The year before last, on March 24, I had visited TMS in his flat. He had been in bed resting even at 10 in the morning though it was his birthday, but came out slowly after seeing me. He warmed up quickly enough, and even essayed some high pitched aalaap! What was he if not a singer and entertainer!
It was about 2 in the afternoon that I left, asking him to take lunch in time. As we sat near the dining table before that, I could see his hands shaking, the effect of Parkinson’s disease that had dogged him for some years, but not this visibly.
I expressed my concern and slowly massaged his hands. There was a tacit understanding of mutual affection and respect between us, but neither I nor he had shown affection outwardly. As my expression of tender affection for him, TMS look appreciatively at me…So you have this much feeling for me…thank you, he seemed to be saying.
TMS and his wife Sumitra stood in front of the little puja niche they had in the drawing room and gave me sacred ash and kumkum. I then recited parts of a song I had written on him and we had staged during the release of his biography, ‘TMS – Oru Pan-paattu Charithiram’.
Then Madhurai Veedhiyile Nadandha Thendral – Avan
Vaigaiyile Mugam Paarkka Vandha Thingal
Themadhura Thamizhosai muzhangum sangam – Avan
Thevaara Thirupaattin Antharangam
Thenamudhaay Thamizh Ulagai Valamvandhaan
Devadevan Muruganavan Balam thandhaan….
…He has heard the song sung before, but when I spell it out to him clearly he gets the meaning.
‘Siththar Solraa Maadhiri Solreengayya..’
(You speak the words like a Siddhar). These are the last words he spoke to me.
I saw him a few days before his passing at his grandson’s marriage at the Hemamalini Kalyana Mandapam. He literally had to be helped to get on to the stage. I went up to the stage and conveyed my pranams. He is utterly weak, but those eyes express their gratitude for being with him all along. After that it was only the body lying in the courtyard of his bungalow for all to pay their respects. The voice had been silenced, but the chorus of common singers on the street belting out his hits like ‘Ulagam Pirandhadhu Enakkaaga’ give testimony that the echoes will continue.