There aren’t enough words to express my deep sense of gratitude to my guru and guide Shivu sir. He has been my guiding light for about twenty years now.
I first met Shivu Sir, when I was in school. I did my schooling at Mahila Mandali. Everyday when I walked back home, I would see him at a watch shop, where he would come to meet his friend. I would say hello to him and walk on. But the day I finished my mridangam junior exam under the guidance of Guru S.V Giridhar, I was super excited. I was walking past the shop and saw him, and screamed in a high-pitched voice “Uncle, I passed my junior exam!” I can’t forget that incident till today!
I started playing for recordings in the early nineties. I would meet him at these recordings. I would play the R8 (Rhythm machine) and he would play the tabla. Playing with him in these studios invariably turned the recordings into classes and I started learning the nuances of rhythm playing from him. With Shivu sir, any place I was with him was classroom; I have learnt from him when we were in a recording studio, in a car, a bus, a train, on a flight, and even on a Jawa bike. We constantly have conversations revolving around rhythm and there is always something I learn from these discussions.
The first time I performed with my Guruji was at Bharthiya Vidya Bhavan for T. Srinivas sir’s ensemble piece. This was the first time I was playing the rhythm pads for a classical concert. During the rehearsals for this concert, Shivu sir sensed my nervousness and asked me what mukthaya I would be most comfortable playing. When I replied saying there was only one mukthaya that I was confident about, he decided that all the percussionists would play the same muktaya. This has been his way of functioning all through his life. He puts everybody at ease, instills confidence and is always encouraging. Another incident that I must mention here is an incident that happened in Maryland USA. I was performing with the late Carnatic legend R.K. Srikantan sir. On stage he started singing a kriti in mishra chapu, but the tani avartanam was in ‘four akshara’s ateetha’. I started panicking. Shivu Sir, who was backstage, realised my predicament. The next thing I know is, I was being served a glass of water that I hadn’t asked for. When I took the glass in my hand I realised Shivu sir had sent me a small piece of paper which had the formula from samam to edupu. Such is his generosity and kindness.
There are thousands of instances like this where Shivu sir has helped me and guided me to become a better musician and a better human being.
(Arun Kumar and G. Guruprasanna, who are percussionists in their own right, have written these pieces for the souvenir that will be released on March 29. These are excerpts from the articles.)