I have been so tied up with matters Music Academic that I have had no time to update this blog. At the same time, there has been overwhelming response to this series and so here is one more –

It was sometime in 2005 or so. There was a sudden rediscovery Of DK Pattammal. The grand old lady, though wheelchair-bound, was fit enough to come to Sabhas and receive awards and titles. This was in sharp contrast to T Muktha, who was bedridden. Pattammal made it to a few Sabhas, wheeled in by husband Iswaran, who by the way, was not exactly a favourite of mine. But that is another story.

And so it was that in 2005 or thereabouts, Pattammal was receiving yet another award. The chief guest was His Holiness, a Jeer Swamigal of one of the Vaishnavite mutts. He too was of a venerable vintage. The awards function began. The usual welcome address, the other inanities like shawling, garlanding, mementoing etc were all gone through and then it was time for His Holiness the Jeer’s anugraha vacanam.

He took the mic and spoke at length. Eventually he made it to the point where he had to felicitate Pattammal. Having praised her music in general terms he then paused. Turning to an aide he spoke in what he assumed was a whisper but was thundered out by the PA system.

“It is Sundaramba isn’t it?,” he bellowed. “The same one who sang GnAnapazhatthaippizhindu? Haanh? What was that you said? Sundaramba right? That is what I also said. Yes, yes to be sure it is Sundaramba.”

Embarrassed organisers then whispered into the pontifical ear the correct name. His Holiness did not turn a hair. He went onto praise Pattammal in fulsome terms and duly handed her the award.

The last word was however Pattammal’s. In her acceptance speech she said that she had the greatest respect for the Jeer and that he had all her blessings! What she had intended to say was of course that she sought his blessings. The Iyengars in the audience bristled but there was nothing that could be done. Touché I believe is the customary expression.

This article is part of an irregular series on the December Music Season. You can read the earlier parts here:

The Mridangam artiste has a malaise
A Hairy Tale
The Tambura Man Vanishes
The Double Crossing Violinist
How Kannan Tricked the Academy