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Thadhiginathom - Part 16
- Zakir Hussain
English translation: Dushy Gnanapragasam

July 23, 2020

(Reproduced with permission)

Darkening clouds, impending rain

'Rain' - It is nature's gift to earth and is non-discriminating in its nature. It may gain or diminish in status once it falls on the earth. Its nature may change depending on its use. But rain itself does not have those disquiets or urgencies. As far as Tamil language is concerned, rain is always the 'good rain' - nalla mazhai. If it pours indiscriminately, it is 'heavy rain' - adai mazhai. There is no such term as 'bad rain' - ketta mazhai - in Tamil. Even though it is the ocean that gathers in the clouds, it has to fall back on earth for life to flourish. 'Silappathikaram' invokes the rain as god by singing, 'maamazhai potruthum' - praise the great rain. Andal sings 'maamuththa nidhi soriyum maamugilkaal' comparing rain drops to great pearls and praising them as the earth's greatest wealth. Therefore, the rain falls for everyone. And it is equivalent to wealth. Poet Vairamuthu asks in a song not to shut the door and wave the black flag in protest when the rain comes. The rain is for everyone....

Four to five days must have passed since I started learning dance. My attendance at Bilal Hotel went from bad to worse. They asked me politely to stay at home. The reason for the politeness was that the owner's son Irshad Ahmad and I had grown to be good friends. He has known everything about me from the very beginning and has helped me in many ways. He still remains a good friend. Now my issue was to find the required money for food and rent. Through my roommates, I gained employment as 'membership card writer' at the DMK headquarters 'Arivalayam.' The office was on the second floor. Poomaalai Video Vision which was the precursor to Sun TV had not been inaugurated yet. They paid sixty rupees for completing three hundred memberships. I was able to complete six hundred memberships in a day. They paid me every morning. Somehow, by the grace of friends, life tumbled along.

Once, Chitra akka called me privately.
"Zakir, you need to wash your clothes regularly. The students are complaining of body odor from your sweating," she scolded in a stern voice.
On that day, Chitra akka had an ensemble dance event called 'Dwaraka Nadham Baje' exploring the similarities between Andal's pasurams and North Indian Meera bhajans. As soon as Chitra akka said that, my eyes started welling up.

"Akka, I do not have money to take the bus. I walk to get here."
"What? You walk to come here?"
"Yes, akka. Before I get here, I sweat profusely and my kurta and pyjama get soaked."
"So, you don't have any other clothes?"
"No. I only have two sets."
"Oh my god! I did not know of this."

My situation moved her. She keenly inquired of my situation to understand it fully. She immediately approached her father.
"Appa! Find a job for Zakir to do in our house. You have to pay him a salary too," she demanded. Then she immediately went to Rasi Silks and bought me two kurtas. Visweswaran athimber gave me three veshtis.
That magnanimity continued until the day I was expelled from that school.

'Dwaraka Nadham Baje!' The stage that day was drenched not only by Andal's pasurams, but also by my tears. It was on that day that I was introduced to the sweet Tamil of Andal known as Kothai Nachiyar. Though I did not know at that time that it would bring about transformational changes in me, at least a single digit of that enchanted hand that provided me gracious shelter flashed before my eyes for a moment.

From the next day on, I was made in charge of the library in the house, taking care of the costume jewelry, and making reservations for the orchestra's travels. The person assigning me these responsibilities was Chitra akka's father Padmanabhan. A strict disciplined man, both stern and honest to a fault. He would ask for every paise to be accounted for. There were many occasions when the father and daughter got into a confrontation because of his firmness. It would not be that big an amount, just a hundred or two. Though his daughter was world famous, he would ask her to produce a receipt for every expense. He would not yield even if she sobbed saying, "I forgot." He was in charge of me. As the days moved on, we became close and friendly and he taught me many things.

Chitra akka thought it would benefit me if I had some additional spending money and asked many people she knew to help me. Of the ones she asked, those who helped me are Nalli Kuppusamy Chettiar, Enfield Company Chairman Viswanathan, actors Rajnikanth and Sathyaraj.

What Mr. Viswanathan said when I went to him to receive his gift, and how Chitra akka made a vow to train me in dance because of what he said, remain as fond memories.

The clash between them because of me...
(July 22, 2020)

To be continued...

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