One side of my ancestors hail from the village Tiruvisainallur near Kumbakonam. Here, you can find the famous Sridhara Ayyaval Math, where an annual music festival was held every year. I had started singing concerts in 1986. My thatha (Tyagu) wanted me to sing there and so immediately used his influence to get me a chance. Several senior members of my family had already reached Tiruvisanallur whilst I made my way slowly on the day of the concert. My guru and grand aunt, Rukmini Rajagopalan had taught me Paradevata in Dhanyasi and said that I should sing it there. The significance being that it was composed on the diety of the neighbouring village Tiruvidaimarudur. When I reached the venue, I found a concert was happening. The singer was Kumbakonam Chakrapani. I had no idea who he was, but realised he was singing exactly like Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer. An old man was sitting close to the stage appreciating every single trademark Maharajapuram sangathi. Maharajapuram enjoyed legendary status in Tiruvisanallur! I sang my cocnert and got off. The old man (Maharajapuram fan) came up to me and said, ‘ Your thatha and me were childhood mates. He was Semmangudi katchi and I was Maharajapuram katchi. Today you sang Mukhari but disappointed me with your choice of song, (I had sung Arivaar yaar arivaar) I expected Kesheenamai or Elavatara (Maharajapuram favorites). However I see the seeds of someone who can mature well into a seasoned musician. Keep practicing!” I came away with a mixture of anger and happiness. An old man who has heard legends acknowledges your talent. At the same time, I told myself I need not compromise on my musical values to pander to others. The result, I continued singing Arivaar yaar arivaar, never learnt Ksheenamai, and learnt/sang Elavatara only a couple of years back! Of course my personal disappointment at the end of the day – no one cared about Paradevata or Tiruvidaimarudur!


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