Tag Archive | life. biography

When music unites

Mohan cringed when he heard the giggling of girls. His sister Dharini was forever bringing friends home from college. ‘Do they study at all’, he thought. But then there was silence and after that he heard a melodious voice singing, ‘Gaata rahe mera dil…tu hi meri manzil’ and he prepped up.  It was the song from the newly released ‘Guide’ and he sat in rapt attention. He loved music whether it be film songs or classical. The singer sang the entire song and then there was silence after that and once again the chatter started.

He moved towards the voices but he met his mother on the way. ‘Where are you going, Mohan?’, she asked and he returned to his room. Those days boys and girls were not allowed to mingle. But he hovered near the main door, in hope to meet the girls but no it seems they had no mood to go home so early and he had to leave for office.

‘Seems you had a nice time in the morning’, he asked his sister in the evening, ‘no studies eh’.

‘We had holiday today so we thought of having a get together and had a good time. Shyamla, sang, Mridula danced and my… we gossiped so much. Shanta even taught me a new stitch’, she said in ecstasy.

‘So her name is Shyamla’, he thought to himself. Dharini had just finished her matriculation and was now going to college.  Though it was not yet fashionable for girls to go to college, there were a few progressive families who did send their daughters to college.

And so Mohan who had lost his heart to the one with the melodious voice aka Shyamla, tried to see her and talk to her but alas talk he could not. The girls would seldom be unchaperoned and he could never ever talk.

Mohan by then was already 25 having a good job and his parents wanted him to get married. And though a number of good alliances came up he always managed to give some excuse for not marrying the girl in question.

‘She is taller than me’, or ‘she has just completed her 7th’ or ‘her voice is not good’, were the excuses he gave.

Until in exasperation his father yelled, ‘Do you want to marry or not?’

‘Yes I do want to marry to… Shyamla’, was all that he said.

There was a shocked silence and then his father asked, ‘Who is this Shyamla?’

Hi mother coming out of her reverie mumbled something in his ear.

‘You fool,……..you fool, you found no other girl’, was all that he had to say.

Later he came to know that Shyamla was the illegitimate daughter of the minister of the erstwhile King. Shyamla’s mother Leela used to live in Mandya and Chandrasekhar who was one of the minister at King Wodeyar of Mysore used to frequent Mandya. It so happened that Leela’s father had some business dealings with Chandrasekhar and during those meetings Chandra and Leela first met and then had a relationship.

Chandra was already married.

When Leela got pregnant she was thrown out of the house and she came in search of Chandra.  Chandra could not marry her but gave her a place to stay and looked after her needs.

Leela and her daughter were ostracized by the whole society but Shyamla was a bright kid and her mother herself taught her classical music. Her mother saw to it that Shyamla had a good education for she knew that getting her married was a distant dream and education would be the first step to see her independent.

Mohan grew morose. It was not Shyamla’s fault that she was illegitimate. She was good-looking, she had a good voice and had a good education, did anything else matter?

Shyamla was banned from their home and Mohan was sure that if he knew Dharini well, she would have stopped talking to Shyamla and even seen that others too didn’t speak to her.

He had to speak to her but how. He took the help of the music teacher at college Mr. Kartikeyan. When Mr. Kartik heard Mohan, his sincerity won him. Also Shyamla was his star student whom he wanted to see happy and he felt that Mohan was the right person for her. As such there was no hope of Shyamla ever getting married.

So in the pretext of some extra practice he called her to his chambers at an odd time. Shyamla came to find an unknown man. Mohan introduced himself. Shyamla thinking that more troubles would befall her, started moving towards the door.

‘I like you a lot Shyamla’, pleaded Mohan.

‘What do you know about me to like me’, she asked.

‘I have heard you sing’, he said.

‘Is it enough to lead a life together’, she asked.

‘Music can unite nations then why not two hearts’, was his reply.

‘And how will you convince your family’, she said.

‘They will have to’, he said.

‘I do not want to be the reason for a family to break’, she said.

Kartik Sir who was hovering just outside thought enough was enough and came in.

‘Why are you stopping happiness to enter your life, Shyamla’, he said. The matter was sealed between the two. They would unite but not yet.

Leela liked the young man and called upon Chandrasekhar too to meet him once.

Mohan took up another job at Bellary. There was a huge uproar at home and everyone blamed Shyamla. ‘I am going because I am getting better opportunities at Bellary. And for your information I will marry only Shyamla and no one else and that too with your blessings’.

Both waited five long years. By that time Shyamla was teaching music at one of the schools and Mohan was earning well. Dharini had already been married off. Seeing that Mohan was adamant and would not marry anyone but his nightingale, the parents finally relented.

They were finally married in a low-key ceremony and Kartik Sir gave away the bride. Chandrasekhar was not allowed by his wife to do the honors.

And so Mohan and his Shyamla started their musical journey together. Mornings began with Venkatesh Suprabhath and nights very soon spent singing lullabies


I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. The prompt for today MUSIC

vecchio libro con stilografica


It was past midnight in the early 1940s but Padmavathi could not sleep. Earlier in the day her husband’s last rites had been performed. Suicide, it was said.

But she knew it was not suicide. Such a devout, loving, caring person would not run away from his duties like that. She was sure he was poisoned and that too by his own brother-in-law.

Such a difference of personalities; her husband was an epitome of goodness. Their house was like a shelter to the needy. The ancestral house now was home to about 30-35 people who had come to their refuge either because of unemployment, sickness and so on. And there was this person who was ready to kill for what–just an ancestral home.

But now how was she ro run the sprawling house and raise her six children the youngest just 3 months old?

And so the thoughts ran in her mind and it was quite late that she fell asleep. She woke up late; by the time she came to the kitchen she saw the coffee brewing. No doubt her eldest Sugandhi who had started on the breakfast, but what is this such a small amount of coffee for so many people,’Sugandhi, why so little, this will be enough for just 3?’

Sugandhi came and stood at the doorway with her head bowed.

‘What happened?’, asked her mother.

‘Your refugees have all run away now that their benefactor is gone,’ she replied with a bitterness in her voice.

Padmavathi’s head reeled. Fair weather friends she thought.

Then again she thought how am I to raise my children. Sugandhi and Vimala were already 12-13 and were of marriageable age. How will I get them married. How am I to educate my four sons?

The wheels of time moved forward. Most of the relatives shied away. Except one of her brothers who agreed to take care of Vimala and Padmavathi was relieved. She was a bold boisterous type and would quarrel with anyone who dared to be disrespectful of her mother. Atleast there she would get to eat properly.

Her sister-in-law and her husband lodged a complaint saying that her husband had taken a lot of money from them and so now the house belonged to them. The case was in court.

She worked as a helper in many homes and managed to run her house. There were many who suggested that she think about herself and send her kids to orphanage, many suggested some other things also which she did not want to brood upon and then their was this Father who suggested that they convert and their whole responsibility was theirs. But she said no. She believed in her faith. Ups and downs were a part of life but if he could, could he waive off the fees. The school fees were paltry but for them it was difficult to manage.

Ultimately her eldest son, though very bright had to abandon school to fend for the family. The second too after a couple of years had to do likewise. But it was her third who was a problem to her. He liked to have good food and with their meagre earnings how was that possible. Very often Sugandhi and she would sleep on an empty stomach, a wet cloth tied around their stomach to give an illusion to the brain that the stomach was full.

Eventually Sugandhi and Vimala were married off to widowers twice their age. But both her sons-in-law were jewels. They kept their wives as queens in their meagre earnings. Sugandhi would come home with scented soaps, clothes and footwear for the kids. Vimala, her stars had always been good, her husband was a shop assistant who ultimately owned a jewellery shop and lived comfortably.

Her eldest son though had to drop out of school; was a voracious reader and educated himself. Politics, history, spiritualism, you name it and he was adept in all.

The second too paved his own way and had his own business.

The third, the one with the very active taste buds had a thirst for knowledge and was not ready to quit school. And so he distributed newspapers, sold peanuts in cinema theatres and paid for his own education and eventually became a diploma engineer.

The fourth was the black sheep of the family but the others saw to it that he became independent.

The court case was lost and the house was gone but Vimala who by then was wealthy, bought it and gifted it to her mother.

Till date Padmavathi and her children are revered in the town of Payyanur in Kerala. Hers is the story of unfailing courage and the belief she had in herself, her faith and her children.

Padmavathi’s story is not uncommon, there must be a million story like hers who kept their head high and struggled through the odds of life to look after their family. She did not take part in the freedom struggle, she did not go and prove that her husband was murdered, she just looked at the fact that her kids should be raised with good principles.

This story was narrated to me by my father on a bleak morning when I had completely lost faith on myself and life. He had told me how a single mother had struggled to raise her kids without loosing on her morals.

Padmavathi was my grandmother and the son with the active taste buds; my father. His emergence from a small place to a steel plant is another inspiring story which we will reserve for another day. 🙂