One of my favourite a samskrita shlOkas goes like this:

आकाशात् पतितम् तोयम् यथा गच्छति सागरम् ।
सर्वदेव नमस्कारः केशवम् प्रति गच्छति ॥

ಆಕಾಶಾತ್ ಪತಿತಂ ತೋಯಂ ಯಥಾ ಗಚ್ಛತಿ ಸಾಗರಮ್ |
ಸರ್ವದೇವ ನಮಸ್ಕಾರಃ ಕೇಶವಂ ಪ್ರತಿ ಗಚ್ಛತಿ ||

AkAshAt patitam tOyam yathA gachchati sAgaram |
sarva dEva namaskArah kESavam prati gachchati ||

Just like all the water falling from the sky reaches the ocean,
Whichever God you wish to pray, it reaches him, the Almighty.

All roads lead to VaikunTha. Or if you care, All roads lead to Kailasa. Or let me be less sectarian by simply saying “All roads lead to Heaven”. Since it is December, and I want to phrase that differently. “All roads lead to Mylapore”. Yes. Mylapore. The Heaven. Musical Heaven.

You got it. If it is December, then it must be Madras. And if it is Madras, it must be Mylapore. Every December, this is  the Kashi of Karnataka Sangeetha every Rasika wants to be at. If you are a classical music fan, then visit you must. 

Chennai, Chennapattinam, Mylapore, Mayilai.. Hey- What’s in a name? A Rose is a Rose is a Rose – Call it by any name. Did you say a Koovam is a Koovam is a Koovam? Alright. The musical fragrance of Madras during December can even compensate the stench of a thousand Koovam rivers!

It was much more than a decade a ago, but still feels like yesterday. Running from Sabha to Sabha. Taking the Pallavan Bus service. Walking. Biking. Riding my Luna. Mylapore Fine Arts to Music Academy to Alwarpet to Adayar Ananthapadmanabhaswami Kovil to Vani Mahal in Tirumalai Pillai Road to the Tirupati Temple in Thiagaraja Nagar. Mylapore was the center of this universe. I went to every place I could afford to go. Time? It was ample, for I was still a student, and could cut classes at will😉  I was fortunate enough to spend two winters in Madras. Er…- To be politically correct, I think I should call it Chennai now :) 

I just can’t forget  the day I set foot in Madras. It was on my birthday in late July. Mid- monsoon in my opinion. It was raining in all over south Karnataka. Overcast skys and puddles of water everywhere on the streets. Having lived at 3000 ft above sea level most of my life till then, I had no clue how miserable I would be at this place that was to be home for next two years. It was not for nothing my hometown was called the ‘Poor man’s Ooty’. The moment I got down on the platform at Chennai Central, I thought I was doomed to come to this burning furnace.  To add insult  to injury, there was the all -pervasive smell of Koovam (which I became aware of  in my next hour or so!) Just to think of my next two years in this place was far from a pleasant experience.

I did recover from the initial shock. Getting busy with coursework. New friends. Listening to Chennai Vaanuli Nilaiyam. Madras radio had lot to offer. A lot of classical music. Much better than good old Akashavani BengaLooru Bhadravati mattu Maisooru. Also there was a new task of learning Tamizh. In no time, not only did I start speaking, but also started reading. Contrary to what I thought, learning reading and writing was not at all difficult. No. I didn’t use the “Learn Tamizh in 30 Days” primer. What were all those hoardings doing there on either  side of Mount Road… Sorry Anna Salai? Almost every board was written Tamizh and English (except most Pallavan buses). And Kodambakkam churns out a few movies every week. I did know names of many stars – Kamala Hasan, Rajanikanth, Prabhu etc. Also, the menu at restaurants was not new at all – Idli, Masala Dosa, Rava Dosa, Chutny, Sambar..;-) Those menu cards came in handy too! To make a long story short, in no time I was into pattern matching known names and words. Knowing facts such as Tamizh does have only one non-nasal consonant per row of consonants in Kannada really helped. And few weeks later, my brother got the shock of his life and almost fell of his chair when I started reading credits from a movie we were watching in a theater in Teynampet.

In a few months I discovered Madras had a lot of quality music to offer. Till I went to Madras I hardly knew about ‘the season’. Yea, it is called the Music Season. Every year between in December-January, Madras hosts a lot of concerts in a number of venues.  In fact there are so many that you have to be the ‘sarvAntaryAmi’ if you want to attend all the conerts you wish to. Even the extremely sultry Madras weather turns somewhat pleasant to welcome this musical treat. If you have time, and inclination, you can attend concerts to your hearts content. This was where I became so passionate about listening to unheard compositions. Ragas that were unknown to me then. Each one, a treat.

The morning lec-dems at the Academy and Mylapore Fine Arts were a bonus. Not too much crowd there. I remember one program of Vijaya Shiva, where I sat next to a gentleman who arrived in a Luna (or it might have been TVS-50).Vijaya Shiva had sung a wonderful Shuddha Vasanta that day. A year or so later he became the rising star Sanjay Subramanian. He wasn’t so well known at that point of time I think.

I was in Madras for less than two years. And then it was the time to move on. After that I have not even had a single chance to visit the city during the season. But the memories still linger. May be one day, I will go there. Spend the whole month free of everyday worries. Just listening to the divine music. It won’t happen this year. It most likely won’t happen next year. For all I know, it may not happen for another ten years. May not be until kids grow up. May not be until I am into my retirement.

But I am willing to wait for my wish to come true. If wishes were horses, they can take you to heaven some day! To heaven. Musical Heaven. Mylapore.

-neelanjana