M S Subbulakshmi’s Centenary Birth Anniversary: Prof M S Swaminathan
(Pic: M S Subbulakshmi performs at MSSRFcampus in 1993, MSSRF file pic)
Chennai, September 16, 2016: Today marks the centenary of the birth anniversary of the queen of music M S Subbulakshmi. My first introduction to her divine music was through the film Meera, which is the only movie I have seen at the midnight show when I was studying at the Coimbatore Agricultural College. Meera helped to bring a wonderful blend of Carnatic and North Indian music as well as classical and folk music. More recently in 1993 I went along with Shri N Ram to request her to sing the invocation song at the dedication of our laboratory building. She readily accepted and said that she will sing the song composed by Paramacharya of Kanchi for her performance at the United Nations (Maithreem Bhajata). Next day she rang me and asked whether she could sing a second song composed by Rajaji (Kurai onrum illai). I was stuck by her humility and humanism and replied “please sing both the songs”. Her captivating music was the highlight of the dedication ceremony. The Foundation has always enjoyed her blessings and also of her husband Sadasivam.
Among the human qualities of MS I should mention particularly her treating herself as the trustee of her voice and music and not the owner. This Gandhian concept led her to give away all the prize money in the form of awards. To cite just one example, I was Chairing a concert given by her in Chennai. At the end, the organizers presented her with a cheque for Rupees Ten lakhs. She gave it to me and said “please give this to Dr Badrinath for Sankara Nethralaya”. She further told me that she is not accustomed to taking such monetary gifts home and would like to give them away then and there – a remarkable human quality of giving without any expectation of reciprocity. When I wrote to Shri I K Gujral the then Prime Minister that MS should be conferred with Bharat Ratna, his response was immediate and positive. Bharat Ratna was announced soon and I went to see her on the day of the award. She only said the she wished that the award had been given when her husband Sadasivam alive. The queen of music was a queen of humility and generosity of heart and mind. MSSRF will always remain indebted to her for her blessings.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.