Mom and I visited Mrs Sulochana Pattabhiraman's residence this evening. She belongs to the list of people who should always be alive. I remember meeting her when I was probably 7-8 years old. Sulochana ji got to know Mom because of common grounds on music appreciation, which grew over the years. She used to take mom directly from the Music Academy to her residence for long sessions of intellectual discussions. Once the December season was over, there would be an intermission until the next season and they would start from where they left off sometimes not realizing that an entire year has gone by.
Mom did a project called Alaap for the Aurobindo Society, which is on sale now in major music stores, and if I remember right it is being sold for some 4000/- INR. Alaap is a glossary/encyclopedia on Indian music on which mom worked extensively in 1993. It took quite a while for it to see the light of day, and when I saw the name T PADMASANI in the credits, my joy knew no bounds. Sulochana Pattabhiraman, Calcutta K S Krishnamurthy (from scholars' viewpoint) and Sudha Raghunathan (from a singer's viewpoint) certified Alaap; some of Mom's entries in the glossary brought a new perspective and a deeper understanding. They found Alaap to be at once illuminating and extraordinarily User Friendly, to scholar or layman alike.
Sulochana ji passed on about a month ago in Chennai and at that time neither mom nor I were able to pay our last respects no-thanks to being out of town. By the time we even got to know we were more than a week late. We dropped in at their residence today and met Pattabhiraman mama.
I remember walking into that house ages ago and watching a Malayalam movie which was playing on Television. If I remember right, it was about a woman who transformed into a tree or something like that. And I took precisely one class in Bharatnatyam from her daughter-in-law. Just on a whim, that very same day. And never went back. I guess Odissi was what was written in my destiny.
Thereafter I would have met her a few times over the years, she saw me grow up.
As we entered the house, Pattabhiraman mama recognised Mom instantly and he asked me what I was upto. Explained to him that I am a singer and I go about doing this and that. He then asked me to sing for him and I chose to sing Kesariya Balam. One of my favorites.
Higher up on the walls of their living room, I saw the pictures of a younger Mama and mami and came to know that they were married when Mami was 15. Her eyes were limpid pools of innocence. Truly Sulochana. Mama then went on to say how they had had a happily married life and how they were made for each other. For an instant he forgot that Mami was no longer there and told us "My wife will give you some hot idlis if you like". That is when his daughter reminded him, "amma illa, appa.." There was only a quiet "Oho.." in response. He also went on to add how there had been no disagreements and when they did not see eye-to-eye on certain aspects, he would apologise or her style of apologising was to give him a hot cup of coffee. Mama was absolutely handsome in his younger days and Mami a damsel. How their beauty within and without evolved over time is there for all to see.
Mami had started singing with AIR as a child, and he explained how they would send a van to pick up the children and drop them back. Mama was in the family business, dealing with timber and he said that almost every house in Chettinad was built with timber supplied by their firm in those times. Mama was also a print model for a couple of Ad agencies at that time. There were a lot of such interesting things that I heard from him.
I was also given to understand that Sulochana ji was considered the best ever reviewers. She used to review concerts and she was unbiased and tactful at the same time. She wrote about the plus points and politely and unhurtingly pointed out the things that could have been better. Her reviews were looked up to and cherished.
I noticed a certain fondness, respect and admiration everything put together, when Mama mentioned his wife. Even when my thatha referred to Paati saying "My wife ..." there was a certain tone, a certain air (I just can't put a word to the sound of that word and the emotion attached with it), that seems to have died with that generation. I wonder why that did not get passed on. I guess quietly without all these counseling and self help books, and shows and magazines, news, meditation and all that, most of our parents and our grandparents have/had a mutual respect for each other, gave each other the space.
How did it go with the wind? The beauty in marriages then, I am even to scared of dreaming or visualizing of one. In the things we can talk of in the eras gone by, this would be the topper. The dignified relationships people had with one another and the love to respect another, and to give another the space.
Also I find immaculate language, vanity and chilvalry in Mama (I remember instances like that with my thatha also) which I have almost never seen in people closer my age. He refused to be seated when I wanted to do namaskaram to him, stating "it is not right" and rose up and blessed with words I felt came from the bottom of his heart.
There was also another thing that I have heard Mom say about Sulochana ji. That every cell in her being would honestly and wholeheartedly praise and wish well for anyone. I knew what wholehearted was, rather I heard and felt what a whole hearted wish was today. I am sure I would have heard wholehearted wishes before (this is with respect to people other than my mom and grandparents). But like most of us, I take things for granted too, and I believe even to relish and respect some simple things in life, you need a certain amount of growth. Or maybe its just time.
And Hey, To you, who are reading this, I wish for you one thing, rather a few things, that you have ....times and moments that you can cherish and savour, that you will meet people like whom you would love to have a life like, or would like to model your life like (I think inspite of the amount of achievements and developments in the world right now - and let me state again, that this is what I feel at this point in time - we are in need of role models, complete people whom we can really look up to, a complete personality who seems perfect to us in every way, I say seems here, because perception is quite the dicey thing), and that you come across and have true blue encounters with people who are 70+, and more than anything else, that you are blessed by them and have the happiness and a certain perfection that the generation gone by has had.
I could not take a picture of the photograph that had Mama and Mami in their younger days. But here are a couple of pictures of Mama now and a collage made my Mami's students. And I wish, sincerely, that I had been able to meet her in person.