SEASON 2015-16 - Sabhas honour veterans
TVS. Those three are magic letters in Tamil Nadu, signifying as they do an iconic business group that meant safety, reliability and punctuality to thousands who used the bus service launched by the grand old man T.V. Sundaram Iyengar in the last century.
The Carnatic music world boasts yet another TVS, a Sangita Kalanidhi of the Music Academy, no less, someone who could be relied upon to deliver time after time. A vocalist famed for his emotive style of singing based on the sruti-perfect, exciting bani of his charismatic uncle Madurai Mani Iyer, T.V. Sankaranarayanan came as a breath of fresh air to the scene in the 1960s at a time when the past masters were beginning to fade away.
NARTHAKI NATARAJ - Dance is her identity
She was born as Natarajan in the temple town of Madurai, her name a portent of her destiny. What Narthaki Nataraj is today is the culmination of years of struggle, grit, hope and a burning desire to overcome the demons within. Ostracised from her family and community for being the third gender, Narthaki found her identity and happiness in dance.
In a tiny street in the heart of Mylapore, Narthaki and her soulmate Sakthi live in a flat which reverberates with the sound of the tattukazhi and dancing feet. Perhaps the surroundings remind them of their early years in Madurai with its rich cultural and religious landmarks. Like early Sangam poetry, the city of Madurai seemed to reflect their inner ambiguity and contradictions. The legend which surrounds the goddess of this temple strangely resonates with Narthaki’s own struggle. Born with three breasts, Meenakshi was raised as a boy until she discovered her femininity. Narthaki remembers growing up with these legends and the iconography of Chokkanadar and the graceful Meenakshi.
K.V. RAMANATHAN - “Sun-crowned, tall”
For most of those in the Tamil Nadu cadre of the Indian Administrative Service, K.V. Ramanathan stood “sun-crowned, tall”, a figure whose sureness of touch as a civil servant was outpaced only by a sharp intelligence that ranged over almost any subject on earth. He suffered no fools but suffered those who were not fools even less if they were fakes and flatterers. My first encounter with him – in 1972 – went very badly. I was Assistant Collector in Tindivanam and KVR, as he was called by his colleagues and friends, had come to the sub division on a field inspection. Standing on the arid red laterite soil of a plot he asked me about a certain location. Finding my information unhelpful he said brusquely, “Never mind”, and turned to get the information from a truly knowledgeable official who in terms of hierarchy and position was what bumptious bureaucratese would call “non-gazetted”. That gentleman had the precise answer KVR needed and that was that. KVR did not look in my direction for the rest of the visit. I had been put in my place with an important lesson: Knowledge in administration is valuable, if not ‘gazetted’ it is also a joy; ignorance in administration is a weakness, if of the gazetted variety it is a pain.
M.V. NARASIMHACHARI - A true sangeetagna
Natyacharya Narasimhachari was loved and admired by the performing arts fraternity. This erudite scholar and his wife Vasanthalakshmi were last honoured by Natyarangam, the dance wing of the Narada Gana Sabha, for their meritorious service to Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. Narasimhachari died on 19 August 2015 very peacefully, almost in his sleep. His passing away has created a void and we really feel lost because of his true friendship with every one of us. He was a pious person steeped in tradition and Sanatana dharma. He was not religious, but righteous, a good human with a very humorous nature. His presence and conversations were always lively and he made everyone around him laugh.
His was a close knit family of brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces hovering around him and looking up to him for everything. Narasimhachari and Vasanthalakshmi literally helped them all to come up in life. Their household has been a beaming, busy place.