Hello, Dr. Balamuralikrishna.
I was pleasantly surprised when I got the legend himself on the phone line immediately on Monday evening when I rang him up. Several earlier attempts to reach him had failed. I was trying since July 6 morning itself to wish him "many more happy returns of the day." He had reached another major landmark in his eventful career when he turned 78 years old on July 6, 2008.
Yes, speaking to Dr Balamuralikrishna the legend is in itself an electrifying experience. One would think a man of his stature would play hard to get. But, no. The legendary Carnatic musician and 'vaageyakkara" is at ease, simple and direct when he answers phone calls.
"Hello" he said in his deep, rich voice replying my phone call. I wanted to make sure and said: "Am I speaking to Dr Balamuralikrishna?" He said: "Yes", again in his husky voice.
I introduced myself and said I have been trying to reach him since July 6 to greet him on his birthday but had been told that he had gone to Anantapur. Dr Balamurali confirmed that he had just returned from Anantapur after spending a week there.
To my question how was his visit, Dr Balamurali replied: "Oh, I celebrated my birthday there." And, he casually added: "They have named an auditorium after me. It is called Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna Auditorium. So, I spent a week attending the festival in the auditorium."
Did he give a concert during the festival at the new auditorium? I asked. The veteran said: "I don't sing for my birthday celebrations."
He noted that the festival lasted a week and there were many cultural programmes. When I asked him whether it would be a yearly festival, he said "music concerts will be held every month here. In fact, the sabha has been holding concerts for the last 50 years and I have given the inaugural concert here 50 years ago."
The name of the sabha? Dr Balamurali checked with someone in his house and said, `` it is Sree Thyagaraja Sangeetha Sabha".
The Anantapur sabha indeed seems to have gone full steam ahead. It started with a concert of this singer prodigy and now it was honouring by naming an auditorium after the same singer who has grown into a living legend in Carnatic music.I thanked Dr Balamurali and asked him to see the article www.carnaticdarbar.com has carried as a tribute in his honour. Dr Balamurali said, "I do not have a computer. I don't even have a mobile!"