This is the first time I’m doing a blog post about a just departed relative. Something in me impels me to write about Krishnamurthi Mama – one of my mother’s elder brothers who passed away yesterday morning.
He was the one near relative in my mother’s generation with whom I have perhaps shared the closest bond. As a teenager, when I wanted to impress upon the world at large what *I* thought was right, he was always ready to patiently listen and surprisingly would accept my viewpoint for what it was. Ranging from opinions on whether brahminic rituals were important or not, prevailing politics and Carnatic music, Mama was always open to ideas and was always ready for discussion. The best part was that he would never be either dismissive nor force his ideas on anyone else.
The most remarkable quality that stood out about Mama were his amazing levels of equanimity. He was perhaps the only sibling out of eight who had such an even-tempered nature. I for one have never seen him losing his temper or his cool under any circumstance. And on the other hand Mama would always be ready for a joke and would round off with his characteristic guffaw.
Generally in eulogies, in my world of Carnatic music in particular and especially in condolence meetings, people will always remark of a departed artist that he or she never spoke ill of any other fellow artist. I think this applies to Krishnamurthi Mama in full measure. I don’t remember ever having heard him speak ill of anyone. To me he appeared as someone who calmly accepted whatever life had to offer and he had no regrets with regards to all aspects of his life.
Like all his siblings, he was deeply interested in Carnatic music. His favourite raga was Sahana. We have had some *hugely* interesting discussions on Carnatic music, particularly with regards to compositions, ragas, artists and composers in general. He was a bit of a singer in his own right – he had a strong and ringing voice and would render small kritis in his own inimitable way. I remember him commenting on the raga Natakurinji during my elder brother’s wedding at Madurai where Krishnamurthi mama was staying with his daughter and son-in-law, (this is as clear to me as it was yesterday), ‘’you know, I don’t know that I like Natakurinji as much as I like Sahana!” It’s a different matter that I didn’t agree with him *at all*!
Mama also used remark on the grandeur of the Carnatic music concerts that would be held at the Ponniamman Temple in Purasawakam, Chennai. He once told me how he would rush madly home on his bicycle from college in a frenzy to be in time to catch maestro M.S.Gopalakrishnan’s violin solo broadcast on the All India Radio.
In terms of his career, he was an extremely well-respected professor of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science in the Madras Veterinary College (MVC). He was naturally good in academics – my mother has always told me that while her 2nd eldest brother Nagasundaram was undoubtedly the brains of the family, Krishnamurthi would ALWAYS stand first in his class throughout in school. Several of his students from the Madras Veterinary College, who hailed from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, went back there and set up their own veterinary clinics and coincidentally, one such vet became our dog’s doctor when my father was stationed in KL for a few years! I can never forget the time when Dr. Asokan, visiting us for the first time at our residence in Bangsar in KL, remarked to my mother that she resembled his professor so startlingly!
For many years after his retirement, he used to come to Delhi to craft questions for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) Entrance exams at the request of the UPSC. He first came to Delhi in the year 1982. I remember when I took him to the Qutub Minar, he was deeply interested in whatever he saw and how the historical monument had the touch of the Hindu shrines about it. While my brother Ravi took him to see the celebrated Red Fort, I took him to the Yamuna riverside (yes, the river was actually clean, with copious water and quite unpolluted then, sniff!) and we had a very nice time sitting by the calmly flowing river, the clear waters lapping at our feet.
He was a prodigious letter-writer till the end of the last millennium. I remember being amazed by the stack of crisp new and unused inland letter sheets he would have ready clamped to his cardboard writing pad at his table, for him to dash off correspondence to someone or the other. And to Krishnamurthi mama, a letter to a teenage nephew like me was as important as a letter to the bank manager or to one of his siblings. He had a natural flair to write letters and had a very typical and charming rounded handwriting, quite unlike his other brothers whose handwriting were quite similar to one another.
Till his end he retained his abilities for making sparkling conversation. He was equally interested and enthusiastic to know just *why* I missed the flight in 2014 to Bombay for my concert at the Fine Arts Society, Chembur, just as he was in spiritual matters and discussions particularly with regards to the Gayatri Mantra and the Sandhyavandanam.
He was very particular about his Sandhyavandanam and was very meticulous to perform his nitya karma. Small wonder his end came so peacefully to have finally and calmly breathe his last in his son’s arms yesterday morning.
Rest in peace Krishnamurthi Mama. Your enthusiasm for life, your cheerful disposition and most of all, your characteristically ringing laughter will continue to ring in our ears forever.