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by Sunil Kothari

Jan 2, 2003

The dance and music fraternity world over connected through e mail expressed shock and grief at the passing away of Pattabhi Raman. The Sruti parivar, the Sruti family members sought courage to bear this loss and across various countries we shared the grief and prayed for the peace of his soul, reassuring each other that we all shall carry on his task and see that Sruti would continue to fulfil his dreams.

When the first issue of Sruti reached me at Sangeet Natak Akademi, where I was twenty years ago serving as Assistant Secretary (Dance), I wrote an enthusiastic review in my weekly column in The Economic Times and compared it with Dance Magazine published from New York. Sruti appeared on the dance scene at the right time and soon it turned into an institution, thanks to the untiring efforts of Dr N Pattabhi Raman, the editor - in -chief.

I met him soon during the Madras season at his well-appointed, spacious residence and from that very first meeting 'we clicked', sharing our views on the dance scene and evidently he was very pleased that I had written an excellent review welcoming Sruti. He invited me to write for Sruti regularly. He included my name in the list of the contributing editors and later on placed it under the 'roving critic' in Sruti masthead. Some of us, who became his close friends, used to address him with his permission, as Pat and in all our correspondence, I used to address him as Pat.

We spoke of Dance Magazine about which he knew as he was in New York, when he was working for UNDP. Though he did not model Sruti on Dance Magazine, he seemed to have the pulse of the performing artists, the dancers, the musicians and all connected with the performing arts and what their need would be in terms of a monthly devoted to Indian classical music and dance. In the earlier years, it concentrated on South Indian classical music and dance, but over the years it acquired an all India approach and he succeeded in roping in scholars, writers and critics from the classical Hindustani music stream, whereas in terms of classical dance forms, he carried news, views and reviews on all the major forms and also folk dances.

He was a shrewd editor and thrived on controversies. But he gave space to those who differed with him. So through Sruti Box, the readers got to know views of both sides. No doubt he had to struggle a lot to bring out every monthly issue against all odds. But he was one who would never say die. And till he breathed his last, he carried on valiantly, placing Sruti on a firm footing, creating a 'Sruti parivar' through his dedication and persuasive powers.

We used to share many confidences and never once did he betray them. If, as many suspected him of 'committing a breach of etiquette, by making passing remarks in Whispering Gallery, amounting to betraying confidences', one saw the humour and also his weaknesses, as he was definitely a human being and one forgave him, taking all that he wrote in Whispering Gallery, in one's stride.

He was a born editor and as was necessary, wrote under several names, keeping the readers guessing the real identity of the writer.

I wrote regularly during my extensive travels within India and abroad and used to brief him about the latest in dance within India and abroad. He carried my reports of international dance conferences editing them suitably, as often, there were space constraints. Many a time, my articles were lying with him and I remember that once in April Issue 2000 with Ram Gopal on the cover, he carried the backlog including obituaries and mentioned in the editorial that that particular issue was very much 'Sunilbhai issue'.

Whenever we had differences of opinion, he had a way of finding a solution and he saw to it that no misunderstandings ever developed. We had long sessions exchanging views. He would serve hot coffee and ask me to come over whenever I would find time during my stay in Chennai.

We had travelled together in 2001 to USA to attend dance conferences at Houston and Chicago. In Houston, our hosts had arranged Leela Venkataraman, Pat's and my stay at Prabha Bala's residence. We had a great time talking nine to the dozen and sharing anecdotes on everything. In Chicago, our host had arranged for our stay at a hotel and I had Pat as my roommate. It was great fun. He would regale me with the stories of musicians and dancers, organisers and often how they used to feel hurt if there were views, reviews and reports, which were not to their liking. But he took all this in his stride as a necessary hazard of an editor.

The last time I met him was at his residence in August 2002, when I had gone to Kalakshetra in connection with Rukmini Devi Centenary Celebration and for viewing the material for curating an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia of Rukmini Devi. As usual he welcomed me with warmth and a smile, ordered hot coffee and soon we were immersed in conversation ranging from Uday Shankar to the latest in terms of an international dance conference I was to attend in August at Dusseldorf.

He gave me useful tips on Rukmini Devi's exhibition and I recalled the extensive interviews by Gowri Ramnarayan published in Sruti on Rukmini Devi. We all often consulted Sruti for dates, exact information and reference material. Sruti has acquired that status as a resource material.

Pat had his 'pet' pat dream to establish SAMUDRI, as a unique archive for music and dance and he never tired of telling in detail, how he had worked out various plans to go about it. I am sure those associated with SAMUDRI will see that his dream would come true.

Knowing Pat for the past 20 years, one came to know the Deputy Editor Janaki, who invariably answered all queries if Pat was busy. It was always a pleasure to meet Janaki who would edit my copy and seek clarification or correction whenever necessary and never failed in returning the rare photographs I sent along with my articles. The packet would be ready whenever I visited Sruti office.

Pat arrived on the scene and brought a whiff of fresh air to dance journalism, with well-written copy, readable text, and covered news from several regions, within India and abroad. Through Sruti some of us met so many readers abroad and within India who expressed their appreciation of the services Sruti rendered.

Pat had many detractors. He had his own strong views and determination to run the monthly as he deemed it wise and pragmatic. Through the Sruti parivar, he brought so many of us together. His house was a meeting point for so many people.

Like so many of his close friends, I will miss him during my visits to his residence and office of Sruti. His services to dance and music will be long remembered.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a noted scholar and the roving critic for Sruti magazine.