One cannot pass by ‘Dakshin’ at the Park Sheraton hotel at night without hearing the melodious sound of a flute. While the diner’s hunger is being appeased, his/her auditory nerves are soothed by Shivakumar, a flutist who has been in charge of the night band for the past 15 years.
Shivakumar, born in Thalaignayiru, near Thanjavur district, and grew up in Madapuram village, was not born blind. “When I was young,
two boys were throwing stones at each other and as I was walking by, one of the stones hit my eyes. Though my eye was tested by several doctors, there was no use. And to add to the misery, I started losing vision in the other eye also. Within a year, I was totally blind. I had to discontinue my education because of this…” says Shivakumar about the incident that changed his life.
A class-VI student till then, he joined Madurai-Kamaraj University and completed class-X. His parents, worried and anxious about his future, took him to see the then Kanchi Sankaracharya, Sri Chandrasekharendra Swamigal (also known as Paramacharya). When they told him about the situation, he consoled them by saying that it was the result of his karma and that there was no need to worry. He
prophecied that “bamboo” will take care of him. Shivakumar’s mother was a natural singer and so he too developed an interest in
music. He started learning music from her and it should be mentioned that Mali, the renowned flutist, was his mother’s cousin.
His sister-in-law saw that he was really interested in music and enrolled him in the Chennai Music College. He was 14 years old then. Initially, he learnt only violin. “I came to Chennai in 1974. I wanted to learn violin and applied for the course. I got admission and T N Krishnan was the principal then,” says the flutist.
But he was unable to continue learning violin and changed to flute. Since then, flute has been his life and soul. “Mr Krishnan advised me that I would find it difficult to study theory daily and since theory classes for flute were held only once a week, it would be easier for me…I remembered Kanchi Periyava’s prediction…And I happilyswitched over to flute,” explains Shivakumar. He started learning from T R Navaneetham and within a year rose to the level of giving concerts. He secured the ‘Vadhya Visharadha’ diploma and the government’s
cultural scholarship. He then learnt from Prapanjam Seetharaman for 17 years and today his name has come to be associated with flute.
He travels around the globe with flute as his spouse. He has given concerts in South Africa, America and Europe. Apart from Carnatic music, Shivakumar has also learnt Hindustani under Krishna Nandhan. He learnt to play film music from P S Divakar for two years. “It was in 1979 that I first played flute for ‘Valarum Kalaignar’ programme on Chennai DD. I think it was on January 11,” says Shivakumar proudly.
TV fame H Ramakrishnan and his sons are now his disciples. He is also conducting classes at IIT Madras campus and so far he has taught flute to nearly 2,000 children. One day, eminent ghatam vidwan Vinayakram took him to the Kanchi Sankaracharya to seek his blessings. He blessed him by saying that he had already told him that he will survive with the bamboo and that a job would come to him and he would not have to look for one. True to his words, within 15 days, Shivakumar was chosen by Park Sheraton to conduct music programmes. He has been with them till today. He plays for two hours in the morning and from 8 to 12 at night. He has also left his
imprint in film music. One can hear his flute in films like ‘His Highness Abdullah’ (Malayalam) and ‘Nizhalgal’ (Tamil).
“If I am leading a life with self-confidence and happiness, it is because of the Kanchi Paramacharya’s blessings,” concludes Shivakumar humbly.
Categories: Devotee Experiences