A great loss to Sruti
- V. RAMNARAYAN
Sruti was devastated when its founder Pattabhi Raman died in December 2002. The recent passing away of Contributing Editor S. Rajam has been no less a loss. His was the sage counsel we sought whenever in doubt about matters historical or technical in music. He responded enthusiastically to our repeated requests for illustrations – both independent and to accompany his expert contributions on Carnatic music. Till the very end he showed the curiosity and excitement of a schoolboy while constantly seeking to add to his substantial knowledge. He drew and painted until about a month ago. His doors were always open to us, as indeed it was to any genuine student of the arts and their history. He taught and encouraged countless students of music and any artist who sought his gentle but firm mentoring. He retained his inexhaustible fund of enthusiasm for the great cave art of India – Ajanta, Sittannavasal, and so on – all his life. Even as recently as November 2009, he hosted a slide show of Ajanta paintings and sculpture at his Mylapore residence by Prof. Subramaniam Swaminathan, sharing his boyish excitement and sense of marvel at the astonishing wealth of the art on display.
He was a master of two arts, music and painting, though he perhaps did not make a major mark as a concert musician. Still, it is difficult to determine which was his better suit, his music (as a scholar and teacher) or his painting. It is reasonable in view of his twin gifts to assume that we shall probably never see the likes of him again.
Last year, Sruti featured him on the cover for our profile of him to mark his 90th birthday. We used a photograph from his youth, s superb profile in which he looked every bit as handsome as a Greek god. In the interview, he had said of his youth, "Those days, I had long hair and looked smart, cycling everywhere. 'Master Rajam,' they used to call me." When we suggested that with his dashing good looks and multiple talents, he had probably been a ladies' man in his youth, his denial was instant and vehement.
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