More than 2 decades ago, once upon a time, when I used to learn the violin, my kind teacher, Ambi sir showered kindness and continuously encouraged me with lavish praises. He displayed exemplary patience. He waited for me to mature into a student who liked the instrument and was not just learning it for the sake of it. It took many years, about eight, to be precise before I started to feel that I had flirted but not got into a serious relationship with the violin. As I tried to make up for the lost years, my sir spoke about and showed the technique that MSG sir, the stalwart had so successfully employed. It involved usage of the fingers differently so the music flowed as one seamless stream … vothha veral technique, he had said. The words had a transformational impact on me and my love for the violin was born out of this lesson.
It also helped that there were other seniors in the pattu class who were lot more sincere and better. The trend of senior violinists including sir’s elder son, getting into IIT and playing the violin well at the same time was a great trend. Early in life we learnt how to balance work, life and hobby. I made up my mind that I wanted to play like MSG sir and began to unabashedly copy his style. I practiced with him by playing MSG sir’s cassettes. Varnams set at multiple speeds in Shankarabharanam, Vasantha, Bhairavi, Hamsadhwani etc challenged me. I loved the challenge and my fingers bled a few times but the efforts [saadhanai] continued. The raga playing style, especially the Mela Karta ones, Kalyani, Shanmugapriya, Panthuvaraali and kirthanams in Kaanada, Saveri etc kept getting played again and again on the music system and by me. The infinite do loops were a treat and I loved those days almost beginning to dream about becoming an accomplished violinist. Playing in the zone is such a meditative experience.
One day when MSG sir was there in Calcutta, I got an opportunity to play in front of him. That was the pinnacle for me. Sharmila, my violin partner and a good friend knew exactly how much I was in awe of my hero. She was gracious enough to play second ‘fiddle’ and we played well. But then, an unforgettable incident happened. I blanked out somewhere towards the end of our 10 minute performance, forgetting a line. Thanks to Sharmila for helping me to recollect what I had to play; the situation was salvaged but the scar was permanent. I wanted to say sorry to him. I felt I had indulged in a blasphemous deed by letting him down – probably just an example of my exaggerated thought process then but the disappointment was immense.
Life meandered and I regret that I completely lost touch with the violin. Once again, years have gone by and I have slowly grown indifferent to being an insincere student. My Ambi sir will not be happy because he always believed in my potential more than I did. Maybe that was his style, I will never know, but today the loss of MSG sir has hit me really hard. My knowledge on music is so insignificant that I have no right to speak on a great man whose career spanned across 75 years out of the 82 years that he lived. He was a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, Padma Sri, Kalaimamani, Sangeetha Kalanidhi and Sangeet Natak Akademi awards. Wow!
Having been in Chennai, I thought about it once in a while and should have gone sometime to seek his blessings, get an autograph but all I can do now is to pray that his soul rests in peace and add to the list of regrets that I will accumulate.
MSG sir will always remain in my heart as the biggest hero I had once wanted to become.
Once again we need to be grateful to technology as it has helped us to record his music. Fortunately for us, it has made sure that he lives on forever.