It was with some sorrow that I read in the papers today of the passing of LG Narayanaswami, Chief Engineer of the TNEB, but more importantly to me, a long-standing member of the Music Academy Madras and a Committee Member during the TT Vasu era. LGN as he was known, lived up to 96 and so it was a full life but he will still be missed.

His was not a personality that you forgot. A forehead with three stripes of Vibhuti, a long tuft at the back, a beaky nose and sharp eyes that noted everything. In later years he was invariably clad in a shirt and dhoti, both immaculate, but I have seen photos of him at the Academy , where he is to borrow a phrase from Rahul Gandhi, all suit and boot.

The well being of the Academy was a passion with LGN. He would pore over its annual reports and come up with all kinds of questions during AGMs – ranging from EB deposits to depreciation to interest to tax refunds. You had to be on your toes to respond for you never knew which page and subsection he was going to quote from. But in N Murali he had an equal and the two enjoyed their sparring bouts during the AGMs to the fullest. In fact if LGN was somewhat silent, as he was in later years, the President would egg him on to ask something as in his view the AGM was not over until LGN had spoken. On one occasion LGN had a rare word of praise for the Committee, whereupon N Murali said into the mic that this was akin to being recognised as a Brahma Rishi by Vasishta. LGN responded in a flash – “But Viswamithra should not get angry at my next question”.

Everyone including the President burst into laughter.

In 2004, LGN, seeing that the Academy was becoming factional between the Vasu and Nalli cliques, stood as an independent for several posts. He lost but had made his point – the welfare of the Academy was paramount. Till the end he reserved his seat on the first floor for the December Season though it was sad to notice that unlike earlier years, in 2019 his chair remained unoccupied on most days. But he did make it to the Members’ Breakfast on Jan 1, 2020 when on coming to know he was 96, the President wished him and said he was sure he would score a century. That sadly was not to be. He will I am sure be keeping an eye on the Academy from above and say it with thunderbolts if something is not satisfactory. He was its greatest supporter and fiercest critic.

You may want to read this story on another Academy veteran

Join me on my forthcoming tour of RK Salai

Join me on my next story telling walk at VR Chennai