Music

The daughter on a mission

Geetha Bennett. PHOTO: Special Arrangement

Geetha Bennett. PHOTO: Special Arrangement  

more-in

Geetha Bennett has chosen a unique way to pay homage to her father.

Geetha Bennett, vainika and vocalist and daughter of legend Dr. S. Ramanathan, is on a mission. She wants to upload on YouTube at least 100 of the songs rendered by her father, by April 8, 2017, his hundredth birth anniversary. She has already recorded 15 on the veena and vocal. Stupendous task, considering the fact that Geetha is a cancer survivor and has been battling the disease for the past 22 years.

“Many times in the past I have lamented to God, ‘Why are you not taking me away? You gave me everything, a great legacy, wonderful family, adoring students. I have attained fulfilment. It is time for me to go,” confesses Geetha in a long-distance conversation from Los Angeles, the U.S. The Bennett family (Geetha married Frank Bennett, her father’s disciple and a renowned musician himself, and the couple has a son) was leading a peaceful life until Geetha was diagnosed with breast cancer. Things changed forever.

From breast to bone, to oesophagus and lungs, the disease moved from one part of the body to another and Geetha has borne the brunt of nearly 50 chemotherapy sessions, several surgeries, etc. “It has been an endless saga, but I never allowed it to ruin my life, especially music,” states Geetha. “I continued to teach, practise, perform and travel. I didn’t miss the December music Season in Chennai,” she adds. “Two years ago, I fell and fractured my leg. In bed, I propped myself up and played the veena. Singing never stopped and classes went on.”

The cancer drugs had been discontinued during this period and it quietly spread to her lungs and food pipe. Treatment followed and both are clean now. A miracle, according to her. But recently, traces have been found in the liver but again, it can be cured. Geetha thanks the City of Hope hospital for the care and attention bestowed on her.

“It was one of those dark periods, when I felt low and depressed. But thanks to my husband and son I overcame the challenge. My students stood by me. They took turns to bring me nourishing food when I was so weak. That was the time I wondered why I should live. My students said, ‘No way, you can’t go. You will not, not before you teach us all those songs your father made so famous. The legacy has to be passed on.’

“But that will take many years, I protested. ‘So what,’ they countered. ‘It is your duty. You will live.’ They were comforting me, I knew, but something clicked. That night, I realised that the next day was April 6, a year away from father’s centenary. Why not start recording the songs and uploading them on YouTube?”

It was indeed an eye-opener and Geetha was now charged up. With husband Frank, a pillar of support, taking care of the technical side, including video, the mission took off, on April 8. “It takes several hours to finish a song but it is worth it. I practise but record at the first attempt. Breath control is difficult but I manage,” she explains. “Sabapathiku” and “Sarasa Sama Dana” definitely ring out loud and clear in Geetha’s voice belying the stress and the strains are melodiously reproduced on her veena.

“My outlook to life has changed. People many times ask me how I handle the situation. Every one of us has a choice of being happy or not happy when we wake up in the morning. I choose to be happy and have a positive attitude. This venture has infused me with fresh blood. The feedback from listeners is encouraging.

Those who know about my health condition have blessed me and want the story told so that it will give courage and inspiration to many. I feel I have found a new purpose for my existence and with my father’s blessings I will live to record his songs. And please do not look at us with pity. Instead, please pray for us and pray with us,” Geetha signs off but not before promising to share with the readers her thoughts and experiences.

“Yes, I’d love to talk to the Friday Review readers on music, my father and much more. Oh, it gives me another reason to live and more strength to fight,” laughs Geetha, known for her facile pen. So login (Youtube) and have an authentic taste of the S. Ramanathan patantaram and wait for Geetha to touch base through these columns! Contact Geetha at geethabennett@gmail.com

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 7:59:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/The-daughter-on-a-mission/article14425925.ece

Next Story