how much all the people at orphanage enjoyed that concert and the rest of the inland letter was about the ill life that lady was leading in an orphanage being abandoned by her children. The lady didn’t expect anything from DKP in writing that letter. She didn’t need money. She didn’t need anything. She merely shared her grief with amma. Pattamma amma cried as I read that letter to her and got so deeply upset. She prayed so much for that lady. It was amazing to see how a stranger felt like sharing her grief with Pattamma amma and how amma got so involved and concerned that she actually cried and prayed in a state of helplessness! Such was her vAtsalyam!

I was telling about how we treasured whatever she gave just like how she treasured whatever we gave! Is BhagwAn more fond of His BhakthA or is BhakthA more fond of BhagwAn? Like that one can wonder forever whether Pattamma amma’s love for others was big or everyone’s love for her was big! They say one reaps what one sows. But in Pattamma amma’s case, people only always received manifold what they sowed! Or in fact a more appropriate sentence would be that people received unconditional love and affection from her even without sowing anything! That was her vAtsalyam! Before her love and fondness for us, our love for her can stand nowhere near! The sentence needs careful thinking because all of us were so madly crazy about Pattamma amma and were so fond of her and even such fondness cannot stand before hers! Such was her vAtsalyam!

Pattamma amma was never punctual for any of her appointments. Shocked? Yes, she was never punctual. Punctual means ‘being on time’. She was always early and not on time. Whether it was a class at home or an award function at a sabha, she would be ready and be present and waiting before time. I thought great VIPs were always late and liked to keep the audience waiting feeling a sense of arrogant pride and importance about themselves. But I understood what real greatness was after seeing Pattamma amma. For a 10 am class, she would get ready, have break fast and be on her chair at the hall and would wait for the student from at least 9:30! For a 5 pm award function, she would reach the venue utmost by 4 or 4:15 itself and would wait for the function to start. For that she would have been ready at home from the noon itself!

When she was 90, one day somebody phoned her and informed that they were coming to see her at 4 pm that evening. As she was bed ridden and had to be dressed and readied by a help lady who stayed in their premises, she got so restless from 2 pm itself waiting for the lady to come and ready her. The help lady was not late. She knew about the 4pm appointment. But Pattamma amma who did not like to keep anyone waiting and who had the habit of getting ready and waiting ahead of the appointed time started getting restless from 2 itself. After a long hour that seemed like eternity to her, she struggled to get up herself. She was normally lifted by that lady and made to sit. Seeing her struggling and attempting to get up, I was shocked (I was sitting beside her bed) and got up to help her. She was heavy for me to lift and with hardly any help from me, she got up on her own that day and sat on the bed after a really tough battle! It was like witnessing a miracle! She did not realize that she got up on her own and sat down! To get ready and go to the hall to welcome the visitor was the only thing in her mind and it made all that possible! She then asked me to do her hair. She was all ready by 3:10 when the help lady arrived and only had to be changed to saree. The lady clad her in saree and brought her to the hall in her wheel chair by 3:20 pm. Only then Pattamma amma felt peaceful! She happily waited 40 minutes for that visitor who came at 4 sharp. People who knew Pattamma amma were prompt for appointments with Pattamma amma because they knew that she would be waiting! Pattamma amma was an inspiration to all of us to keep up time!

She always saw that her visitors were fed well whoever it was. As I stayed there all day on many days in her last years, I ate there everyday I went there. She would make me sit in front of her and keep an eye on how much I am being served and whether I eat well. She would tell, “innum pOdu Krishna” [serve more Krishna] to Krishnamoorthy mama who would serve us the lunch. On days I eat there, I wouldn’t feel hungry even at dinner time because I would have eaten so much there! When I go there in the morning itself, she would be having breakfast and she would tell me to eat. When I tell her that I ate just then at home, she would enquire what I ate and would insist on giving me two mouths of whatever she was eating. She would ask me to show my hand and if I protest, she would give one stare! That’s all. I will speak no more and will show my hand with my mouth shut! She will make a ball of whatever she will be eating and give me in my hand. I had to eat two balls like that. It was like a ritual. She would insist on two mouths. She would then enquire, “onakku pidichudhA mA? enakkAga uppu chappu illAma samaiyal!” [did you like the food my child? The food is being prepared without salt, oil and spices for my sake]. Honestly, I won’t know what I ate and whether it had salt! Anything tasted like the ‘amrutham’ (the elixir). After all who fed me?!

The whole world knows that Pattamma amma was a legendary singer. But I was one of those most fortunate ones that got the opportunity to have had a personal relationship with her and to know her as a person! She was a wonderful human being. No superlative can define her or her characteristics! Like how one has to feel the air to know it, one must have had personal relationship with Pattamma amma to know her completely. Not all the words of all the people who may be writing on this website together can define her fully. I have not seen another human being like her and am confident that I will never see someone like her again. There is an old English song that goes as, “Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good for here you are standing and loving me..” Like that, I cannot stop wondering whether I did some good in my pUrva janmAs to have had the opportunity to have had Pattamma amma in my life. To substantiate the fact that she made a deep impact in people who met her even only once, I am giving the link to my sister’s blog page where she wrote about Pattamma amma after meeting her.
http://jayskirukkals.blogspot.in/2010/07/in-fond-memory-of-true-legend.html

She changed my life and brought about betterment in me as a singer and more importantly as a person. She is an inspiration to me for everything – how to live, how to talk, how to love, how to give, how to be simple, humble, selfless, etc! Both amma and mama were wonderful people and a wonderful couple! I have not seen a husband and wife like Iswaran mama and Pattamma amma! She is an inspiration to me to be a good wife also! Nothing greater than having met and spent a lot of time with Pattamma amma can happen to me in this life or in the lives to come! There cannot be a happier moment in my life than the times I have spent with her. I feel a sense of fulfillment! I remember one lady tell Pattamma amma often that she desired to be a cat in the next birth at Pattamma amma’s house so that she can circle Pattamma amma’s legs all the time and live there with her under her feet! If she was born as a child at Pattamma’s house, she may have to fly the coop some day and so she wanted to be born as a cat she said! Anyone and every one of us that has met Pattamma amma and spoken to her have strange desires like these! That Pattamma amma was and still is (in an invisible form) a part of my life is a blessing that I shall thank God for every day! Like God, Pattamma amma was also a karunA sAgaram and a vatsalA. She was God herself to me and many others will join me in saying that.

By
Jayashree Rajagopalan.