P Unnikrishnan pens his tribute to his guru Dr. S. Ramanathan

Vocalist P Unnikrishnan remembers his guru Dr. S. Ramanathan on his Birth Centenary through a post on his facebook page today. Here is what he said in his post.



Dr.SR - The Man and His Music - Purity Personified
To Sir with love!
This is my dedication to my guru and my inspiration, but for whom I would not have become a Carnatic Musician. I had a rather late start as far as my learning Carnatic Music was concerned. There was also a time when I was about 15 or 16 years old when I wanted to stop learning music because I just lost interest and for a brief period my music classes did get discontinued. Thankfully my mother was very adamant and made sure I pursued it. This was the phase when I came in contact with Sir. My grand aunt suggested that I learn from a senior Guru. Thats how Sir”s name came up. His daughter Latha was my aunt Aparna’s classmate, so through them we got introduced to Sir. My mother took me to Sir and today looking back I feel so blessed and fortunate to be his disciple. 
His house was on TP Koil street close to the Parthasarathy Swamy temple, Triplicane. I initially went with a lot of reluctance with all kind of thoughts as to how my new Guru was going to be. Is he going to be a strict teacher, will he yell at me if I didn't sing properly. As we entered the house on the ground floor we could hear beautiful voices both male and female coming from the first floor. I of course guessed that a music class was going on in full swing. Suddenly the chorus stops and a voice in perfect pitch reverberates and travels seamlessly from above - Charanagatha Bharanotsuka and as soon as we enter we are greeted by mami his wife. She directs us upstairs. The beautiful music gets louder and louder and I am a little nervous not knowing what to expect. And as we enter I see about 25 students both men, women and children singing and to our right, next to the door is a man looking like a saint with a white beard sitting on a chair and singing with the most attractive smile. He greets us and asks us to come in and sit down and the music continues. Its Paripalayamam, Maharaja Swathi Tirunal’s composition in the Raagam Ritigoulai. After going through the krithi once again with the students some of them leave the room and then Sir looks at me and asks whats my name and what I am doing and then tells me to sing something for him. I still remember singing a half baked Bhajare Re Chitha. He was of course extremely kind and after my test said I have a very nice voice. He then teaches me Paripalayamam, the first Krithi I learned from Sir. How beautifully he taught that pallavi. So clear and so easy to follow and flawless singing. It was highly inspiring and straight away felt that I had come to the right place to learn music. 
Sir had a lot of students senior and junior disciples, wonderful musicians like Seethamani Srinivasan, Seetha Narayanan, Savithri Sathyamurthy and child prodigy S.Sowmya. Ashok Ramani and SP Ramh were regulars too. The classes would go on till mid day and then after the break would again commence in the evening. Classes were a lot of fun. Although I was irregular initially because of my Cricket and College activities. My mother used to make sure I went for class regularly. Sir had a large family so the house was always bustling with activity. Classes were also more interactive. It would start of with singing all the varisai’s and that is still so useful for practice. Practicing the varsai’s in a particular raag was so good to get comfortable with the scales specially for Kalapana Swara Singing. After the Akara sadhakam and Varisai singing Sir would teach a composition. In that he would sing Sarva laghu swara’s and that was a pleasure to listen to. The different permutations and combinations he would come up with was so awe inspiring. He would then give each of us a chance to sing and for fun he would say a Rs.10 fine if anybody makes a mistake. Those were really enjoyable sessions. He would always tell us tat we should keep practicing manodharma and safely lock it up in a cupboard and when we need it we should be ready to belt it out. Of course musically I have imbibed a lot from is style and teaching but there were many other qualities that I have observed and has had a great influence on me as a person 
He would never discourage and would always be appreciative of whatever we sing, but would not fail to correct us when we go wrong. I have never heard him talking ill of anybody. He had one of the kindest hearts He always considered himself a student and on many occasions I have noticed that if he liked a particular patantharam of another musician he would pick up the phone and call him and learn that Krithi from him or would send one of us students to go and learn it. Such was his simplicity, humility and his thirst for knowledge. 
and more than anything else he was such a wonderful human being.
As far as learning music was concerned he would never say no to anybody and welcomed anybody who wanted to learn music under him. On many occasions I have noticed many students coming to class although they never really sang they would just sit and listen and be there in class and take back with them, whatever they could grasp.He would also try and make them sing and give them an opportunity and try to encourage them to try out swaram’s or neraval singing. He was not a very strict teacher and he always believed that as far as music is concerned god has been generous to some and not so generous to others so within your limitations try to do the best you can but he insisted that you need to keep practicing and singing for hours and thinking about music. He did that till his last breath. He lived and breathed music all his life and that has influenced all his students and because of this many of them are very successful musicians. 
Even if it were a kid, he would sit in the front row to listen and say a few encouraging words after. I still remember one of my very first concerts at Shastri Hall. I had just started seriously learning and was hardly aware of the many nuances and was just getting into the groove. I was suddenly asked to perform by Shri M.O.Srinivasan for his Daasanjali festival and was quite unprepared. Sir was also there for the concert. I just sang what came to me and if it were somebody else I would have got a shelling after the concert but he was so kind and tapped my shoulder and said “You sang well”. Next day at class he pointed out the mistakes that I had made and how I should correct them and thats why he is so special and remains a part of me always.
He was multifaceted, a walking encyclopedia, a warehouse of knowledge,a scholar,musicologist a mathematician, composer, a Veenai vidhwan. He never referred to paper or books neither when he sang nor when he gave a lecture demonstration. Such was his command over Music. He was excellent at English and was in command of the language. With all this he continued to be so simple and unassuming, and that was the greatness about this man.
His children were very lucky and I have heard on numerous occasions Geetha or Raju talk about their experiences with him and their lessons at the Marina beach
“Sitting on the sand he would explain the meaning of the song which they were memorising. Even today the whole Ramanathan clan knows and remembers all these songs, poems, and authors. One day he would teach them English conversation, another day he would ask them to memorise Thevaram, Thirupugazh, Bharatiar songs Kamba Ramayanam poems ect.
He would always keep saying that it is the duty of every Guru to share his knowledge and how important it is to pass it on and prepare the next generation for preserving the art form.
He loved watching movies especially english and was a voracious reader. 
I was blessed to sing with him on a few occasions. One was at the Navarathri Mandayam, Trivandrum. I could spend a lot of time with him discussing music and learnt a lot of Swathi Thirunal compositions. 
In his last days when he was really sick he sang at the Krishna Gana Sabha. It was difficult for all of us on stage to see him sing on that day. He would have sung for about an hour on that day and had to tell the audience that he could not continue singing due to ill health. Raju had told me to give him vocal support, so I was sitting behind him on one side and Vanathi was on the other side. Raju was playing the tanpura. Suddenly during the concert, out of the blue he asked me to sing Shankarabaranam and I was really not prepared and had not sung it before, but Sir had the belief that I could sing and that belief and blessings made me do it and everytime I think of it I wonder why god had to take him away so early. He gave me that self confidence for which I will always be indebted to him.
He lived like a Saint, for the sake of art without any expectations or monetary gain. The general practice was to pay fees after 8 classes, but he never once asked students about fees. When we gave him the fees he would say "please give it to Mami(His Wife). I don't think they really kept track of it and that was of least importance to them. Thats why I say he lived for sake of music alone and thats why he is a rare gem.
In his last days, Sir was bedridden with lung cancer. He was not able to eat, speak or move around. I would go and spend sometime with him as much as possible and one day he told me and Savithri I just want to transfer all the knowledge to you before I leave this world but unfortunately I can’t. He said this with so much of sadness and that was just unbearable for us and our heart just broke. He passed away a few weeks later and I miss him, but his music will always guide me haunt me and inspire me forever! Thank you Sir!