Many years later when I moved to Madras, I took up learning Dikshitar kritis from TL Venkatarama Iyer. What a great man. A lawyer, a judge and a musicologist. His only hobby was music. Unlike other Judges, he never had any time for clubs or parties. All his free time was spent in music.
I would go to his house in the evenings and learn from him. There were many days, when he would come to my house from the Court directly and teach me. I lived in Mambalam at that time.
He would teach me the outline of the Dikshitar kriti. He would only teach me one or two sangatis that were of the Ambi Dikshitar pATAntharam. If I wanted to add any sangatis, I was free to. He would tell me to polish them for the stage.
T.L. Venkatarama Iyer
At this time, his junior in law, SandhyAvandanam Srinivasa Rao was also learning from him.
Later B Rajam Iyer and Kalpagam Swaminathan also learnt from him. Later he moved to Delhi as Judge of the Supreme Court. Whenever I went there, I learnt from him. Once during such a visit, he took me to Rashtrapati Bhawan where I met Babu Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India. I sang cEta shrI bAlakriShnam. He was moved. He said that he had not been aware of the existence of such a song.
A few years later, I was one day asked to come to the Raj Bhawan, Madras. Dr Rajendra Prasad had come to Tirupati to attend a convocation and on his way back to Delhi, spending an evening at Raj Bhawan. It was JanmAShTami Day. So he had asked if TLV's disciple could come and sing cEta shrI again. I sang the song again to his great satisfaction."
At this point, Sri Iswaran, Pattammal's husband walks in. Conversation becomes general. I take my leave after sometime.
Later that evening, I get a call from Nithyasree. " Patti says she forgot to tell you two very important things. Please call her."
So I did and sure enough there was DKP at the other end.
" There are two things I want to tell you, which you must add in your article.
First, I cannot express my wonder at my good fortune at having learnt a few songs from a descendant of Muttuswami Dikshitar himself. I consider it to be a great stroke of luck. At that time it was not easy for a lady of our community to take to performing on stage and I consider this a result of some good deed in a previous birth.
Second, I did not tell you the circumstances of TLV's passing away. I was nominated for the Sangita Kalanidhi in 1970. Great was the joy of TLV. But he was in frail health and could not make it to the Sadas. Directly after the ceremony, I drove to his residence with the award. I was met by his wife, who said that his health had taken a turn for the worse and that he was waiting to see me. I went in and showed him the award. He burst into tears. I was very emotional too. He kept saying that his daughter had got the Sangita Kalanidhi.
That very night he was shifted to hospital. He died by the next day. It was as if he had held on only to see me get the award."
As I put the receiver down, my heart is full of some unexplainable emotion. What a great art form is this, which has produced the likes of Ambi Dikshitar, TL Venkatarama Iyer and finally a lady like DKP, who despite her fame, her knowledge and her achievements, is so humble, still willing to readily meet a nosey youngster, spend time with him and patiently answer all his questions.