January 14, 2008

Ode to the one woman who made me cry

If there was one woman who made tears run down my eyes, it was Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi aka MSS.

It takes a genius to make a boy who is tone deaf, who cannot make sense of any carnatic music, who ran from the room whenever his mother started (tried to start) singing, whose aunt plays the violin professionally and who did not learn from her to appreciate the beauty that is carnatic music.

The first time I heard MSS was from my grandmother who never tired of talking about her. To my grandmother, she was the incarnation of music. To me she was the woman who sang 'Suprabatham' which forced half the South Indians across world to get up every morning.

It was one evening, after coming back from college in my early twenties, trying to relax, that my music player randomly picked 'Kurai Ondrum Illai' (Click here for the youtube link). The room was silent and the voice across the head phones talked a language I began to understand. She talked a language which was not restricted to the words in the song. She portrayed an emotion that was far beyond what I had ever felt. A solitary tear moved down my cheek.

The pronunciation (ucharippu in Tamil) of words was far beyond anything that I have heard. It was not restricted to this song. If she was singing in Hindi, it seemed that she knew what the words meant when she sung them. It seemed that because she sung them, the words carried more meaning. If it were Telugu, she sang as if she knew the language. It was even better when she sang Sanskrit. She seemed to live the language. I once has learnt the language of the gods, so to speak. And when she sang, for a moment, she was god.

I have heard people say in the USA, that they remember where they were when they heard the news of JFK die. I can remember the exact moment when I heard that MSS was no more. I was in front of the TV in Chennai, at my aunts place. I turned on the news, and there was the news, MSS had died. For some unknown reason, the woman who made a solitary tear come out, had caused a deluge. For some reason, I still cannot reason why I cried that day. I cried like a man who had lost his mother. I cried for I knew that the god I knew was no more. I cried because I knew that I could never go and listen to her sing.

Technology is an amazing thing. Thanks to that, I still hear her voice. However, there is a new emotion now. I want to sit in front of her and listen to her. Unfortunately, that is never going to happen. I cry for that.


Lazy Lavender said...

Technology will help you listen to the other's voice, maybe even see them through some electron-gun aided screen. But that wouldn't be sufficient for man, would it?

Lazy Lavender said...

BTW, that is a very beautiful pic of MSS :-)

Suchitra said...

This page provides some background to the song.