‘Gangavva, yele southekaayi bandaithe kanavva!’

KRISHNA VATTAM writes from Mysore: My daughter-in-law Shantala was sobbing as she woke me up this morning.

“Mama, Gangavva is no more,” she said, and broke down.

The rest of the morning was not the same for me, too, a journalist long used to being woken up at odd hours by people anxious to have the news of the demise of their near and dear ones published in the early editions of newspapers; long used to hearing news of accidents and deaths.

“Gangavva is no more,” had had a telling effect, and it was far from impersonal.

Was it the magical spell of the music of Gangubai Hanagal that had made me to adulate her? No. She was Gangavva to an even unlettered vegetable vendor, who has no ear to any classical music, be it Hindustani or Carnatic, except to the cheap beats of Kannada songs.

When I was in Hubli three years ago, where my son was the correspondent of Deccan Herald and where Shantala was learning music from Gangubai , I was taken by them to the weekly shandy.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Gangubai, then all of 94, shopping there, with a vegetable vendor who clearly identified her beckoning her by name:

Gangavva, yele southekaayi bandaithe avva (Gangavva, come, buy some tender cucumber).”

Or, was it her down-to-earth qualities, clad in simple Ilkal cotton sarees, that endeared her to one and all?

When my son had called on her in connection with a feature he was doing, it appears she casually asked about his parents. It was in 1999 when she was visiting Mysore to inaugurate the Dasara music festival she took my address from my son and honoured us with her visit to our small home. Shantala was also there on the occasion.

Gangubai Hanagal took my grandson, Shashank, in her arms. We were quite embarrassed and apologetic as the 10-month-old child urinated on her saree.

She was least disturbed.

Bidi, nanu makalanna hadide doddoulu agilla (It’s all right. I have not grown up without giving birth to children).”


Veteran journalist Krishna Vattam is the former Mysore correspondent of Deccan Herald