P. UNNIKRISHNAN - The all rounder among musicians
He was born into an aristocratic family of Madras, but unlike many of his contemporaries in Carnatic music, not into a Mylapore brahmin household. The sprawling mansion that housed his ancestral home as well as the family business, Kesari Kuteeram, on Westcott Road, was opposite the Royapettah Hospital, to many, as important a landmark as well. His great grandfather K.N. Kesari was the founder of one of the better known Ayurvedic dispensaries in this part of the world, made familiar to Madras residents by Lodhra, its widely advertised uterine tonic for women. He has been described as an almost self-taught ayurvedic physician, shrewd businessman, patron and connoisseur of the arts and culture, a scholar of many parts.
Neighbouring Kesari High School, a popular destination for boys from Telugu families in the city, bore Carnatic vocalist Parakkal Unnikrishnan’s great grandfather’s name, too, just like the dispensary. For Dr. Kesari was an Andhra by birth – who established the school as well as numerous charities in gratitude for the success and wealth he enjoyed in his lifetime. Unnikrishnan’s great grandmother (and Kesari’s second wife) Madhavi was a Malayali by birth and “well-versed in ayurvedic treatment”, and that is how the family has come to acquire its Kerala identity and culture, rather than reflect its Andhra origins.
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