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Remembering MS, a human nonpareil

Discussion in 'Cheeniya's Senile Ramblings' started by Cheeniya, Dec 9, 2007.

  1. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Remembering MS, a human nonpareil...
    (16th Anniversary of MS Amma)



    Whenever Death claims an illustrious life, I recall the famous words of Khalil Gibran-

    “For what is it to die, but to stand in the sun and melt into the wind?
    And when the Earth has claimed our limbs, then we shall truly dance”
    Someone said that each departed friend was a magnet that attracted us to the next world. But when someone like MS departs, we feel truly envious of the souls up there who will be treated to the most Divine Music by her, nay Her, until Time itself will be no more.


    The shocking news of MS’ passing away on the night of 11th December 2004 plunged every household into greater gloom than the death of a close relative would cause. There were thousands of obituary references expressing genuine grief and admiration across the globe in the following days referring to the golden voice that has merged with the wind. But not a single one of these could ever be adequate to touch even the shadow of this Colossus of Music.


    At least three generations of men and women grew up on the music of MS. In my own family, I can’t think of a day that has ever been set in motion without the rendition of Sri Venkatesa Suprapadham or Vishnu Sahasranamam or the bhajans of MS. It is as much an integral part of our daily life as anything that we can think of. For years, girls keep winning prizes in classical music competitions to this day rendering songs immortalized by MS. They are all ‘Ekalavyas’ of MS.


    When my father died in 1974 and my sister in law breathed her last in 1978, we played Bhaja Govindam of MS just as their breathing subsided. We considered it as much an act of purification of the soul as the pouring of the waters of Ganga into a mouth that would soon become lifeless. The look of serene contentment that their lifeless faces bore when they were consigned to the flames is still talked about in my family. I strongly attribute the phenomenon to the music of MS that enraptured them in their dying moments.

    I look at MS beyond her music. I look at her as a human being nonpareil. I have had a few personal encounters with MS that had left an indelible impression on my heart. In the late 80’s, I was a senior functionary in State Bank of lndia in charge of their retail banking operations at Chennai. I wanted to honour some of our major account holders with a unique gift. I discussed this with my peers and settled on an evening of music to which our clients would be invited. The unanimous choice was MS and I was asked to meet her and fix up a suitable date.


    I went to her house and was greeted by her man Friday, Atma, who was more like a son to her. He took us in and introduced us to the legendary couple. I prostrated before them and sought their blessings. I explained the purpose of my visit and for her part, her husband did all the talking. A date was fixed and I was asked to speak to Atma for the rest of the transaction like her remuneration etc. Atma indicated Rs one lakh and we agreed to it. The concert was to be held at a prestigious hall in Chennai that had a seating capacity in excess of 1000. As we did not have that many to invite, we decided to team up with Alliance Francais to sponsor the programme. On the day of the concert, we were told by Atma that a part of the amount payable to MS would go to Sankara Netralaya and Dr.Badrinath, the founder of Sankara Netralaya, would have to be invited too. Just before the concert started, we asked MS in whose favour the cheque for Rs one lakh was to be made out and she instantly said ‘Sankara Netralaya’ She did not want even a paisa from the concert and the entire amount was paid out to Sankara Netralaya directly. Many of you may not know that MS donated almost the entire earnings from her concerts throughout her life to charitable causes. It was this that earned her the first Ramon Magsaysay Award. No one knows the exact quantum of her contribution to charity through her music and it could run to several crores.


    The second occasion was when I was the Vice president of Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha. The Annual Music Festivals of this Sabha are quite famous and are invariably inaugurated by very eminent persons. We wanted to request MS to light the Kuthu Vilakku and sing the Invocation song on the inaugural day in 1991. It was decided that I and Dr.Nalli Kuppusamy Chetty should meet her and fix it up. We went on a Sunday afternoon. At that time, MS and her husband were actively collecting funds for the Memorial Mani Mantapam for the Kanchi Paramacharya that was coming up at Orikkai and Dr Nalli was carrying with him Rs one lakh as his personal contribution to be handed over to MS for the purpose. As usual we were met at the door by Atma and conducted inside. Dr.Nalli kept the bundle of currency at the feet of MS and tied his silk angavastram at his waist and prostrated before her. MS was taken aback and jumped to the side. In a broken voice, she exclaimed that she would consider anyone falling at her feet without her husband standing next to her as a sin. (‘Aiyyo, avar ange nikkarappo, ennoda kalula vizharele, kaduvule’ were her exact words.) I was literally moved to tears by her utter humility.


    Death is not a calamity that strikes only a chosen few. It catches up with every living being, sooner or later. But calling it a great leveler is blasphemous. How can even death level us with a truly great soul like MS? In the passing away of MS, we see how great people live respected and die regretted that is the hallmark of a high quality life. MS, indeed, lived respected, revered and worshipped and died regretted and lamented. Through her death, MS has only shed her fragile body. She has immortalized herself by laying a bridge between the Human and the Divine through her heavenly voice. When you hear her voice wafting through the air in the early morning hours filling us with a Sublime Devotion, you can feel her immortal presence.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2020
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  2. malspie

    malspie Platinum IL'ite

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    Hi Cheeni,

    That was a nice post on MS. All that I know about her is she has sung the famous SUPRABATHAM. She looks very pretty and has a good voice. Your post opened up the gate leading to the house of talents of this legend.
     
  3. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Malspie
    Some encounters in our life leave a lasting impression on us. I would rate my interactions with MS as the finest moments of my life. MS is a lot more than what we know of her through her music.
    Sri
     
  4. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sri,
    A very warm, very sentimental, very beautiful, very touching write up !
    Only you could have done it, having had the good fortune to meet her in peson and offer her your respects.
    She was the unparalleled nightingale of the south, incomparable in the bhakthi & bhava aspects of her music.
    Venkatesa suprabatham & Bhajagovindam have become synonymous for us with the name of MS. When I heard the former being played in Thirupathi, in Perumal sannidi, early in the morning, I just thought how blessed she was.
    She never sought fame, fame came to her.
    She never sought name, name came to her.
    Her dress sense was admirable, very simple but very elegant and dignified.
    Sri, I cannot help feeling proud that I share the nativity with such a great legend. She was known as Kunjamma to my aunts & grandparents, as a local town girl in her younger days.
    Now, please don't laugh & tease me, I follow her pottu (bindi) style, (big red round & small black dot below) as a tribute of my great admiration for her !
    Thanks for a very timely write up coinciding with her death anniversary.
    Love,
    Chithra.
     
  5. Vidya24

    Vidya24 Gold IL'ite

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    Dear,dear Cheeniyasir,

    Are you clairvoyant or what? I am so glad to see this post on MS. For the past two days, I have been thinking of her, and somehow this seems to be a divine acceptance that She has heard my mind. I am not exactly a fan of MS's music but of late, I have become devoted to the divine persona that MS was.

    About six months back, I read 'A Life in Music' by TJS George. The book was biased and critical about Sri Sadashivam. But packed with info about MS. What stuck me about this remarkable lady was that she had more courage and spirit to throw tradition and fear of society to the winds and carve her own path. From the meek Shakunthala to the graceful granny clad in MS blue,dazzling diamonds, closing her eyes in rapture as she sang, MS was melody personified. She was Saraswathi and Lakshmi combined in one person oozing 'aishwaryam'.

    Kanchi Paramacharya once said that most people give away a good part of what they earn. But MS and Sadashivam earned just to give away. Her sense of philanthropy is unmatched. Apparently, she practised one year before recording the SriVishnu Sahasranaamam. I play it everyday.

    Souls like MS can only be mumuksha. We are blessed that we got to know them in our lifetimes.

    Thanks Cheeniyasir. As always, your post is an outpouring of heart and brain. And this one is a tribute non-pareil.

    regards
    Vidya
     
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  6. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Chithra
    MS has done a lot for Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanam and to express their deep gratitude, they have installed a Bronze Statue of her in the heart of Tirupathi which no one has done even in her native state. Not even the music Sabhas. The statue of MS in a sitting posture with a Tambura in hand is so life like!
    I wish you had followed her singing too in addition to her pottu!
    Name and fame come only when we are not after it!
    Look at Bhagwan Ramana. He never stirred out of Tiruvannamalai and yet he has a huge International following!
    Sri
     
  7. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Vidya
    The people who had seen the kind of affection that Kanchi Paramacharya had for MS and her own revernce towards him could only liken it to the bond between God and Man. Her devotion to him was total and transcended all her other emotions. When she went to perform at the UN, he wrote a special sloka in Sanskrit 'Maithrim Bajatha' which came alive through her enchanting voice.
    Your remark that souls like MS can only be mumukshas touched my heart indeed.
    A word about Sadasivan. He was a strong disciplinarian and very time conscious. He never believed in beating about the bush and his stern attitude made him somewhat unpopular but no one would have a different view about the role that he played in bringing MS into limelight. The universality of the music of MS stands as a testimony to the direction that he gave her particularly in the initial years.
    Sri
     
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  8. Kamla

    Kamla IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Cheeniya sir,

    Thanks for this wonderful article on my spiritual pathfinder...Dr M S Subbalakshmi !
    I have said this many times before in this forum, MSS has been a guiding light for me through my lonely and dark times in life . Yes, I mean her music, recitals and slokas. Her songs go straight to your soul and stir some unknown strings in your heart you never knew existed. I cannot count the innumerable times that her songs have lent solace to me. Also, it woke the slumbering bhakti bhava in me and it was easier to approach my Gods through her songs. Not having access to spiritual discourses or temples, all I had to do was switch on her music when I wanted God's blessings.
    I always loved your writings, and now, you have gone one step up in my regard. Wow, you have met her personally, been to her house, heard her talk. Nice that I know you!
    My friend has given me an autobiography of MSS. I have it with me since a month. As I have a little more time now, I wanted to read it this month. Today will be the right day to make the start.
    Thanks for this write up on my personal Guru!

    L, Kamla
     
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  9. Vidya24

    Vidya24 Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Cheeniyasir,

    I was not trying to be critical of Sri Sadashivam. TJS George though, has raved.

    But for Sadashivam, we would not have had MS. He was husband, manager, friend, philosopher, guide- all rolled into one for her.But you know better than me.

    Just to make a personal reference here, Mr Sadashivam was one of the earliest tenants my thatha had in Trivandrum. He used to run a khadar shop in Statue. Was very nationalist and seeped in patriotism. Which is why he could transcend class and caste barriers and alchemise Kunjamma into what we call MS.

    Great piece and great reply. Thank you.

    regards
    Vidya
     
  10. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Kamla
    The blessed ones who have listened to MS singing would vouch that the easiest way to realise God is through Nadopasana. Right from the Musical Trinity to MS, Nadopasana has been a sure vehicle to transport them to the Divine Presence. I have listened to her music in live performances and during those blissful hours, we just lost ourselves in a Supreme spiritual experience.Hearing her sing, 'Kurai ondrum Illai' made us forget our own needs and shortcomings.
    To be in the presence of MS was always like being in the presence of the Divine Mother. MS attained Divinity by putting her soul into her music. She demonstrated that there was no other way ordinary music could become Nadopasana!
    Sri
     

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