Saturday, 11 June 2016

Decoding MS

She probably submitted her life to a man who promised her freedom from her birth. Freedom from the family of courtesans, catapulting her to national fame, managing her etiquette, her manners, her style, her life, her very being and gave us the doyen of music- MS Subbulakshmi. That MS is revered by one and all and that she is undoubtedly the Queen of Birugas, no doubt.

MS Subbulakshmi in her famed MS Blue saree
Freedom fighter turned firebrand press man T Sadasivam held the strings, married her as his second wife, controlled her in toto and held a vice like grip on her, alienating her from her family. MS was forbidden even from visiting her ailing mother.

 The picture where MS appears in her youth, posing with a cigarette has been doing the rounds in social media much to the uproar of the 'upper caste' patriarchy that still holds MS blue and besari as revered. Had she remained Madurai Shanmukavadivu, a courtesan and sung the same birugas, we'd have given the same respect to the humanity that overflowed in her.
The lady posing with the cigarette is said to be MS
What as a patriarchal society we failed to do is realise that she was a simpleton woman with dreams who was pushed to the limits by both Sadasivam and his confidante Kalki to perform the 'life of a Brahmanical high society lady'. Though we can draw comparisons with Eliza Doolittle of Pygmalion, what hits right on our face is very own RK Narayan's short story Selvi (published 1982) which is a blow by blow account on the life of none other than MS. 

Right from the name 's...i' to the life the leading artiste leads, her trials, her smooth submission to her agent Mohan (Sadasivam) and how the protagonist shuns all riches to reach her ailing mother ( in reality MS was forbidden to visit her dying mother), RK Narayan leaves no doubt in making us clear that he felt MS must have left her glass castle by then. 

Here is what Gowri Ramnarayan, the grand niece of MS has found and written- the pencil corrections of a small vignette of MS is found on the first page of the story Selvi. Proves beyond doubt he read into the soul of MS and had written about what she could have done, as usual we failed to take the cue.
Screenshot from dna india, article by Gowri Ramnarayan
 MS might have lived a satisfied life as a globe trotting, high- flying, society wife, singing her bhajans and collecting awards. Yet, there isn't the need to revere her, putting her in the high pedestal and treating her God! She is, by all means human, a real pitiable one at that and though I'm no big fan of Carnatic music, I sincerely doubt that if I would ever think cheap about her humble beginnings. What matters to us is, she isn't the typical TamBrahm domesticated singer. No sir. She has the right to hold the fag and drag it too!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

One More Mother's Day

*warning- lengthy post*

One more Mother's Day. Motherhood celebrated as diamonds, flowers and cards. Emotions flowing turbulent than a hundred rivers. "I worship her. I love my mom. My mom is the greatest". Ah! So far, so nice.

It was a hot day in April as we both staggered to the bus stand of our nearby town. She was bone weary, under treatment for her menopause and we both stood waiting for the bus in the sweltering heat. She was not her usual chirpy self. We had been running all over the hospital for more than half a day and the heat wasn't helping us either. I coaxed her to take a taxi back to our village and she refused vehemently. She can be at her stubborn worst some days.

As we clambered from the dusty bus that dropped us back home, she was silent. I too was engrossed in my thoughts, of how to get her back to normal. I was about 18 years then, awaiting my appointment in railways. The moment we entered the house, she threw up. Literally all over the hall. I held her, patted her back and took her to the bedroom, helped her to bed and came back to the messy hall.

I started cleaning and mopping the place and there she came back sitting on the wooden chair, her face full of remorse and eyes glistening with unshed tears. I scowled, made faces and tried to send her back to bed, but no, she wouldn't budge. "See, I made my daughter clean up this mess!", she was saying repeatedly. Those were the worst days and worser days followed. She could sing like a lark. She learnt Carnatic music. She was a fashionista. She spoke and wrote impeccable English. She was a great orator and a wonderful teacher.

I'd have rather wanted her to sing an album some day. She could have penned a book. She could have written a play. She could have been, but she wasn't. She never got beyond the walls of a home. A home that was built to confine her. To curb her. To chortle her dreams. Children who always looked up to her for advice, for guiding their lives and there was her husband who was totally dependent on her. The home, the family- they clipped her wings. Oh we loved her. Never doubt that. She loved us back with equal vigour. True that.

If a person's dreams are realised, understood and cherished, they just blossom. It is like fine polishing a rock and discovering the diamond underneath. Love does that. Scraps the finery. Sheds the ordinary and brings the lustre. We never do that. Do we? By the single word 'Mother' we smother her. We kill her creativity. We suck her time. She is pulled into our delectable web of family and love that she forgets her identity. She ceases to exist as an individual. She is 'someone's wife', 'someone's mom'. She is never 'her'. There is nothing about 'her'.

And when she eternally sleeps in the ornate grave, I remind myself that I shouldn't be her replica. I regret having never understood the diamond we had amidst us as a rock. Mothers aren't destined to give Horlicks and boost to the kids. We aren't destined to rot away in the kitchens. We aren't meant to do ninth standard home work and sixth standard charts. No one shall gather a rock, kiss it and polish it. It's the rock that has to withstand the weather. It has to prove its worth. It has to remember all along that it is a diamond. Cherishing your mother and giving her enough space to just be herself, discovering her path and treading on it- pledge that on Mother's Day. Bring out her hidden talent. Pat her back everytime she tries to please you. Acknowledge her. Help her bloom. Or it might be very late.

As for the vibrant and independent mothers out there- a shout out to you girls. Dream more. Hunt for your paths. Stop not till you find the real you! Don't be bound by 'duty'. It's your life, baby! Live it. Every day is our day👍😊