23 November, 2012

RIP Rajam Mami

The love for music is in the genes for a few.. I'm one of them. My grandmother learnt music, then my mother learnt music and I learnt music... Carnatic music. I couldnt finish because of the long boarding school life. But at the age of two my mum sent me to maami my neighbour. She taught me slokas and Carnatic music.

During summer holidays my brother and I used to go to her every weekend for a two hour long class. She would start and end with the sapasa. Her handwriting in Tamil was huge letters that filled our 'Paatu notes'. She remembered every lyric... However long the song was. My grandma learnt from her for almost 40 years. She always taught about how Mami remembered the lyrics of Ashtapathi that she taught my grandma for three years (it was that long). She taught 10 other maamis along with my grandma. Everyone found it weird how my grandma joined a group of maamis to learn music. My grandma was the start to music in my family and Maami was the reason.

Maami came from a family of singers from Tanjore. She shifted to Tirupur after her marriage. In and around the lanes we lived, many children and women came to learn from her. She never raised her voice to a naughty child. Never. Children cuddled around her during the weekends.

Every time she sang 'kurai ondrum illai', we would switch off our TVs four houses away to listen to her voice. Her voice was magnetising. She was probably the first person who took me onstage. I don't remember participating in anything on stage other than music.

Today I sing to my son while cradling him to sleep the songs that she taught me. When I knew I was pregnant, I knew I wanted my child to have some love towards music or anything related. I made sure I listened to music every time. There would be 'om' chants echoing in the walls of my house or there would be music playing on the speaker. At night I connected my iPod to a tiny tortoise speaker and kept it near my belly. My mum suggested I went to maami to learn a few new songs

My mum visited her in the hospital last week and she very sweetly reminded my mum to tall me to drink 'jeers water' since I was feeding my son. sweet old lady.

Around my third month I learnt five songs from her and then she fell ill. She had to have injections in her eye and many other procedures. She called and informed me not to come for a few days. Her family situation started getting worse and she was sent to a far off relative's house. Her health condition deteriorated and she was brought back here. With all the shunting around, she was slowing down. We expected her last and it came today. She breathed her last this evening at 530pm.

When the call came this evening, we knew what to expect. In a way we were all hoping it would come sooner, because of the suffering she was going through. I don't believe in the organised form of prayer through religions and their beliefs but from the bottom of my heart - I hope she attains peace in heaven with all the gods she sang about. I hope she enthrals many souls there with her voice.

Her voice echoed in the street we lived in... I can still remember her call me 'bragathi' and my brother 'pranava sai'. Not only do I remember the lyrics of the songs she taught us, I remember the handwriting of hers cause I stared so much at the letters till I learnt each . The woman who taught me my favourite songs and hopefully my son's too.

If I have to be thankful for something today, Maami, I thank the almighty you believe in for having sent you here and made us in the family love music. Thank you for the wonderful alaipayuthey times and long hours of music.

Truly the end of an era. Hope every woman and child you have taught sings for generations to follow.

RIP Maami.

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