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This page has so many anecdotes. Here's one.
PATTI and DAD
Patti(Divine MS Subbulakshmi) had a warm, deep relationship, filled with mutual respect, with dad (Kalki Kannan).
In my memory, I have always seen dad paying a lot of attention to patti's every move/utterance/expression. While she was diplomatic and guarded with her views, she subtlety conveyed her inner thoughts with enormous force, to those very close to her. Having spent his lifetime with tha tha and patti, dad had this unique ability to say less but put through his views with clarity, to them.
This is an incident that dad shared, in happier times, when he was with us, in his mortal form. Sometime in the early '60s, dad had to be in Madras for a meeting. Travel those days, was predominantly by train. Having finished his work, he was to travel back to Bombay (Mumbai, today), with tha tha and patti. Patti was coming over to Bombay for a concert. Her troupe comprised of tha tha, Radha aunty, Visalam (who took care of patti's every interest), tha tha's assistant, a cook, accompanying artists (three at a minimum) and a couple of tha tha's friends. A first class 'bogie' was a standard booking. The Madras mail and the Madras-Bombay express were the popular trains, those days. Typically the journey would take 34 to 36 hours! 'Coal engines" would haul the train and air-conditioned compartments were virtually unheard of. The journey would be arduous, across small towns, rural heartland, over mountains, covering at-least four states (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra), culminating at a very crowded 'VT' station in Bombay. Having been exposed to the harsh weather all along and more importantly, to the smoke/coal dust spewed by the engine, the passengers would experience a subtle change in 'skin tone', mostly to a darker shade of grey, at the culmination of the journey! So naturally, freshening up, on arrival ( a 'deep scrub' bath in warm water), was a standard practice. This was followed by intake of steaming hot 'degree coffee' and light meals (referred to as 'palaharam'), prepared by mom (Lakshmi Kannan). Other than the accompanying artists, who would be located in 'hotels', the rest of the 'guests' would find place in Meena Sadan (a two bed room apartment), with atleast 5 additional, permanent occupants!
On this particular journey, dad joined the troupe from Madras. They boarded the Madras-Bombay express at the Central station. The train, those days, would leave at around 09.30 am. Having settled in their places, patti got into a lengthy chat with dad, wanting to know/share all that had happened around. A few minutes into their conversation, dad noticed an element of 'distraction' in patti. He sought to understand her discomfort and patti responded" the rhythm of the train is giving me a feeling of discomfort. I feel, it is not very stable". While this could not be fully comprehended by all around, dad pondered as to what could be the issue. Time passed and the train was heading towards Arakonam junction, a major station after Madras Central. Patti once again shared her discomfort with dad. Knowing her well, dad went across to the train conductor and sought to understand if all was well with the coach. Completely taken aback by this observation, he enquired as to how dad could sense the subtle abberation in the rhythm of the coach! Dad shared patti's observation, at which, the conductor came over to patti and prostrated! "Amma, I will be retiring next month from the railways. In all my years, I have not come across anyone who could, based on the rhythmic sound of the compartment, sense a subtle flaw! You are indeed right. The coach has an issue with the suspension and is to be changed at Arakonam."
All the years of dedicated absorption of music, a complete surrender to the Supreme Being, honesty and integrity in every aspect of life, manifested in whatever patti did or conveyed. While life around her was as normal as can be, her expressions or the lack of the same(on occasions), her subtle moves, were always picked and acted upon by all those ,around her, who could comprehend the same.
The spirit of patti, dad, mom, tha tha, Radha aunty and all those who have made our growing years, memorable, continues to provide us a lot of joy and nostalgia!