Music

Gone. Never to be forgotten

The outpouring of emotions on Mandolin Shrinivas’s premature death has been unprecedented – with any famous artist, one hears messages from his ilk, but rarely do we see the multitudes expressing affection of this magnitude. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, emails – hordes are in a suspension of disbelief. Shrinivas has made writers of those who have never written before.

To say that his demise has affected me deeply would be an understatement. And I have been wondering why. I never felt such sadness when other artists passed on. From childhood, I loved Shrinivas’s fluency, the consummate ease with which he essayed Thodi and Kapi alike. His being a child too brought in a feeling of kinship and extra adoration – he was reachable. Later, like most others, I listened to him on tapes and CDs, an occasional concert when globe-trotting permitted - exactly as with other artists. But never did I feel the pangs that I experience now.

When I heard of his being ill, I worried but was convinced he would make it. He was young, and had brought happiness to countless. He would make it. He had to. So convinced was I that I ignored the rumours of his dying as just that – rumours. Only to be taken over by the fact. He was gone – never to return.

Attending an instrumental concert that fateful day, I was unsuccessful in taking my mind off his demise. I imagined Shrinivas on stage, and tears streamed. I reflected on his enigmatic smile, the respectful turn of the head towards the accompanists around, the concentration on his instrument, and his appreciative ‘bale’ to the others on stage. No facial contortions, no odd mannerisms – just his music. Never would I see that calm countenance in front of me. Never could I congratulate him backstage anymore. And never would we experience that total, sincere modesty and courtesy – that genuine relief and happiness in satisfying his audience. “He was always that way – right from his childhood,” says a distraught veteran accompanist who played regularly for him when he first shot into the Madras scene.

Stalwarts broke down openly, unreservedly. They recalled his smile, his gentle eyes, his clasp of their hands with feeling and that modest bow, his open namaskarams and felicitations to elder artists. Others do this, but it seems theatrical, and we wonder. With Shrinivas, we knew that was his true him - we just knew.

There are countless artists of phenomenal, nay, seemingly unsurpassable, ability. But Shrinivas was special because of his attitude. This was what endeared him to his hordes of fans – and other musicians. He was unflappable, yet unfailingly polite, humble, and thankful. Every iota of him exuded respect – his body language, his every word.

At a time when good behaviour and ease of interaction is pooh-poohed and we publicise everything instantly, be it a fallen tooth or the slightest compliment, Shrinivas spoke of himself only when asked, and, even then, only in the most understated terms. Despite achieving so much so quickly and sharing the stage with stalwarts many times his age. He appreciated everyone - nobody was a competitor. He never sought to hog the limelight. All were collaborators, making him a most sought after one. Those with a fraction of his accomplishments toot their own horn and have a swagger to boot. Shrinivas, on the other hand, spoke minimally, would enquire about the other’s health, and hope with child like enthusiasm that he had provided satisfaction.

A consummate professional, his work ethic was impeccable. He was always on time. Wedding concerts merited as much attention as those in the most prestigious of sabhas. He would ask the bride and groom if they had any preferences for songs that they would like him to play. And he would render them, with his usual verve. His song selection always befitted the occasion, and he would accede to audience requests smilingly.

Death is so final. One wonders why he had to go so soon. It defies explanation. Maybe God does take those he loves early. Leaving the rest of us bereft.

Rest in peace, Shrinivas. You humbled us by your humility. We will never forget you – we can never forget you.


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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 3:24:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/gone-never-to-be-forgotten/article6445591.ece

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