Just before 7 pm on Saturday, Dec 2nd, 2018, Saraswathi took the stage towards the end of a function arranged to release the third collection of short Tamil stories penned by her dear father Shri S.V. Ramani. Before her, many celebrated Tamil writers — who were sitting on the stage — had spoken in praise of the stories, and the story teller. In fact, a few months earlier, at the release of the second collection, the literary world had acknowledged his prowess by calling him “The Sculptor of Great Stories”.
Until he showed us a typed version of some of his stories more than a year ago, I had no clue that story writing was a talent my father-in-law possessed among a myriad of others.
He was an avid painter, an impatient one at that. His paintings were created in spurts, often after a trip to some exotic locale. He also painted portraits, ones that attracted the most attention were his paintings of Kanchi Paramacharya, and Shri Ramana Maharshi. The latest was a photograph-like depiction of the “Junior” Acharya of Kanchi. His paintings adorn the walls of the house he built in Nanganallur, Chennai. In the very first room that visitors see as they enter the house one can’t but notice paintings that surprise many by the fact that they came from the same person they had high regards for, but for other reasons.
Most of us, if we are lucky, have an effectiveness quotient of one — we do reasonably well what an average person is expected to do. But my father-in-law was a true ashtavadhani. To me, that came about because he enabled, nurtured and empowered people around him and made sure whatever resources and connections were at his disposal were harnessed to help someone handle with finesse the problem they were facing. Many have vouched that but for him their lives would have languished.
He was as generous with his time as he was with his financial support for worthy causes. And, he did all this silently and diligently. To top it off, many of the good deeds he engineered were done in the name of the Rotary Club, with him being the primary, sometimes sole, financier of the activity. He did not do things for the glory that usually attracts people to perform such actions.
Innumerable are the schools — in rural as well as urban areas, hospitals — especially those catering to the not so well endowed, and, in general, public causes, that owe their very existence to his bottomless generosity.
Arguably, his passion for music surpassed everything else. Come music season, he could only be found in his favorite sabhas that dot the city of Chennai. He thoroughly enjoyed Carnatic music — it was clear to those who were near him when he was listening to music — that, to him, it was a spiritual experience. The meticulous manner in which he maintained his vast music collection bears witness to not only his love for the divine sounds, but also his vision of making the young singers become familiar with long forgotten kritis. Music Sabhas as well as musicians — the established as well as the fledgling ones — were keen to have his presence at their concerts. To enable the music lovers in Nanganallur get their music delivered literally in their backyards, he built Ranjani Hall — a functional auditorium along with a self-contained two story place for visitors to stay.
It was in this auditorium that the release of the book containing the third collection of stories took place on 2nd Dec. Just as his daughter Saraswathi finished thanking the speakers for their kind words about her father and his creations, her brother Murali stood at the entrance of Ranjani Hall, while people saw an ambulance pass by behind him, Saraswathi tearfully informed the audience that earlier that afternoon their father had breathed his last.