A touch of gold

A touch of gold

An accomplished Carnatic musician, he was also a prolific writer and critic.

He was a musician’s musician. A rare composer who brought to life the works of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. A brilliant conductor and producer of operas, his remarkable skills on the exotic jal tarang made him a part of the palace orchestra in Mysore.

Trained in western classical music in London’s Trinity College, he was also an accomplished Carnatic musician, critic and composer. And, of course, he was the torchbearer of Mysore Vasudevachar’s rich musical heritage. A true son of Karnataka, his low public profile and unassuming demeanor matched his simplicity in dress, manners and speech. I have never seen him in anything other than plain white khaddar.   

I first met him in the lovely ambience of Kalakshetra where his illustrious grandfather created history in the world of performing arts. His equally illustrious brother was a pillar in that institution. Perhaps, the vibes of that remarkable place rubbed off on this scion of such an extraordinary gifted family.

Despite his rich ancestry, he was content to hold comparatively ordinary positions in life in organisations like Akashavani and Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan where he directed and coordinated musical events. He lent dignity and elegance to his work, no matter where the setting. He was not stifled by bureaucracy nor corrupted by position. He was a Gandhian in a very special sense. 

I remember a lengthy conversation I had with him many years ago. During a seminar in Mysore, we were lodged in the same hotel. I did not know him at all, but walked up to his room down the corridor to meet his brother. We were introduced to each other and exchanged a few niceties. That was all. But, later that evening, he came to my room and knocked on the door.

For the next one hour, his conversation left me breathless. He was a fluent speaker and touched on a variety of topics. From his life in the palace to the influence of his illustrious grandfather, his tryst with the Trinity College of Music to his association with the world of performing arts, I had a glimpse of his musical journey that night. And, I knew I had met an extraordinary person.

A prolific writer, critic and columnist, he brought to life the genius of Mysore Vasudevachar just as his musical score did to hundreds of the latter’s compositions. He continued to write untiringly, defying his own age, crowning his prolific efforts with a biography of M S Subbulakshmi. He recently autographed a copy for me saying “I know you will like this.” It was a touching gesture.

When he passed on last week, I remembered another time when we sat on a stone bench outside his brother’s house where a beloved sibling’s body was laid out. We sat in silence for a long time until he said, “Raju was a great human being in addition to being a great artiste.” Today, I would like to say the same of him. They don’t make people like that nowadays, do they?

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