MS: Music Sublime

June 1, 2006

Pic: RK 

The sun was beating down with full gusto. It was a bright day in Chennai and the mood was upbeat in the hotel room where I was staying. I had for company the Secretary of Sri Lalithakala Academy, Mysore. The then Minister for Kannada and Culture Smt. Rani Sathish (who later acted in TN Seetharam‘s ‘Muktha‘ as a judge) was to join us in a few minutes. All of us were excited as we were to present an award. I repeat. We were to present an award and not receive. And we were EXCITED.

We reached the peaceful locality of Kotturpuram and searched for the house which had ‘Sivam’ and ‘Shubham’ on either side of the gate. We found the house and as we entered I could hear the sound of a thousand Tamburas. As soon as we stepped inside the drawing room, I was thrilled to see a legend in flesh and blood, whom I had admired since childhood, in front of me with folded hands and welcoming us. I was seated in front of none other than MS.(I have purposely not used any of the titles her fans have showered her with because she was simply ‘MS’ to both connoisseur and lay man alike). I couldn’t believe that the voice that awakened millions of Indians in India and abroad, in temples and tea stalls, in all seasons, was enquiring about my well being. I was still pinching myself to believe this was happening. She looked like any of our Ajjis, clad in a cotton saree, reclining on a bamboo chair with a pocket-sized Vishnu-Sahasranama book, with oily pages. The initial pleasantries over, a cook got us hot steaming coffee.

In a corner of the room, a Tambura and a Veena stood silently. I wondered the glorious times MS might have sung playing them during her rehearsals and Kutcheris. Today they were just mute spectators. Furniture had been kept to a minimum, comfort never transcending into luxury. The alcove of the living room where she used to practice had portraits of Lord Venkateshwara and Satya Sai Baba.The walls of the room were adorned with pictures of famous personalities. I saw Kanchi Seer Sri Chandrashekara Saraswati, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, RK Narayan, Rajaji, Gandhi, KM Munshi and many more next to each other. All of these personalities were very close to MS and Sadasivam. MS narrated how she got to learn from the maestros like Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Papansam Sivam, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Alladiya Khan and others. At that instance, I mentioned that Bade Ghulam Ali Khan addressed MS as ‘Suswaralakshmi-Subbulakshmi’. She just folded her hands and told “Periyavar”(Elderly person).

After her husband’s death, MS had stopped performing. Her health was deteriorating too. But I still found that she had the Tejas (Radiance) in her face and was as excited as a child. She was all eager to hear me when she got to know that I could sing. I felt really shy to sing in front of a person who breathed music. She particularly asked me to sing a Purandaradasa Devaranama. As I sang, tears rolled down her eyes. I prostraterd before her and sought her blessings. She insisted I sing another song. I sang a Thyagaraja krithi. She seemed very happy and told me not to lose touch with music. She told me, “Atmartha Sangeetha is the supreme form of singing. First you should love your music, only then will others love it.”

The Sangeetha Rathna award was presented to MS by the Academy. And it was farewell time. As we were about to leave, she rose and told she was very happy to have met us. And we couldn’t stop taking our eyes off her ever-glowing smiling face.

It is a different experience to see a performer on stage and off stage. Most of them are inaccessible. But there are few exceptions like MS. I had read umpteen articles where she was described as a very humble and down to earth person. I was fortunate to have seen her off stage at such close distance.

As we were driving back, the feeling was yet to sink in that I had spent priceless moments with a legend. Listening to the stereo which was playing MS’s Bhavayami Gopalabalam…. I realized that because MS conveyed the meaning of devotion that the audience came to her. And came in millions.

Also read:
MS, we miss you


26 Responses to “MS: Music Sublime”

  1. krishna Says:

    Dear RK

    Thanks for sharing your personal anubhavams with smt mss amma. “Aathmarthma singing is the supreme form of singing” – thats exactly what sathguru thyAgabrahmam propounded. You can see that in the voices of great people like MSS amma, Brahmasri Ts Balakrishna sastrigal, HH Swami HAridoss swAmigal, Chembai VaidyanAtha bhAgawathar et al.

  2. Srik Says:

    I was thrilled to read it. Felt as if I was with you listening to MS speak!!! What a legend she was and how fortunate you are to have met her in real… Thanks a lot for this share.

  3. RK Says:

    Krishna: Visited your blogs. looks like you are a great lover of carnatic music. thanks for your comments. do visit again.

    Srik: You are welcome.

  4. Shruthi Says:

    Beautiful post. I could almost imagine the whole scene. You describe things very well. Keep blogging!! 🙂

  5. RK Says:

    Shruthi: Thank you.

  6. Sanjay M Says:

    wow RK we really missed your singing the other day… next time we’ll catch you! Lovely experience of meeting MS… like Shruti says, almost felt like I also was with you 🙂

  7. RK Says:

    Sanjay: If you felt you were with MS after reading the article, it was worth writing it.–>

  8. Ram Says:

    Iam really moved by your narration on meeting MS. It reminds me of the first meeting I had with the Sadasivams.
    Like you, I too had really pinched myself to make sure that I was talking to the Legend herself.


  9. rk Says:

    Ram, Glad you liked it. Thanks for visiting. Do come again.

  10. Ram Says:

    BK I got to see a collage/book on MS with her pics in one of Thehindu’s website. Is that you ?

  11. rk Says:

    Right, that is yours truly.

  12. Ram Says:


    Good .Well, would like to see that sometime, may be when I come down to Bangalore next time. Whom is/was ur music guru ?

  13. rk Says:

    Always welcome. Learnt listening to radio and cassettes.

  14. Ram Says:


    That is great ! I mean to learn carnatic music thru casettes is …. we ll , what do u think is your best piece ?? Also
    curios to know which krithi you sang for MS

  15. […] The great shehnai maestro USTAD BISMILLAH KHAN IS NO MORE. He breathed his last in the wee hours this morning. The Bharata Ratna awardee, the third classical musician after Smt M S Subbulakshmi and Pt. Ravi Shankar to be awarded the highest civilian honour in India, was 91. […]

  16. […] Of all the stotras on Ganesha, I particularly love the Ganesha Pancharathna composed by Adi Shankaracharya. My mother taught this when I was still a toddler. I have sung this on numerous occasions, but the first time I sung it in public was at the Shringeri Shankar Mutt in Shankarpuram. I won the first prize after singing it in a competition held by the Mutt. I liked it more when I heard the musical genius MS sing this stotra. […]

  17. Vijay Sai Says:

    i liked your wriet up on MS. I knew her pretty well…I am a writer and write for The Hindu….if you could mail me on my e-mail address, i’d want to get in touch with you. My address is

  18. Paul Says:

    I’m liking the color scheme and design of your site. I’m wanting to start a blog for my download mp3 song site, but I’m not sure how I want to design it. This gives me some ideas. I’m so new at this and it is frustrating. And changing the setup or adding certain things to wp blogs can be hard, but I’ll figure it out.

  19. Sunil Says:

    We lost the gr8 singer, she is like goddesses, i love her like my mother, may her soul rest in peace……..

  20. […] I would love to hear Classical music, especially Thyagaraja Pancharathna Krithis by Balamuralikrishna, Shankarabaharana Raaga by MS Subbulakshmi, Sahana Raaga by MD Ramanathan, Karaharapriya Raaga by Mandolin Shrinivas, Umayalapuram Sivaraman’s Mridanga, Kaapi Raaga by Ustad Bismillah Khan, to name a few. I also love hearing the Vedic Hymns. Old Kannada and Hindi film songs, Ghazals by Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali and ‘Shakti’ are my favourites. […]

  21. […] Also read: MS: Music Sublime As I sang, tears rolled down her eyes… […]

  22. […] some of those ’80s ads?Sri Purandara Dasa (1494-1564)Sri Tyagaraja AradhanaVisit to Ahobila – IVMS: Music SublimeRemember the old Liril ad?When a loved one dies160th Sri Tyagaraja Aradhana at […]

  23. varsha Says:

    To be candid, i cried when i read this article. million dollars worth!! god she is!! i consider myself most unfortunate that i did not and will not have the opportunity to listen to M.S. ‘s kutcheries in my life time. nevertheless thanks for the article. i am able to experience the divinity of M.S. and was thrilled with the rendezvous with M.S.
    Thanks R.K.

  24. Dennis Says:

    Hey I like your post!

  25. samaganam Says:

    superb article,was searching for this like anything.should have asked you 😦 I like every word of this.Okay,so you saw saraswathi devi 😦 Jeez,no wonder you write so beautiful 🙂

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