The Syama Sastry stamp that Mr Santhanam was instrumental in releasing

Just running my eye over the home page of my blog makes me realise that I have of late been writing more condolence posts than anything else. But that is the sign of the times. Not everyone who passes dies of Covid but the pandemic creates a miasma of gloom, which makes you feel all the more for each loss that is experienced.

This morning I got to know that Mr DR Santhanam, of the Postal Service and also for long a Committee Member of the Music Academy passed away due to non-Covid causes in Pune. He was 91. Music lovers will know of him better as the husband of Sangita Kalanidhi R Vedavalli. He too rejoiced in that recognition and was very proud of his wife’s talents and achievements. But he was a personality in his own right whose friendship I cherished.

There was firstly his ability to envelop in friendship anyone and everyone he met. He was always cheerful, friendly and greeted you with joy. In all the conversations I have had with him I have never known him to grumble about anything or lament over the troubles and illnesses of old age. He would laugh readily and above all spread his cheer.

When in the 1990s I began writing on music and in particular began studying the history of the Music Academy, he was one of the people I approached. I did so rather hesitantly for by then I was quite wise to being snubbed by certain pillars of the establishment. What I did not expect was the effusiveness of the welcome he gave me. He thereafter was always one of my go to people. His memory was razor sharp and he remembered even the smallest of happenings at the Music Academy. When Dr Malathi Rangaswami and I wrote Four Score and More, the History of the Music Academy, Madras, he was one of our resource people.

Mr Santhanam loved the Music Academy and venerated the institution. He was candid about its faults and yet always took pride in its numerous achievements over the years. He remained a warm supporter of it even after he stepped down from the Committee.

A little-known aspect of Mr Santhanam was the role he played in ensuring a postage stamp of Syama Sastry was released in 1985. He took notice of the fact that stamps of Tyagaraja and Dikshitar had been released respectively in 1967 and 1975 and that Syama Sastry had none. He brought this to the attention of PS Raghavachari, who was then Member (Operations), P&T, Government of India. The composer’s portrait by S Rajam was used as reference and the stamp was released. Mr Santhanam would always express regret at how owing to (ironically) a postal bungle, S Rajam never received an invite to the event! But then Syama Sastry did get a stamp. It was released on December 21, 1985 by the Governor of Tamil Nadu, SL Khurana.

The onset of Covid caused many displacements and Mr Santhanam and his wife moved to Pune to be with their daughter. I last spoke to him a couple of months back. Goodby sir and I will miss your calls starting off with “Saar, நான் சந்தானம் பேசறேன்.”