My whole world revolves around music. Day and night, my house resonates with the seven notes. Every day, the neighbours wake up to the chorus of my students. They say they are lucky to be able to listen to good music.
We are disciples of Saint Tyagaraja. My father is my guru and I started singing since I was four. After marriage, I took a break and worked as a bank employee. However, my mind was not in the job and I quit when I was 38. But music always gave me company. I sang aloud as I cooked and washed vessels.
One day, my neighbour heard me and asked me to teach her daughter. That’s how my career in music began. I realised I had not forgotten even one sangathi. The music, which I imbibed from my father, had stayed fresh in my memory.
Now I have 75 local students and 15 foreign students. I have a good rapport with all of them. We go to restaurants, watch films and chat online. Some of them even call me to learn about new recipes!
My father learnt music under the gurukula system. He lived with his guru, washed his clothes and cooked for him. When the guru found free time, he would teach my father a new song.
Today, teaching methods have changed. Technology has advanced. You can record the songs. That was not the case then. You had to take down everything as your guru sang. He never repeated himself.
I remember how strict my father was. He could not tolerate the slightest mistake. If we got our thalam wrong, he would demonstrate the thalam on our lap to show us. This approach does not work with children, today. You cannot push them beyond a point. They are already burdened with school work. So, I try to point out mistakes to them in a light hearted way. And, they obey. The young children always amaze me. They sing flawlessly.
Classical music is not just about singing kirthanas. You must also have sense of the shasthra. That is why I teach them the theory of Carnatic music once a week.
I warn the parents that I will not put their children on stage as soon as they join the classes. They must go through rigorous sadhana for at least three to four years before giving a kutcheri.
I am not against other forms of music such as film songs or folk numbers. But, I advise students to build a foundation in classical music for the first 10 years and then branch off to other genres.
Many of my students have participated in reality shows. Some of them run music schools and perform kutcheris. I am most happy when someone tells me my students have sung well. Is there a better reward than this, for a teacher?