Late Padmabushan Sri Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana a doyen of Carnatic music, passed away on the 11th. He was my fathers cousin and close to him since their college days. Over the last ten years, i had the privilege of interacting with him several times, and also supporting his publishing activities in a small way. The last I spoke to him was when he called me to offer his condolences when my father passed away in March. Having been close to my father for the last 7 decades, he could not control his tears at the loss of his cousin and a friend. I was deeply touched with this and was in fact surprised at how some relationships can sustain themselves over several decades.
Since he was was based in Hyderabad, (which unfortunately is not as culturally vibrant in Carnatic music as Chennai is.) he was not an integral part of the Mylapore circuit and consequently did not get his due fame as a performer. However teaching and preserving the knowledge was his svadharma and this he did relentlessly. He was most prolific in his writings and recordings from the point of view of codification and archiving of the music. On this count one can safely say that there is no one else in India, who has done as much as he did. What the audiences of one generation may have lost, will surely be enjoyed by future generations of aficionados.
I went this morning to pay my last respects and was blessed with an extraordinary experience of seeing his students sitting around his body and singing all the kirtanas he loved. All the songs he taught them. The love they had for him, the pain they were feeling at their loss, came through in their songs and physical expressions. Tears filled eyes, voices quiviering with emotions, but musical notes laced with pure devotion and love for their Guru. I sat there transfixed with the experience and in that single moment i could feel and understand what a relationship between a Guru and a Shishya actually means. Why our Shasthras lay so much emphasis on the Guru – Shishya parampara. It is not one of a teacher and a student, but something far beyond. It transcends the teacher, the taught and the teaching itself. Language is limiting to express this understanding and insight that I had and felt this morning. A surreal moment. A great teacher, gone forever.
As someone who is also deeply passionate about the need to preserve our rich cultural heritage, his death was certainly a great loss for me. However I left with the comforting thought that his music will survive not just through his books and recordings but through his students too.