With all his rare attributes, Remaji chose to be anonymous.
This is about a person with many dimensions. He was a philosopher, musician, scientist, administrator and much more. He preferred to keep a low profile and hence, the world knows little or nothing about him. However, he had a group of disciples, who benefited immensely from his association in terms of spiritual solace. These followers, members of Iswara Putra Samaj, founded by Remaji as they called their guru Swami R. Vaidyanathan, this writer being one of them, came together to celebrate his birth centenary.
Swami Vaidyanathan, born in 1913, in Chennai, was a prodigy in music, but was trained to be a scientist in physics. An alumnus of the Presidency College, Chennai, he went to Cambridge, England, to study the atom under Lord Rutherford.
Moment of truth
There, one day, he casually heard the word ‘young’ uttered by his landlady. He questioned what is ‘young.’ The inquiry took his mind backwards in time, and he visualised himself entering into his mother’s womb and there he saw himself as a tennis ball, and then a lemon size ball and the size of a speck and finally everything vanished. A universal consciousness awoke in him. The awakening changed his life and Vaidyanathan evolved a philosophy that embraced all faiths. Masquism, as he called it held that human birth was the Almighty’s sport, each individual His impersonation.
Not one to give up his musical pursuits, Vaidyanathan learnt the violin in gurukulavasam, from Karur Chinnaswami Iyer. When he was studying in the P.S. High School, Mylapore, Chennai, he learnt the piano from a Ms Amy Rosario and stood first in the advance grade exam of the Associate Board. Maestros such as Mali learnt nuances from Vaidyanathan, who was a natural flutist. From 1941 to 43, he was associated with Kalakshetra. In 1943, he joined AIR, Madras, as the Director and Composer of Experimental Music designed to explore the possibility of harmonising Indian ragas. Experiments were indeed done integrating Indian melodic music and Western harmony.
Weekly and biweekly programmes were broadcast regularly for more than 20 months, till 1944. Items included orchestral compositions, voice with orchestral accompaniments, organ solo, piano solo, etc.
In 1944, Vaidyanathan composed music for ‘Silambu,’ a musical opera based on Silappadhigaram. S. Rajam has recorded thus: “Almost all the famous musician including Dhandapani Desikar took part in it. It was a big achievement for Vaidyanathan to compose music for a musical opera, which was unknown to people about 70 years ago, using about 60 Carnatic ragas.” From 1948 to 58 he was associated with Gemini Studios, Chennai, and composed music for Chandralekha, Strange Brothers, Nishan and a few others and introduced western music into the film world. He contributed to the famous ‘Roja Malar Venduma’ in ‘Rajee En Kanmani,’ and the competition dance music of ‘Vanjikkottai Valiban’ but did not take the credit for it.
In 1947, he composed the music for ‘Haritumaharo.’ M.S. learnt it from him and sang it for Mahatma Gandhi. Around 1948 to 1960, he taught her bhajans off and on. He also taught a few bhajans to DKP and other top musicians.
In 1950, the Music Academy Madras, asked him to help the American music group that played a symphony. In Vaidyanathan’s words: “After the function was over, the American Consulate chief thanked me for my cooperation and asked me, ‘What do you think? How did people like it?’ He wanted to know the reaction of the audience about the (fusion) music. I said, ‘It was, I think, a pleasant puzzle to them.’ What I meant was the listeners are pleased with the new combination of East-West music but at the same time they are puzzled because their minds are not familiar with the new venture. ‘I can give you a job in the embassy for this answer,’ he said.”
Vaidyanathan composed orchestral music titled ‘Isaikkolams’ in different ragas for AIR, Chennai, (1959-61). To those who wonder why an immensely talented musician like Vaidyanathan did not make a mark in the mainstream, the answer is he used his musical knowledge just to get shelter and food. He used his leisure to do his research to find the cause of human suffering and a solution. But then he was not a well-known philosopher either. The answer is, he wanted all or nothing and nothing in between and he stood by his principle until the end, even in very trying situations.
So, I think he got nothing first. Maybe one day through his writings he may win the hearts of ALL human beings; because it is for them that he lived sacrificing his science and music.
(The author is a Harikatha exponent)