It was a nice fall evening in 1997 as I sat at the dining table to have my dinner. A short while after I started eating, my father walked in through the front door and announced that he was expecting a call from California. This did not strike me as anything out of the ordinary since I knew that my parents had several relatives and friends there. Still, being the inquisitive child that I was, I questioned my father as to who was supposed to call. He looked at me and plainly stated in Telugu, nakosamu kadhu appa, neekosamu (This is not for me, it is for you). I was puzzled by the remark and found myself thinking of who could possibly want to talk to me all of a sudden from another state. A short time later, the phone rang and my father began talking with the person on the other end. Since he was talking a very close to me, I could make out that the voice on the other end of the phone was that of a man. After a few minutes, I could make out the a few words that the man said. Oka nimishamu undandi. Aina vusthunaru (Please wait a moment, he is coming). After a brief pause, I heard another voice, much deeper and resonant than the one before. Balamuralikrishna garu na (Is this Mr. Balamuralikrishna), asked my father. Ounu, nene (Yes this is he), came the response. Upon hearing those words, a huge grin engulfed my face. I felt as though I had captured my favorite Pokemon (my favorite show at the time) and was doing all I could to prevent myself from jumping up from my chair, for fear of sending my plate flying in the air. Since the days of my infancy, my parents used to tell me as well as others that I would not go to sleep until a tape or CD of his music was turned on and that I would often fall asleep on my own next to the stereo while listening to his music. Shortly after I began to speak, I started memorizing his songs, especially those on his “Thyagaraja Pancharatna” tape as well as his “Nagumomu” tape, which I would listen to over and over. Having seen his pictures on the many tapes and CDs that my parents had, I knew what he looked like and knew how he sang. The one thing I didn’t know was how he spoke.
It was after a few introductory remarks that I finally knew that what my father said earlier was true. Ma babu, Pavan. Meru thaptha inka evarudhi sangeetham vinadu (Our son Pavan does not listen to anyone else’s music but yours). I heard a slight chuckle on the other end. Ayo ayo ayo. Meru India ki pilichukorandi. Madras ki pilichukorandi (Please bring to India, to Madras). After another minute or so of talking, my father handed me the phone. Trembling with fear and excitement I said hello. Hello Pavan, said the voice on the other end. My name. My idol had said MY NAME. A few seconds passed before my brain could register what had just happened. Still in a daze and stumbling over my words, I managed to blurt out, baga unnara? (are you doing well) Baga unnanu. Nuvvu nannu chudaniki raledhe (I am doing well. You did not come here to see me). Still trying to come out of the shock, i once again found myself scrambling to respond. Finally, out came the words. Meru ekkado unnaru andhuku naku kudharledhu (You are in a different place so I could not come to see you). Another slight chuckle. Baga padu. Nuvvu India ki ochi nannu chudu (Sing well. You can come to India and see me). He knows that I sing? Once again, I felt my curiosity kicking in. Naturally, I did what any 8 year old would do. I asked. Naku ikkada chepperu nuvvu chala baga padhuthavu ani (I was told by people here that you sing very well). That was it for me. Not only did my music idol know that I sang, he himself told me that he had heard I sang WELL. After another minute, he drew our conversation to an end. Nuvvu India ki ochi nannu chudu, he once again told me. I enthusiastically replied back in Telugu “yes, of course” and gave my namaskaram to him before giving the phone back to my father. My father also paid his obeisance to him and hung up the phone. He then told my mother that the gentleman he spoke to would send a copy of the one-off “all thillana” concert that my idol had given the day before. My parents then turned to me and asked whether that was a nice surprise and if I was happy. Once again my answer was another enthusiastic “yes, of course.” The grin on my face grew even wider as I realized I could now brag to my classmates in school that I had spoken with my idol. After all, how many kids get to do that?
Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Padeda. Sangeethamu Na Jeevamu — Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna
By Pavan Puttaparthi