A few days back I got an email from my former Vidya Mandir school teacher Uma Balasubramaniam (Uma Miss). The email had two photographs showing a concert that took place on the occasion of her mother Padmaja’s wedding. This photograph and the story in connection with that event brought back a lot of memories in my family and I thought I’ll share some of those here.
- The occasion was the wedding reception of Padmaja who hailed from the village of Tiruvalangadu.
- The date was 31st August 1955
- The highlight at the reception was a Carnatic music concert by the then reigning super star musician GN Balasubramaniam.
- The bridegroom hailed from Chidambaram and Raja Sir Muthiah Chettiar attended the reception.
- The bride’s father Shri TK Venkatraman had fixed GNB for the concert as he was a personal friend.
- The bride’s family owned the Utpaleswarar temple in Tiruvalangadu.
My parents (who are first cousins) both grew up in Tiruvalangadu and I have a lot of stories associated with that village. It is located right between Mayiladuthurai and Kumbakonam. The nearest railway station being Narasinganpettai Jn, right next to Tiruvavaduthurai (the place known for the Adheenam as well as Nadaswara Chakravarthy, TN Rajarathnam Pillai). Tiruvalangadu also boasts of musical heritage via two very well known musical families. One was Tiruvalangadu Sundaresa Iyer, a very respected and senior violin artiste, popularly known as “Suswaram Sundaresa Iyer” The other musical family is that of TS Vembu Iyer, the brother in law and disciple of the great Madurai Mani Iyer. His son is none other than TV Sankaranarayanan, one of my childhood idols.
Now for many years my mother has narrated this story of a GNB concert that took place in Tiruvalangadu. It seems GNB stayed in our family house and spent a long time getting ready for the concert in front of a life size mirror. My mother, who was a kid back then, remembers watching the whole process with fascination. So when the email came and I showed her the photo, she immediately recalled the story yet another time! Then began this long family discussion about who’s wedding it was, when did it happen – phone calls and WhatsApp messages flew between cousins of my senior generation. The pieces fell in place as Uma miss supplied us with all the relevant information.
Meanwhile I was more interested in some of the minor musical details in the photograph. Of course it was GNB with Sundaresa Iyer playing on the violin. TS Vembu Iyer himself can be seen sitting on stage and putting the talam. There seemed to be a Ghatam artiste as well and the left handed mridangam artiste who were both unidentifiable. I began my own enquiries and Mannargudi Easwaran with help from Madirimangalam Swaminathan managed to identify the mridangam artiste as Tiruvarur Nagarajan and the Ghatam as Erode Viswanatha Iyer. I then emailed Uma Miss once more to see if she could give any more info. She promptly replied saying her 82 year old mother remembers that GNB had stayed in my grand father’s place. She even remembered that GNB sang Sivakameswareem in Kalyani!!!It is so fascinating to glean so much from photographs that are about 66 years old now.
Getting authentic sources of information is so valuable to put together a good historical factual account of people, places and the times that existed. These photographs and the memories give us such valuable insights in to the lifestyles of those times. As I gazed at the images of the crowd sitting in rapt attention, turning their faces to a photographer and so on, I am reminded of how the tamizh writer Thi Janakiraman beautifully describes a concert atmosphere in a village in one of his novels (Marappasu I think) I have to thank Uma Miss and her mother for their generosity in sharing these photos and the information. I hope more such details emerge to make it easier for current and future historians to paint an accurate picture of a bygone era.