UMAYALPURAM K. SIVARAMAN - The maestro at 80
At the Rukmini Arangam at Kalakshetra one evening a couple of years ago to accompany vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan in a concert to launch the Sruti App, the veteran mridangam maestro reached the venue ahead of the other musicians. He surveyed the facilities at the artists’ dressing room, even timed how long it would take for him to go to the washroom from there, in order to be perfectly on time when the concert started. Before that, he had made sure he travelled alone in the car that brought him to Kalakshetra. Completely relaxed and fresh in body and mind, he now unwound enough to chat with the volunteers, crack a joke or two with them, and even bless the Sruti team and the App.
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On the concert stage, he was as always seated with back ramrod straight, legs folded at the knees, the mridangam a virtual extension of his anatomy, his forehead generously streaked with vibhooti ash centred by a kumkumam dot. Dressed immaculately in a spotless veshti and bright kurta, he was a picture of concentration, yet with the suggestion of a twinkle, an avuncular warmth in his eye, as he silently encouraged Gurucharan, V. Sanjeev (violin) and Sreesundar Kumar (khanjira), the brilliant team of the evening.