Season of melody dawns upon Namma Chennai

If a sharp knock on the door is heard, as if a woodpecker is at it, it will be Ganapathi paying his annual visit to our home to ‘do’ the sabhas in December. This worthy, hailing from Thanjavur, is domiciled in Karnataka, where the town Vatapi (now Badami) is situated, immortalised by Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Hamsadhwani kriti Vatapi Ganapathim Bajeham. Ergo, his name Vatapi Ganapathi.

A mobile, flesh-and-bone Google, he will be a boon to have by one’s side during the music season. Ask him who will render the maximum number of concerts this season? His reply like a shot will be, “Soumya. Twentyone at the last count”. He will continue with authority. “Visakha Hari will do two concerts without Harikatha mix. And the caterer back at Mylapore Fine Arts to tempt the rasika’s palate with silky Thiruvaiyaru Ashoka halwa will be Bhaskar Mookambika.”

His sabha-crawl has a strict regimen that would call for a reservoir of energy and ardent love for music plus appetite for quality food. He has them in abundance. From a network of friends and relatives he will rotate the season tickets so he can enjoy the best - without missing an artiste should there be an overlap. “No problem, however, for top-ranker T.N. Krishna,” he told me, “because none of his concerts will be ticketed. Bless him!”

It is common knowledge that many of the erstwhile Carnatic musicians were blessed with a keen sense of humour. Ganapathi’s rollicking anecdotes involving titans like Ariyakudi, Semmangudi and Sembai are gems, though a few of them, possibly apocryphal, narrated by him gleefully would not be politically correct to be retold in mixed company.

According to him - this one is kosher! - when Maharajapuram Santha­nam, who much later met his fate in a tragic car accident, was lovingly invited after a concert was over that he should come again to delight the rasikas - varumbadi irukkanum, Santhanam, the punster, shot back: varumbadi irundhal varamal iruppena? Smartly underscoring the financial angle.

Ganapathi, who drinks life to the lees, treats his visit to Chennai as an annual high point in his life. He quotes poet Thiruvalluvar: When there is no food for the ear, the stomach will be fed a little - but in my case, not little - but mouthfuls, having no excess sugar or lipids in the blood — or a demanding wife who will exercise her matrimonial rights and bossily monitor what I eat, when I eat and where I eat.”

“I am a free bird, not yet married, trying to live up to the name Ganapathi,” he would boast. But I reckon that inasmuch as the 8bachelor god Ganapathi parks himself under the green canopy of peepul trees near riverbanks searching for a wife who will match his mother’s looks and grace, he is visiting the Sabhas in Chennai looking for an ideal wife!

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