Extra chairs had been placed in the aisles and in any available gap. The concert hall was wall to wall with fans of the young and the older maestro. Both artists were going to sing five different ragas in their own inimitable style. The tickets had sold out within two days of issue. Shivam Shastry (SS) was only sixteen but had a towering stature in the Carnatic music world. Madhava Madhavan (MM) was an institution in himself. His disciples already had fame and fortune. MM hailed from a family of classical singers dating back a couple of centuries. Goddess Saraswati still looked upon the Madhavan family with benevolence. There was only one aberration. For the first time, girls and not sons would carry on the Madhavan legacy. MM had two daughters and no son.
*** *** *** ***
Rukmini was in love. Ever since she attended the concert of young Madhava Madhavan with her paati, she could not keep her eyes off this handsome singer. MM sang and played the mridangam with equal ease. Rukmini was twelve and MM was sixteen and was performing with his father and guru SreeVenkatesh Madhvan (SVM).
Rukmini lived in Bangalore with her widowed mother who was a doctor. Against the wishes of her family Savitri had single handedly managed to complete her studies and had even married a fellow student. Both the doctors set up a modest hospital with ten beds and now it was 200 bed facility. They were both hard working with hearts of gold. Once due to overwork and lack of sleep, Dr. Subramanian Swamy (Subbu) committed a fatal error in diagnosis and the patient died. The family of the deceased were none the wiser but Subbu could not forgive himself and in a state of depression died in a head on collision at a busy intersection… Savitri’s world was unraveling. In one blow, she lost her husband, dear friend and right hand. Their daughter Rukmini was only five years old and could not understand why her beloved appa will not be coming home. Savitri was drowning. Then she thought of her feisty paati in the village who was still on talking terms with her. She immediately sent for her. Now she could leave Rukmini with her and attend to her work without guilt. Life thus moved on. Savitri’s family too forgave her and rallied around her in her hour of need plus the fact that she was a successful doctor also went a long way towards this reconciliation!!
*** *** ***
Rukmini was seventeen and enjoying her vacation in paati’s village. Across from paati’s home was the only modern guest house of this village. Rukmini noticed a lot of hustle and bustle in the guesthouse. She asked Kavithamma their live in help and distant relative about it and she told her that Madhava Madhavan was going to stay there. The village was honoring him as he had ties to this village through his mother and they wished to honor him and also bring their tiny village into limelight thereof. He was all of 21 years old and very handsome. Rukmini was on cloud nine. She owned all his music albums and was simply transported into another world on hearing his voice. She could not sing but music was in her soul and she loved his voice. Per family tradition, Ruku too was going into medicine like her parents.
Ruku was too excited to sleep. Paati and Kavithamma had gone to help with childbirth in the neighborhood. She keeps a vigil near the window so that she could get a glimpse of her idol. Finally she sees him enter the guesthouse surrounded by the organizers. Listening to his music, she dozes off. Around 3.30am she feels thirsty and as she drinks water she glances out and sees MM emerge from the guesthouse and quietly go for walk. She too scrambles and runs after him without thinking.
MM walks slowly looking at the paddy fields and enjoys the quiet and the clean air. Full moon is still bright enough even though the dark is dissipating. Finally he goes and sits near the village river’s banks. Actually MM was near exhaustion with too many concerts, lack of sleep and a touch of fever. He wanted to getaway from everyone and be by himself. Hence this walk in the wee hours. He lies down on his back in the grass and falls into a deep slumber.
Ruku gets scared after seeing MM lying like this in the grass. She rushes over and places his head in her lap nd hugs him. She realizes that he has fever. Scared, she tries to lift him but instead in his feverish stupor MM hugs her closer and somehow Ruku starts expressing her crush by kissing him. He too responds and things get out of hand and they make passionate love. Then Ruku helps MM get up and with superhuman effort manages to bring him back and leaves him at the guesthouse door. He is very feverish and in semi stupor. MM falls in his bed in deep sleep. Ruku comes home and realizes that paati has not returned. She is both happy and scared.
*** *** ***
Ruku returns to Bangalore and starts studying for her finals. Once in a while she smiles secretly to herself. She realizes that her beloved in all fairness was not in his senses during those magical moments. But she did not care and hugged that memory close to her heart. Ever since appa’s death, she had been very lonely and had fixated all her love on MM who in reality was not even aware of her existence.
Ruku had been feeling nauseous these days and was off food. Being savvy she realized that she may be pregnant. This fact filled her with joy. The only thing was that she needed to break it gently to her mom who doted on her only child. Next week was her eighteenth birthday and her mom and she went for a special dinner to their favorite restaurant. Paati stayed home. There Ruku spilled the beans. Savitri was horrified. Quickly she gathered her wits about her and calmly told Ruku that they will have to plan something quickly to do damage control. Ruku is adamant about keeping the baby. Savitri feels she is treading on eggshells. She does not want to lose her only child and at same time wants to protect her from herself. In no time, she gets a substitute doctor to takeover the reins of the hospital and removes Ruku from school on medical grounds. Savitri is a respected doctor and no one questions her decision. Swearing paati to secrecy Savitri and Ruku leave for an obscure hamlet where no one knows them.
They rent a house and begin living there for next six months. She introduces Ruku as a pregnant war widow. Everyone feels sorry for Ruku and go out of their way to help her. Time passes by on wings. Ruku is having labor pains. Finally with Savitri’s help she gives birth to a boy. Since the birth had been difficult she falls asleep exhausted. Meanwhile Savitri had arranged for a still born baby and switches the child with the baby boy- her grandson. She notices his beautiful face and a star shaped birthmark on his neck. He appears to be a noble soul. Savitri hardens her heart and after ensuring that the baby was fine for a week or so, she quietly leaves it on the doorstep of the priest of the Shiva temple. She had found out that he had two daughters but no son. Ruku on knowing about her still born child is devastated. She does not wish to stay there another moment.. They leave for Bangalore after visiting the Shiva temple.
Ruku puts all her energies into her studies and joins her mother in the hospital. All joy from her life had fled. In the interim, she’d read news about MM getting married to a classical kathak dancer and fathering two girls over the years but no son.
*** *** *** ***
Priest Rama Shastry cannot help but feel regret that the baby was not a boy. Then he consoles himself that it was the lord’s will. Suddenly he hears sounds of a child crying. He finds a baby lying on his steps. He realizes it is a baby boy. He is very excited and considers it a blessing from Shiva. He names the baby Shivam and happily places it in his wife Seeta’s lap. Seeta is a very placid uncomplicated soul. If the Shastry wanted her to care for the baby, then be it so. As it is she had ample milk to feed her two week old girl and enough for Shivam. She will become his Yashoda.
Shivam happily gurgled as though he was in his own nest. One main ingredient that he had extra was music. Music was in his soul. From day one Shivam’s hands and arms moved rhythmically to some divine melody which only he heard. Early on Rama Shastry realized he had a musical prodigy in his home. He quickly visits Sri Nageshwaran who was a retired musician of yester years.
SN had garnered both fame and fortune in his heyday and was resting on his laurels. He survived on a modest sum. One being a small stipend that a wealthy patron had settled upon him for the duration of his life. The house was ancestral and one portion had been rented and he and his wife lived frugally. Luckily they were also in good health. Now Ramashastry was persuading him to tutor Shivam. He was a hard taskmaster and did not take students unless they were exceptional. He agrees conditionally and would give his decision after hearing Shivam. Shivam was now five years old and had already created some original music which the Shastry had recorded on an old tape recorder.
SN listens to the tape and is wonderstruck. In all his 70+ years he had not heard such music. These were new compositions and even though the basic ragas were the same, the treatment was fresh. There was something divine in this music. He agrees to take on Shivam sight unseen and without fees as it would be his privilege. Ramashastry is delighted. Thus under the expert tutelage of the venerable SN, Shivam’s exuberant music is given some skilful tempering and discipline. At times SN feels as though he was showing a lamp to the sun- such was the quality of Shivam’s compositions… Soon SN has taught Shivam all he knew and suggests additional guidance from other able gurus.
He writes a letter to his friend and disciple Madhava Madhavan who is now a big name. MM had had both his father MM senior and SN as his gurus and held SN in very high regard. He immediately replies to SN that due to too many commitments he would not be able to help Shivam himself but the senior MM would take on Shivam, as he was already teaching music to his two granddaughters Shivani and Kritika. SN is delighted. Shivam was indeed lucky. MM senior was revered in the music world. Also Shivam would be residing with the senior MM in his home in Chennai. MM junior lived in Bangalore. These days his girls were with their paata who was also their guru. Ten year old Shivam was all set to join them. He had spent five years with SN.
*** *** ***
The minute MM sr. lays eyes on Shivam he is thunderstruck!! Shivam is the spitting image of MM jr. when he was that age. How could that be! He is really puzzled.
However, he keeps his own counsel and begins to put Shivam through his musical paces. Shivam’s talent is indeed awe inspiring. MM sr. reckons that Shivam is far ahead of the whole Madhavan clan. The girls Shivani and Kritika were also gifted and sang like angels. Excitement courses through his tired old veins and he feels rejuvenated. Shivani and Kritika are seven and five and well on their way to be great classical singers. MM sr.;s heart used to swell with pride when they sang but now Shivam’s talent has overshadowed all. He vows to teach everything that he knows to this worthy shishya. Together they create some wonderful original compositions. This year’s Thyagraja Festival was in for a treat with Shivam’s eclectic singing. He rubbed his hands in glee. After all he was Shivam’s guru. One day, a musical score was at the back of his mind and he wanted to share it with Shivam. He was too impatient and goes to wake up Shivam.
Shivam is fast asleep. As the guru approaches to gently wake him up, his hand is arrested in the air. He is in a state of shock. He sees the star shaped birthmark on Shivam’s neck!! This had been running in their family for generations!! Both he and MM jr. had it and even Kritika had it on her neck. Shivani however did not have this birth mark. His mind is in a tizzy!! Shivam looks like MM jr. and has the birthmark- but how where why could he be his grandson. He is truly mystified.
Shivam has been in Chennai in the guru’s house for 6 years. He has made good friends with Shivani and Kritika who adore his simplicity and generosity of spirit. He is like their anna. Now they are all ready to sing in public. A big event is planned and concert tickets have already sold out. MM jr. and Shivam will be facing each other for the first time.
The girls leave for Bangalore to attend their mother Indu’s Dance School’s first public concert and be with her before they return for their own music concert. Shivam goes back to his family in the village. He misses his Sitamma very much and his appa and sisters. For past six years he had been back home only for brief periods. He was attending regular school in Chennai now with the girls.
**** **** ****
MM Jr.’s wife Indirani Madhava (Indu) was very excited. Her students were ready for a public performance and already the venue and posters had been circulated. She was praying for a good turnout. They had arranged to hold the performance at the Rangabhumi Auditorium as its owner was the father of one of her students and was not charging any fee. It was his gift for his daughter. Even free ads had been placed in the Bangalore papers by another parent. The cost of this concert was minimal. Only regret that Indu harbored was that her two girls would not be performing even though they could dance well. Their first love was music. So be it. She had made peace with her dreams.
The day of the concert arrived. MM jr and the girls arrived to give moral support to Indu. She was on 7th heaven to have her loved ones with her. Getting dressed quickly they arrived at the venue. It is all hustle and bustle. Luckily all the tickets were sold out by the students’ families and friends. Indu was a renowned danseuse and was scheduled to give the opening performance herself.
Indu was looking exceptionally lovely today. Happiness had made her face glow. MM jr. and the girls hearts swelled in pride as they watched her electrifying performance. She set the stage on fire with her delightful performance. There was thunderous applause as she took a final bow and then daintily exited the stage. Without wasting too much time in between, the students starting performing one after another. Group number was last.
It was during the group performance that the calamity happened. Due to frequent power failures, one of the lighting fixtures had become faulty and had sparked setting off a fire which soon blazed licking all in its path. Quick witted, Indu rushed to the stage and pushed the girls off the stage. Then holding her precious gold Sarsawathi and Nataraj statues close she too tried to run but the blazing curtain fell on her scorching her. By the time help arrives it was too late. She was gone. All present are devastated. It all happened so quickly that except disbelief and horror nothing else was visible on all faces. The girls and Madhava were in a state of shock. Indu was the only casualty in this fire. The family went into mourning.
*** *** ***
MM jr. had cancelled all appointment and had gone into seclusion. But the girls even though orphaned had bounced back as they were surrounded by loving relatives. Their one regret was that they had not been able to be with their amma more often due to their music and now it was too late. They decide to keep the dance school going. Now they force their appa to come out of depression as they needed him too. Finally MM jr. realizes his selfishness as the girls too were orphaned and gradually comes to terms with his great loss. The girls are now thirteen and eleven respectively. The concert is a month away.
**** **** ****
*** *** ***
Savitri and Ruku are dog tired. Their hospital is overflowing with flu patients and they are hard put to keep up with the care needed. Savitri too comes down with flu. And now Ruku had to manage all by herself. Once in a semi unconscious state Savitri babbles about Ruku’s lovely baby boy and her grandson. Ruku is stunned. She cannot believe her ears.
Now she is determined to know the truth when Savitri recovers. With Ruku’s expert care Savitri is finally as good as new. Ruku forces her to rest for another week as she had never seen her amma rest. Savtri agrees as she does feel wobbly and weak. Next evening when mother and daughter are having a cup of tea, Ruku tells Savitri that she would like a promise from her that whatever she asks, Savitri will reply honestly. Savitri agrees. Then Ruku throws a bombshell. She says “amma pls tell me truthfully whether I had a healthy baby boy or a stillborn girl?” Savitri was stunned as though lightening had struck her. She mumbles” how did you know?” Then Ruku tells her that she had babbled the truth in semi comatose state. Savitri says thank God, you know. I have been carrying this burden like a stone on my heart. At that time I thought that was the best thing to do. You had your whole life ahead of you and a baby was the last thing you needed especially as a single mother. Yet that baby’s beautiful face has been haunting me. Then she tells Ruku that her son had been adopted by Rama Shastry the temple priest. Ruku says she must meet her son and if possible bring him home.
Together they leave to bring the child home if possible.
In the morning they visit the Shiva Temple and ask to see the priest. Rama Shastry invites them to his house and there they tell him the purpose of their visit. When RN finds out that Ruku is Shivam’s mother, he is very happy and then feels very sad for his wife Seeta who loves Shivam very much, even more than their two girls. Next he informs the two ladies that Shivam is a musical prodigy and at present is the disciple of the senior MM and resides in that house in Chennai. Ruku and Savitri are stunned. They become silent in order to be able to absorb this turn of events. They had not divulged the name of Shivam’s father to RN and had maintained that she was an army widow. But now they feel they have to confess. So they tell RN who the father is and he is not surprised. Life was the biggest joker of all and it does come full circle. Full of pride, RN informs them that Shivam will be performing his first concert with MM jr. and his two daughters Shivani and Kritika. The tickets had been sold out already. The women are delighted and after thanking RN and Sita, they leave for Chennai. None of them is aware of the tragedy that has struck MM jr. and his family. Shivam was to arrive home in a week’s time and was still in Chennai.
The Prodigy- Conclusion Part 5
Ruku and Savitri upon reaching Chennai request to see the elder MM. They tell him that they have been sent by, Shivam’s father, Sri Rama Shastry. MM Sr. agrees to meet them. Upon reaching there, they tell him that what they are going to divulge is an extremely delicate manner and may even come as a shock. Then they spill the beans as it occurred unvarnished. They even said that it is quite possible that MM Jr. may not even recall the incident as he was running a fever at that time. MM sr. is elated and perplexed. Having known crazy fans himself it seemed all plausible plus the star shaped birthmark was a clincher. He knew that MM Jr. had indeed been at that location at that time. He came to know that now both the women were respected doctors and owned a renowned hospital in Bangalore. Then he tells them about the sad demise of Indu Madhava and how MM jr. who loved her very much has gone into seclusion. He says in order to set things right for Shivam, he will have to let MM Jr. know about him plus it may help in getting him out of his grief. He also finds out that Ruku is still unmarried and has great affection for his son. So the three of them put their heads together and hatch a plot to bring father and son together and also put an official stamp on it.
The following week, MM Sr. fakes a heart attack and has his wife call MM jr. in panic. At once MM jr. drops everything and grabbing his girls comes to Chennai. He rushes at his father’s side. The doctor tells him that he should not agitate the old man in any manner whatsoever. After a few minutes of faking, MM Sr. calls his son closer and spills the secret.. Jr. is stunned but somehow believes it. Everything, all his hazy thoughts and dreams that had been troubling him feel vindicated. There is a sense of life coming together full circle. He however had no recollection of that crazy fan. He wishes to see his son. Sr. sends for Shivam who has not yet left for his village. But he warns him against saying anything to the boy. Shivam and his father meet one another for the first time. Shivam touches the feet of his guru’s son and is happy. Then Sr. sends for Ruku and Savitri who are already sitting with his wife. Sr. gives the letter sent by SN Shastry to Shivam in which he has asked Shivam to believe whatever is conveyed by Drs. Rukmini and Savitri as it was the truth. Seetamma was his adopted mother and Rukmini was his real mother and MM jr. his father. Shivam is stunned but still loves SN and Sitamma as his parents. He has known none other. For the sake of Shivam, rukmini and MM jr meet once in a while to exchange news about him. They are still filled with wonder that they have a beautiful son. They become good friends. MM jr has not forgotten Indu as he had loved her very much and still grieves for her
*** *** **** ****
Concert day finally arrives and there is lots of excitement in the MM sr.’s household. Three generations of Madhavans were planning to sing tonight. The crowds were in for a rare treat. Amidst thunderous applause this slight change in programming was announced. After requisite invocations and abhishekhams, serious singing begins. First senior MM sings in raga kalyani and then Jr. sings his composition in kalyani, next the girls sing the same raga in unison. The crowd is fully smitten.
Now it is Shivam’s turn. To date no one had heard him. Not even MM jr. MM sr. rubs his hands in glee as he wants to see his son’s expression of wonder when his son sings!!
After due respects to God and guru, Shivam starts singing. His eyes are closed and he only sees Lord Shiva whilst singing. The crowd is totally mesmerized by his clear tones and voice modulation and the inherent purity in his voice. Amidst once more once more and with his guru and appa and sister’s blessings he sings his own elegant thillanas, bhajans, namavalis and abhangs. He wows the crowd so much that involuntarily they rise and give him a standing ovation. The concert is a roaring success. Both MMs and Shivani and Kritika are beaming in happiness. Ruku and Savitri and Shastry family are in tears. Their hearts are bursting in pride and joy. They feel blessed that Shivam belongs to them.
In a very short period of time Shivam is awarded Musician of the Year Award by Sangeet Natak Academy, Central Government. He is the youngest awardee. Soon he is acclaimed as a poet, composer and respected for his in depth knowledge in Carnatic Music and own exquisite compositions.
*** *** ***
It is the grand opening of the Indira Madhava burn Unit of Savitri’s hospital. The donation has come from MM jr to mark her first death anniversary. In this one year, Ruku and MM Jr. have become good friends and when Sr. suggests that they get married, they both agree. Shivam now has four sisters: Shivani and Kritika and the two Shastri girls. All four dote on him equally. He loves all his sisters and considers Sitaamma as his real mother above all.
Anna: elder brother
Paati: grand mother
Paata: grand father