Adyar K. Lakshman on his early years in Kalakshetra, an uncluttered urban landscape and watching cricket matches at Chepauk

It is ironical how my life in Madras began in Adyar and now it has been home for over 60 years.

When my father, brother and I came to Madras in 1944 from Vandavasi to learn music, nattuvangam and mridangam, we arrived in Adyar, at Kalakshetra. While we were more interested in music, Rukmini Devi convinced me to take up dance as a form of physical exercise. And so I did, not fully realising that I would grow up to become a dancer.

At that time, I got the opportunity to witness a rare concert by the four legendary musicians — Tiger Varadachariar, Veena Krishnamacharya, Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar and Mysore Vasudevacharya. It was held in a hall at Theosophical Society. It is among my fondest memories of this city.

Since I was in my teens then, I was very interested in cricket. In 1944-45, there was a match between India and Australia at the Chepauk ground and a group of us set out to watch it. But the tickets had sold out and we walked back all the way to Kalakshetra.

I stayed at the Kalakshetra hostel, amidst a barren Adyar that did not even have tar roads. And there was no Gandhi Nagar or Kasturba Nagar either. The bus stand opposite Theosophical Society was the main bus stand. There were only a few buses and I remember route no. 5, Adyar to Parrys, which is still popular.

LIC was the first multi-storey building and everyone made it a sort-of metaphor for height. ‘As tall as the LIC' was a common catchphrase. The city was not crowded and had only a few significant towering structures.

Entertainment was minimal. The race course in Guindy was a popular place to be at during the weekends, but I have never been there. We would go for the exhibitions and concerts. Mylapore had its share of temple rituals that were very popular. In December, the Theosophical society held a convention while Kalakshetra hosted a 10-day music festival.

The Music Academy, R. R. Sabha, the Indian Fine Arts Society and Raja Annamalai Mandram were thronged by the rasikas during the December festival.

When I started my dance academy in 1969, it was at a small space in Uroor and had about 15 students. About 12 years ago, I built my school in Adyar and settled here. I love this area so much that it has become a part of my name. (As told to ANUSHA PARTHASARATHY)

ADYAR K LAKSHMAN Born in 1933 in Vandavasi, K. Lakshman began his training in Kalakshetra in 1944, when he was 11 years old. He underwent rigorous training in vocal music, Bharatanatyam, mridangam and nattuvangam. He graduated in 1954 and launched the Bharatha Choodamani Academy of Fine arts in 1969. Lakshman is a recipient of the Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi awards.

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