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Saturday, October 03, 2009

An evening with a legend

I am just back from a music recital by Dr.Balamurali Krishna and it’s only slowly sinking in that I had really been in the presence of a legend. Dr. Balamurali has long been one of my most favourite classical singers and I had not even dreamt that I would one day go for a live recital of his and then stand just a few feet away from him.

Sitting there in the darkened auditorium listening to the legend sing was an indescribable experience. Most of the time our emotions are the body’s responses to thoughts but there are some things that impinge on our senses and go straight to the heart, bypassing the mind completely. Music is one such. I sat there enthralled, my heart melted and quivering, and I felt that I had reached the feet of the Lord. Dr. Balamurali is a human, but surely it must be the divine in him singing and the divine in me responding.

The compere informed us that Dr. Balamurali can sing in many languages and can play many instruments. He was a child prodigy and gave his first public performance at the age of six and his first full-fledged performance age at the age of eight at the Thyagaraja music festival. He then went on to give more than 25000 performances, compose ragas, make great innovations in Carnatic music, compose and direct music for films and act in films singing his own songs.

I found it interesting that he only sang songs in praise of the Lord. And I thought how apt! After all God is the only truth there is. And love. But then the two are the same. Why sing of pain and suffering? After all they are illusionary and passing. And so as the notes climb and fall and the music flows out of him so effortlessly, I know I am in the presence of the divine. Where else would such purity, such wealth of spirit, such genius come from?

After the singing he took a break and came back to the stage and signed autographs and posed with people even though he’s almost eighty and had just given a long recital. There were no airs about him, no pompousness, no show of superiority. He posed obligingly with whoever came close and smiled warmly at all as though he was just one of us, not a living legend. There was an elderly lady who couldn’t climb the steps to the stage, so he very kindly got off his chair and sat on the stage so that he could be on the same level with her. Only the truly great can be this humble.

I went and stood close to the stage and took some photographs. I wanted to touch his feet but I was so overwhelmed by his greatness that I couldn’t bring myself to do even that. I was content just standing a few feet away and being in his presence. Driving back home, I was so overcome with emotion, I wept tears of joy. It was an undreamt dream come true. To be in the presence of a genius, to get a glimpse of divinity, to be transported and transformed by greatness. Surely it was a once in a lifetime experience.