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I miss the earthy red-oxide flooring of our old house. The glow that the crimson red colour exuded with every passing year was simply a sight to behold. Every morning, the carpet like flooring, never ceased from throwing up a seamless wonder! I could see a clear reflection on the floor. We’ve lost this rich and traditional heritage.
A relative of mine, who was a famous Civil Engineer, once told me that red-oxide became less popular by the mid-70s as the skilled labourers who specialised in the oxide flooring work became extinct species.
By the late-70s, with the arrival of the multitude of flooring materials, red oxide fell out of popularity and was considered a poor man’s flooring. Mosaic was the in-thing in the ’80s, later to be replaced by ceramic tiles and marbles.
Coming back to the red-oxide, the flooring with a deep crimson hue was something unique to our house. Many visitors exclaimed at the richness and velvety gloss of the well-made floor. On a festive occasion, a rangoli drawn on this floor would look truly outstanding!
Each time the red-oxide floor was mopped, I would see the patterns formed when the water dried. The shiny floor with resplendent reds would enrich the hall. With my mother, I visited many houses which had a gleaming spread of the red-oxide floor in shades as cherry, ruby, crimson or scarlet.
There was a touch of infinity in the red-oxide flooring. With no lines or boxes, the joint-free seamless stretches with a uniform finish was a work of art, that I miss seeing today. There was no maintenance headaches. All that it asked for was a daily mop. As it aged, even a daily walk on a red-oxide floor was equal to an extra polish, thanks to the smooth friction!
Sometimes, oil would spill on this flooring. And when I rubbed it to wipe the oil off, that portion of the floor would look splendid as it shone beautifully. On the contrary, when lime juice fell, that area would whiten! Very sensitive, this red-oxide, just like my mother!
I miss both of them!
[My mother had cracks in her feet. She felt mosaic was more friendly for her. When we stayed for a short period in Ernakulam with mosaic flooring, the cracks vanished. It resurfaced when we came back.]
Blessed with a rich and resonant voice, she struck an immediate rapport with the audience. Coming straight from the heart, her Mellifluous and Sublime music transported the scholar and commoner alike. The aesthetic experience was equivalent to experiencing the Brahman. Soaked in spirituality, her music reached the rasikas effortlessly.
An artiste extraordinaire, MS’ timeless and priceless music and the saintly aura was enhanced every moment of her life kaaya-vaacha-manasa and of course through her divine music.
Yet, she was so humble that her body language conveyed that all this was the Grace of God; not of her making. In his composition, “Shanthamuleka” in Sama raga, Sri Thyagaraja has pleasingly delivered the essence of Shantha rasa, which we can so easily associate with MS.
To quote Rajaji, “The way of devotion is not different from the way of knowledge or Jnana. When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the mind, it becomes wisdom. When wisdom is integrated with life, and issues out in action, it becomes Bhakti. Knowledge, when it becomes fully mature, is Bhakti…”
The Bhakti-filled renditions of MS can make even a bitter truth in Bhaja Govindam seem very sweet. Not only did she possess true devotion but she could make her listeners experience what true Bhakti was.
What did MS say about her music? She knew that Sangeetha was the Sanmarga to attain divine communion. “If i have done something in this respect, it is entirely due to the Grace of the Almighty who has chosen my humble self as a tool” she said receiving the Ramon Magsaysay award.
On a personal note, I still remember MS telling me, “Atmartha Sangeetha is the supreme form of singing. First you should love your music, only then will others love it.”
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 seen her during Kacheris, read articles and heard elders in the house describe her as a very humble and down to earth person. But 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.
Yours truly gets absorbed into MS’ Sankarabharanam, Khamboji and Todi renditions.
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