The normally noisy, chaotic and narrow West Hanumantharayar Street off West Tower Street near Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple had a melodious addition to the usual sounds of sewing machines, songs blaring from FM radios at shops and honking of vehicles.
A chorus of young voices singing revered musician Madurai Shanmugavadivu Subbulakshmi’s famous ‘Kurai Ondrum Illai,’ a song immortalised by her mellifluous voice, could be heard on Monday morning by the local residents and passers-by.
For the past five years, a small gathering of teachers and students from TVS Lakshmi School and TVS Matriculation School have been coming together at the house where MS, as she is popularly known, spent the early years of her life, to sing songs made famous by her to mark her birth anniversary.
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) organised ‘Remembering MS’ this year to mark the 97th birth anniversary of the singer. “Every musician holds her in highest regard and to be able to sing in her memory is a blessing,” said Suganthi Narayan, a teacher from TVS Matriculation School.
Echoing her views, Prema Karunanidhi, a dance teacher from the same school, said she looked forward to the experience every year. “For most of us, the city is synonymous with the music of MS after Goddess Meenakshi,” she added.
Most people who walk through the street tend to overlook the small, non-descript house. A small model of a veena placed under the first-floor window on the facade is what differentiates the house from the rest. R. Subbulakshmi, the grand-niece of the legendary singer, lives in the house with her family. “We look forward to hosting the group every year to commemorate the memory of MS,” she said.
“MS lived here till she was 15 years old. Most of her possessions are in Chennai in the house she last lived in. Tourists and Carnatic music aficionados still visit her first house,” she added.