Amma - M. S. Subbulaxmi
India is the only country which has two kinds of Classical Music. One from the south of India and other is from the north of India but historically they were called Hindustani and Carnatic.

In this celebration of India’s 60 years of Independence we should collectively represent our nation and especially for the understanding of the whole world, it would be appropriate to call both these terms as Indian classical music of the south and Indian classical music of the north. I had discussed this with all the greats of north and south including Smt. M.S.Subbulaxmi, Shri Semmengudi Srinivas Iyer, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saheb, Amir Khan Saheb and Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. All of them wholeheartedly agreed on this point.

Smt. M.S.Subbulaxmi became household name and legend in her life time. Right from the time of Mahatama Gandhi, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Dr. Radhakrishnan, she was the ultimate performer and always performed at the most prestigious occasions and festivals.

I only knew her through my father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb until the time I met or heard her concert. I remember once I was driving and the radio was on. I was alone in the car. In those days All India Radio was a very prestigious organization. Lot of artists use to put up name plates at their door saying AIR artist! Anyway, I realized a lady singing south Indian music, the music was so appealing that I got engrossed and at the same time I thought could this lady be Smt. M.S. Subbulaxmi? I could not drive further as I did not want to miss any musical phrase, so I stopped the car at the side and waited till the end for the announcement and I felt very happy when the radio station said that it was Smt. M.S. Subbulaxmi. She had that spiritual appeal and power in her music.

It was my good fortune that whenever I performed in Chennai she always came and sat in front seat with her daughter Radha and of course her husband Mr. Sadasivam. I visited her house many times in Chennai.

After my marriage to Smt Subhalakshmi Borooah, I realized my wife was named after M.S (as she was affectionately called by music lovers). She was a noble soul and a beautiful lady who also acted in several films. Her film ‘Meera’ and her rendition of the spiritual bhajans were so captivating that my in-laws in Assam named their newly born daughter after M.S. who is now my wife Subhalakshmi. My wife spent 15 years in Kalakshetra under the giudence of the great Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale and became a celebrated dancer. During this period she had developed a personal rapport with M.S. who treated her like her own daughter. My wife could communicate in Tamil with her fluently.

We visited her house in Chennai after our marriage along with our sons Amaan and Ayaan. She was very keen that we should visit Kanjipuram to take blessings from His Holiness Sri Chandra sekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal also called Periyava. She personally organized our trip to Kanjipuram. My whole family had the honour of meeting and having darshan of all three Shankaracharyas. It was my honour and privilege to pay my musical homage along with Amaan and Ayaan. Smt. Subbulaxmi always told us that if Shankaracharya even looked upon us, it’s a great blessing.

In another occasion, Smt. M.S.Subbulaxmiji and I were receiving an award together called Sangeet Sagaram given by the Chief Minister of Hydrabad. At that time, it was Mr. Vijay Bhasker Reddy. I always admired the way South Indian people honour artists. It’s almost like worshipping the artist. Amma, as we affectionately called her, was sitting on a low chair and the CM was standing and doing Aarti and all kind of decorations to the artist. When my name was announced, I kept standing but the CM requested me to sit but I replied that I can stand as was feeling awkward to sit while the CM is standing but it was a ritual that the awardee sits. Any way after receiving the award, on behalf of amma, Mr. Sadasivam spoke and thanked the organizers. When they requested me to speak, I was in such a position from where I could see the beautiful face of Amma. My opening words were, “I am so fortunate that I have two Subbulaxmis in my life (I could see Amma smiling) one in the form of a mother and the other in the form of my wife.

All of us felt very happy when she received the Bharat Ratna. We attended the lunch after the award ceremony given by Mr. and Mrs. Gopal Gandhi, my old friend and also the grandson of Mahatama Gandhi and present Governor of West Bengal.

The Last time we visited her place and met her was soon after she lost her husband. At that time she was losing her memory. Her adopted son Mr. Atma was looking after her. Amaan and Ayaan presented their book, which they wrote on me which she saw with great interest. She then requested me to sing some compositions and we all sang and made her feel happy. She became very childlike by then.

We had also honoured her with our annual Haafiz Ali Khan Award 1988 which we organized at Rani Sethai hall in Chennai on 28th Dec.1989. The other award winner was Ustad Bismillah Khan Saheb and the ceremony was followed by a performance by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. I pray that her soul rests in peace.