'Flute' Mali had a special preference for Mangathayaramma accompanying him on the violin during a particular period. As already mentioned earlier, Mangathayaramma was an adopted daughter as long as my thatha was concerned. As soon as my mother started learning, Mangathayaramma insisted that amma should not sing with the Shruti box. She had no explanations to give but the Shruti box was not her preferred pitching tool. So thatha and amma decided to buy a Tanpura and naturally the Guru was requested to procure one for amma. During one of her visits to Mali's place in Bangalore, she requested him to help her procure a Tanpura for her disciple, my mother. He showed a Tanpura and asked Mangathayaramma to give it to the student. With some mischief in his eyes, he said "Your student is lucky. This Tanpura belonged to Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. I am not using it. Let somebody use it properly". There was only one condition from him that the Tanpura be treasured and maintained well. Flabbergasted Mangathayaramma stammered "She has just begun her Sa ri ga ma. This Tanpura is too much for her". Pat came the answer "Parava Illa. Kondu poi kudu".
There was an old man in Dwaram house who joined as a student to groom as an aid to Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu and later became a permanent fixture in the house. He used to accompany Mangathayaramma everywhere during her travels and concerts. He transformed to be an aid for Mangathayaramma as well. This Krishna Iyengar went to Bangalore and he brought the Tanpura to Madras and a musical shop in Triplicane serviced the Tanpura at the cost of 40 rupees. This, plus the train fare to transport the Tanpura from Bangalore to Chennai was all that was paid by thatha for getting such a treasure. Of course, there was another condition from Mali. "The moment the music stops in the house that this Tanpura goes to, the Tanpura should come back to me!!!!"
Imagine if such an antique property was given to someone, the natural instinct of anyone will be to not give it a novice but a seasoned Vidwan. What drove Mali to give the Tanpura to my mother is a big question. The honesty in Mangathayaramma to give it to my mother was nonpareil.
Years later, when my mother was in the Carnatic Music College, Mali had married a Westerner and he brought his wife along and visited my mother's house at Alwarpet. He wanted to see the Tanpura and he landed up. Fortunately (Amma laughs here), it was perfectly tuned, he gave a fine nod of approval. But amma was not present in the house. She was away in the library. There was no way to reach her. My Thatha and Mali had a some nice conversation for about an hour during when my thatha's spiritual discussions were so impressive to Mali that he invited him to America. That Thatha did not follow it up is a different story. Mangathayaramma also did not that he was going to visit our house. He had simply asked for amma's address. While Mangathayaramma was wondering what was going to happen, he had landed up at the residence. The Tanpura was reconfirmed to be in my mother's possession after his visit.
It still remains in my mothers possession. A beautiful Miraj Tanpura.
To be continued....