With Pattammal Mami - My story

My association and relationship with Pattammal Mami did not start with my being her student. In fact it goes back one generation!

My mother Vidushi Mangalam Muthuswamy played veena for DKP's lec-dem such as Griha Bhedham--organised by Sri VV Srivathsa on several occasions, in Bombay.

My mother in-law Smt Kamala Vishwanathan has hosted her during her innumerable visits to Mumbai and not only was my mother-in-law her ardent admirer but a very close confidante' as well.

My husband's Periappa Subbaraman was a close friend of Ishwaran Mama and his family members still continue to nurture this ongoing relationship.

My student days

I started taking classes with Sri DK Jayaraman in 1978 and tried to emulate his immaculate style of rendering krithis, as well as, grasp the crystalline purity and essence of rendering different ragas. His coaching has left an indelible mark in my music and memory. After his sudden demise I continued learning under his sister and Guru Smt D K Pattammal.

We migrated to Australia in 1994 after brief stints in Doha and Singapore and I commenced teaching students here in Australia. I was fortunate to be awarded a grant by the Commonwealth Government of Australia to research effective teaching methodologies for the migrant population.

As far as Indian music goes, Australia is virgin land. I can safely say an interest in Classical music has been introduced by the arrival of immigrant Indian musicians only in the past 20 or 25 years.

My students did not know how to squat on the carpeted floor - used as they were to sitting on chairs or sofas. Nor do all of them hail from musically groomed families or lineage. I therefore felt there was an imminent need to reinvent and research new methodologies to teach carnatic music to aspiring students alien to this art form.

I wanted to research suitable ways but with the input and approval of the Doyens in this field. I thus went back to India to my Guru Smt DK Pattammal to seek her views and also sought advice from stalwarts such as Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, and Smt MS Subbulakshmi in this regard.

Mami (as I will address Smt DKP ) advised me to teach small songs such as Sri Rama Sri Rama -- Sahana and Dikshithar's Nottu swarams along with the initial sarali varisai exercises to young children. Sammangudi mama advised me to teach Sarali Varisais in Ragam Sankarabharanam.

She had a very interesting way of teaching Krithis and RTP. Apart from learning gems such as Balagopala - in Bhairavi Ragam and Nannu vidachi -in Reetigowlai as well as Maramananin Hindolam-- my learning sessions also included sharing her musical experiences.

As we all will undoubtedly affirm that learning a Dikshithar or Papanasam krithi from Mami has the added gleam of authenticity as she herself learnt them from Ambi Dikshithar, Justice T. L Venkatraman Iyer and the great Papanasam Sivan himself.

When Mami taught a particular song or RTP she got emotional - not only because she would immerse herself into the evocative meaning of the lyrics but also because it brought back memories of the Kutcheri or the personal events around that time.

She has confided how she traumatized after the passing away of one of her twin sons - twin brother of Lakshman ( Ram died in infancy)- how she had to leave behind her sick children behind in order to sing in a nearby town, how she managed her daily routine to practise despite living in a joint family and the responsibility of a daughter in law that is irrevocably entwined in such a situation, in an orthodox Brahmin family.

She used to get up very early at 3.30 or 4 AM and sing to catch up with her daily chores. Being the first Brahmin woman to ascend public domain is good to reflect upon but being in that situation and in the midst of social stigma needs a brave and rebellious woman at heart. She was of course very fortunate to have the support of Ammukutti amma the headmistress of the School where mami studied and her very illustrious father Damal Krishnaswamy Dikshithar.

Her motherly instincts came to the fore when she would ask me about my daily routine in Melbourne, Australia. Since I held a job as Relationship Manager in a leading bank in Australia , I would tell her I had sandwiches for lunch. This for her was very frugal! She wanted to compensate for the lack of food in my daily intake by asking her cook Krishnamurthy to cook sambar and rice and insisted that I stay on for lunch after class almost every day during my intense training sessions!

Even in her seventies, unlike women in that age group, and in spite of her medical problems, she continued singing and teaching.

She was enthused to see her Husband Ishwaran mama healthy and active even in his nineties! She used to say she prayed to GOD to bestow only two wishes in this life -- to continue singing till the very end and pass away as a sumangali. And we all know her prayers were answered!

She continues to live in our hearts and music in far away Australia through Kalakruthi School of Music and her students.