It was early January 2000 and I was about a week old in Sydney having gone there to start business operations for my Indian employer. We (my wife Geetha, son Anirudh (then 3 years) + and self) were searching for a home in the suburbs. We had heard about a Murugan temple nearby and went there to offer prayers.
A festival was on in the temple premises and the reigning deity was being taken in a procession around the sanctum sanctorum. I was walking behind the procession and was humming a raga. Suddenly, the person in front of me turned and asked me ” Are you from India? Your Bilahari (name of raaga that i was humming) is really good. Have you learnt music formally? From whom?”
I told him that i have come very recently from India and that i have learnt music quite informally from my grandmother and in patches from some gurus in India.
What he said next really floored me. “Thambi! neenga enkitte pattu kathukareengalaa? which can be roughly translated as “Young man! will you learn music from me?”
I did not know anything about this person and so i wasn’t sure how to respond. He gave me his address and phone number and asked me to meet him soon.
That was my first encounter of Shri Param Thillairajah, my music guru in Australia and this was a rare case of a teacher finding a student than the other way around.
My life in Australia wasn’t the same until I left in mid 2001. Will share some of the highlights of our relationship in subsequent posts.