Dedicated to swaras and ragas

In recognition of a glorious career  

THERE WAS hardly any standing room at the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Hall, and those who came late had to content themselves with peering over the shoulders of scores of music lovers who had thronged the venue.

It was a very welcome event in a city like Coimbatore, where it is difficult to find wholesome entertainment in the long summer evenings.

Rajalakshmi Trust, a non-profit organisation founded by a consultant surgeon, T. Sathish Kumar, was being formally inaugurated in memory of Dr. Sathish Kumar's mother Rajalakshmi.

Later the same evening, `Rajalakshmi Fine Arts', an organisation promoted by the Trust, was inaugurated with the aim of encouraging classical music, dance and drama.

Funds generated by the fine arts wing would go to support the social welfare activities of the newly inaugurated Trust, which is a fully registered entity. One of the first activities of Rajalakshmi Fine Arts was to confer the title of `Isai Manimagudam' on noted vocalist Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, who also performed the inaugural concert. Though the first concert was open to the public, admission will be restricted only to members, during forthcoming concerts.

Melodious voice

Melodious voice  

"Coimbatore audience is dear to me. At one of my very first concerts, there were 60 people in the audience," she recalled. Jayashri is now a popular vocalist who has been warmly welcomed by music enthusiasts associated with organisations such as Alapana and Manoranjitham. She was happy that classical music concerts, which were normally organised only in temples and sabhas, were reaching a much wider audience. It was an indication of the interest evinced by music enthusiasts, who were now much more open to classical music.

Jayashri's musical talents had come to light at the tender age of three, when Jayashri's mother, Seetha Subramaniam, who had been teaching a Ranjani varnam to some of her young students, found to her surprise that her daughter was able to reproduce the ragas much more easily than many of the older students.

Musical talent evidently ran in the family, for Jayashri's maternal and paternal grandfathers were both professional musicians. Her parents were Carnatic music teachers too, and her home was always full of melodious voices.

It was something of an irony that for the first two decades of her life in Mumbai, Jayashri had almost never attended a music concert, though she constantly listened to the programmes on the radio. Jayashri, who moved from Mumbai to Chennai to be closer to the world of music that was closest to her heart, now lives near the seashore, at Valmiki Nagar in Thiruvanmiyur, in Chennai. Her husband Ramnath is a chartered accountant, and the couple has a five-year-old son, Amrit. She now has about 30 albums to her credit, and practices three or four hours every day, in order to keep her voice in top condition.

Throughout her climb to fame, Jayashri has been supporting social service ventures, by involving herself in fund-raising programmes. She was happy to be associated with Rajalakshmi Trust, which would provide healthcare to the underprivileged, conduct free health camps, subsidise the cost of medical treatment, and also serve the elderly.

"I am planning a hospital for cancer patients," said Dr. Sathish Kumar, founder of the Trust. "I want to develop an Institute of Oncology, and start old age homes that will care for the elderly at reasonable rates. Education is another important aspect, and the Trust will sponsor a part of the fees for needy students."

By Michael Raj A. A.

Photos: S. Siva Saravanan