A Tribute to Smt. Indira Sivasailam

I knew Indira even before she became my sambandhi. I knew of her great love for Carnatic music and her tutelage under senior vidwans. A graduate in music from Queen Mary’s College, Indira trained for the longest time under Sri. D K Jayaraman, even performing with his group in a Music Academy morning program. She had the single good fortune of being mentored by great musicians like Smt. M L Vasanthakumari and the doyen Sri. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

I knew that her parental home used to reverberate to the strains of many Carnatic kritis that were continuously sung by sweet-voiced Indira and her talented sisters. Indira carried her love for music through here entire life, constantly practicing in spite of the multifarious responsibilities of managing her family. A seat in the first row of the Music Academy during the December season was hers by right and choice. She was happiest when enjoying the soaring music performances of great complexity laced with bhakti.

Indira was a lifelong patron of music, along with her husband, Sri. Sivasailam. She was a committed sponsor for many of the programs and awards of the Music Academy, instituting the G. Ramakrishna Iyer Award in her father’s memory.

Home, music, Vendanta, Sanskrit literature were the different strands that made up Indira. Our mutual friends always recall the hours they spent discussing various Sanskrit texts, especially the Ramayana. The esoteric questions of Hindu philosophy also engaged her attention so much so that throughout her life she sought out renowned teachers in order to obtain that understanding. Both in music and Sanskrit, Indira wanted children and youngsters to have the best opportunity to learn. She herself used to conduct classes in Sanskrit for children in her leisure time.

Indira took immense pride in her home and her hospitality threw open its doors to numerous friends. Another aspect of Indira’s natural hospitality was her interest in extending it to many others, especially the disadvantaged, through annadanam.

The most moving proof of how music was bound up with Indira’s life, if proof were indeed needed, was during her last days. One of her last acts of consciousness, says Mallika, was her rendering of a song expressing her gratitude to Lord Kapaleeswarar, ‘Nambikettavar Evaraiiya’. Indeed, music was the silken thread that held her in entirety.

One cannot but remember here Indira’s younger daughter Jayashree who had imbibed her mother’s interest in and love for music, besides being endowed with a mellifluous voice. I see now that all of Indira’s rootedness in South Indian social and cultural traditions, her love for Carnatic music and desire to encourage young talent have been passed on to her daughter Mallika who carries on the baton and commemorates with love all her mother’s desires in the ways that she would have wanted her to.

Smt. Prema Srinivasan