Pitter patter. Pitter patter. I looked out of the misty car window. The rain fell down gracefully, almost as if it were dancing. Picturesque trees surrounded the bridge as we moved upwards. Despite the beauty of my surroundings, dread was growing in my stomach. We were going to an airport. And were going to travel in an airplane. And every time I traveled in one, I was sick and suffered from jet lag. Every single time. The word ‘airplane’ filled me with dread. And I had a premonition that this was going to be my worst case of sickness and lag ever. Rain always made it worse.
An hour later, we stepped inside the chill Kamaraj Airport in Chennai. The dread inside me grew even more. No, I didn’t expect a tsunami or an earthquake. I am a very cheerful person. I just imagined a sea full of vomit, my vomit. And how it would feel to float in it. Disgusting? Yes, it feels disgusting. Knowing that you’re gonna be sick but cant do anything to stop it. Mints just don’t work on me.
As we were standing in the baggage checking queue, I saw her. A stately lady with an august presence. Her silver white hair matched her sari. Everybody turned to look at her in awe. Her presence commanded respect. She was in the middle of a force field of attraction. She was like a magnet.
Everybody whispered and pointed at her. Some oldies exchanged smiles with her, meeting like old friends. Though she was alone and said she wanted no help, air hostesses insisted on helping her. Who is this old woman, I wondered.
Then my mother told me. I was awed at her name. I went up to her, and folded my hands. “Namaste Patti (Salutation, Grandmother)” I said. She replied with a kiss on my cheek. I was never so proud all my life.
Whom had I met? The inspiration for all South Indian singers, who later declined the Padma Bhushan award (due to the fact that it was always offered to North Indians and the South Indians were not appreciated in any field). Yes. I had met S Janaki.
I never thought that my (usually correct) premonition will go so wrong. And I didn’t even choke once on the flight!
S Janaki is one of the greatest singers in India. She specializes in Tamil Carnatic music and serves as an inspiration for over million aspiring singers. This is a true life meeting with her in the Chennai Airport.