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Footprints on the Sands of Time (1/3)

In Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ the stoic character, Malvalio states:

“In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them“.

- (Act II, Scene V)

A beautiful analysis of greatness! Yes, some people are afraid of greatness. Malvalio’s words are balm to such people. Something bizarrely different attracts attention, becomes instantly news worthy. It becomes ‘talk-of-the-town’, talk of the country, talk of the whole world. But to grow beautifully original is what is really different and noteworthy. Identifying this originality in one self early is a great beginning for the growth of greatness which you do not need others to recognise. You are becoming one. In pursuing a field of interest, passion, what exclusively belongs to you, arts or science, requires inner strength and conviction. There are many such greats in music who are little talked about and recognised. I had great experience in Kalakshetra in the late 50s in meeting the real greats in music and dance who were simple and beautiful. The musicians in those times, when I reflect now, were such simple individuals inspiring me by their instant beauty of appeal, the greatness writ upon them in every gesture of theirs. Sri Mysore Vasudevacharya, Boodalur Krishnamurthy Sastrigal, Gauri Amma, Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sharma and some others are in the list.


When I was studying English literature I had a penchant for translation of Tamil into English. I tried to translate a few old journals and books, but never continued. I wish to do it at least now. I am taking this internet media opportunities to offer you some.

Very early in my life when I read the generous tributes of the greats in music on the mrdangam player, Sivavadivel Pillai, whom I had not heard about much then. I was fascinated. I began to translate but never completed. I re-discovered the little booklet of tributes to this great mrdangam player in the library. I began translating once again. I start the postings of these translations under the heading “Footprints on the Sands of Time”.


It is customary to praise sky-high some one who is no more! Very few of us are capable of honesty, integrity in recognising the merits of our fellow musicians. Sometimes the foibles of a musician deter us from true musical evaluation. Even if we do, we do lip-service while they are alive. After the artiste is no more, some of us may seek ‘noticeability’ and ‘popularity’ by talking about them. Genuineness in recognising the merits of the artistes, feeling gratitude to what we learnt from our fellow musicians, acknowledging what we specially learned from them in our journey through music are virtues we need to cultivate.

I learnt to recognise the value in what others think about others from three vital aspects.

  1. About the person talked about.

  2. The truthful portrayals among those who talk about the real merits in the other.

  3. The revelations about the person who talks about the other.

For these reasons I attempt to translate the tributes to the mrdangam player Sri Sivavadivel Pillai by eminent artistes of his time associated with him. 

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