It was in search of a musical legend’s place of birth in the temple city of Madurai, but the way to the house had its odd moments as well.
The former West Bengal Governor, Gopalakrishna Gandhi, immediately after reaching the city on Friday evening to attend a function, was keen on visiting the house where M.S. Subbulakshmi, popularly known as MS, was born to the (‘vainika’) Veena artiste Madurai Shanmukhavadivu. He also spotted the street — Hanumantharayan Koil Street — where the house is situated. Located near the world-famous Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Temple, the area forms part of the old Madurai.
On reaching the area, Mr. Gandhi asked a shopkeeper where Madurai Shanmukhavadivu’s house was. The shopkeeper was unsure: “The guitar player?” He then gave some directions which led Mr. Gandhi to the street. Once there, he asked another shopkeeper: “Do you know the house where M.S. Subbulakshmi was born?” The answer this time was crisp. “It is just behind you. Don’t you see the Veena carved up there?”
Mr. Gandhi turned around. The house he wanted to visit was eventually found. It had a model of Veena mounted on the wall facing the street.
Unlike in Western Europe where the houses of classical musicians have been converted into museums, the residence of M.S. is still used as a living place and members of her extended family continue to live there. Mr. Gandhi met the family members whom, he said, were very gracious. They pointed him to the ground floor where a quaint tailoring unit is located. The proprietor of the unit showed a spot in that incredibly small space where M. S. was born. “It was a moving experience,” he recalled in a talk with The Hindu on the phone, when asked about his visit.
Mr. Gandhi’s friend and Tamil writer P.A. Krishnan, with whom the former Governor shared some details of his visit, has given an account of it on Facebook.