The stories behind the winners

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Segway-like vehicles were also used by the police to keep an eye on the large crowd on Marina Beach.

Three personalities from the Cauvery region made the district proud when they were named Padma Prize Winners, one of India's highest civilian awards, announced annually on the eve of Republic Day (January 26).

MetroPlus talks to this year's Padma Shri award winners Sheik Mahaboob Subhani and Kaleeshabi Mahaboob (from Srirangam) and Padma Bhushan recipient Krishnammal Jagannathan (Thanjavur district) about their experiences.

In total harmony

Like most long-married couples, Nadaswaram The exponents Mahaboob Subhani and Kaleeshabi Mahboob tend to complete each other's sentences and laugh out loud at shared memories. On stage, her concerts resemble a tandem ride that is finely balanced and smooth in the Thanjavur style of Carnatic music.

“We play healthy when we play our instruments. But when Kaleeshabi shines, I hold back a little so that it can draw the audience's attention. It does the same when I'm in good shape, ”says Mahaboob Subhani.

Representation of the 8th generation of a family of nadaswaram vidwans (Exponent), the couple living in Srirangam has another reason to be proud this year – both Mahaboob Subhani (66 years) and Kaleeshabi (62 years) are winners of the Padma Shri Awards. The most recent award recognizes the years of hard work that preceded the couple's rise. The story of Mahaboob Subhani's transformation from an office worker in a tobacco factory in Andhra Pradesh to an experienced performer is interesting, as is his wife's struggle against orthodox attitudes, which prevents women from pursuing artistic professions.

Mahaboob learned to play from the village of Peda Kothapalli in the Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh Nadaswaram by his grandfather and Andhra Pradesh State Government award winner Janab Sheik Chinna Peer Sahib and later his father Sheik Meera Sahib from the age of 7.

“I wasn't serious about music at the time because I had to support my family through work after completing my SSLC,” he says.

Kaleeshabi, his first cousin from nearby Cherukapadu, was not allowed to go to school by her conservative Muslim family. But then she showed an early talent for them NadaswaramHer paternal uncle, Sheik John Sahib, trained her. “In the beginning, nobody wanted me to go on stage because women should not be seen in public, especially not with men. But once that Vidwans began to say that I brought something special and feminine NadaswaramMy family had to give in, ”says Kaleeshabi.

Mahaboob attended Kaleeshabi's concerts in her village as a spectator, not knowing that one day she would be his life partner. The marriage offered Kaleeshabi a way out of the parents' objections to their career choice, although Mahaboob was a newcomer to the concert area.

Musical performers

  • Mahaboob Subhani and Kaleeshabi toured extensively through India for their concerts and performed in the USA, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, France and Germany, among others.
  • They were appointed Sri Sarada Peetam's Asthana Vidwans in Sringeri in 2001.
  • In 2005 they gave a two-hour concert at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi for then President APJ Abdul Kalam.
  • On his advice, they offer free music concerts to children with intellectual disabilities.
  • Among the many awards they have received is the Tamil Nadu government's Kalaimamani Prize from 1994.

“When we got married, my skill was with that Nadaswaram was almost zero because I lacked practice, ”says Mahaboob. "I asked Kaleeshabi for a year to learn the instrument again, at least enough to support her at concerts."

Their first concert in Tamil Nadu took place in Dindigul in 1976 before they got married, for which Kaleeshabi Mahaboob trained for a month.

They married a year later and have never deviated from their duet style since then. The duo was trained with Sheik John Sahib and received vocal and instrumental lessons from K Chandramouli (director of the Sarada Sangeetha Kalasala government in Kurnool) and Nadaswaram Exponent Sheik Chinna Moulana in Srirangam, among other teachers.

They moved permanently to Srirangam in the 1980s, where Mahaboob and Kaleeshabi studied for 10 years under the guidance of Sheik Chinna Moulana. The couple knows that they can be tested publicly as Muslim representatives of Hindu church music. “We are Muslims from birth, but they appear Mangala Isai (spiritual music) for Hindu temples has been our family profession for generations. We respect all religions equally, ”says Kaleeshabi.

Of the couple's three children, son Firose Babu is said to continue the family's musical heritage.

“Receiving the Padma Shri is a rare honor for instrumentalists like us. Artists are always happy about recognition, ”says Mahaboob.

The traveling reformer

File photo of Krishnammal Jagannathan, who oversees rice cultivation by Dalit farmers in Nagapattinam District. Photo: K.Subramanian / THE HINDU

File photo of Krishnammal Jagannathan, who oversees rice cultivation by Dalit farmers in the Nagapattinam district. Photo: K.Subramanian / THE HINDU

Where is Krishnammal Jagannathan's home? "I am a hiker who is never in one place for long," says the 94-year-old social service activist, who will receive the Padma Bhushan Prize this year.

Krishnammal is in Chennai when we speak to her where she came to gather support for her housing project for those affected by the 2018 Gaja Cyclone.

"I am very excited about the Padma Bhushan as it will help raise awareness of the people who have become homeless from Gaja in the Tamil Nadu coastal areas," she says on the phone.

Krishnammal and her husband Sankaralingam Jagannathan (1912-2013) were born in Madurai in 1926 and later lived in the Thanjavur district. With their Gandhist ideology, they worked tirelessly for social development and land redistribution among the poor in Tamil Nadu.

After participating in the Indian struggle for freedom through the Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements, the couple distributed nearly 4 million acres of land to the landless poor after independence through the Bhoodan movement.

Does a lot

  • Krishnammal, alone or with her husband, has set up at least 7 non-governmental organizations for the poor.
  • The Jagannathans also highlighted the dangers of the commercial shrimp farm along the Tamil Nadu coast from non-violent rallies.
  • Krishnammal was a member of the Senate of the Gandhigram Trust and University and Madurai University.
  • Awards won: Padma Shri (1989); University of Seattle Opus Award (2008); Right Livelihood Award (2008).

The couple began to deal with land reform issues after a wage dispute in 1968 led to the massacre of 44 Dalit women and children in Kilvenmani, Nagapattinam District.

After her husband's death, Krishnammal continued to work at the Land for Tillers & # 39; Freedom (LATFI) non-governmental organization that the couple founded in 1981.

LATFI enabled Dalit farming families to get land from large landowners through a government-negotiated forum that helped empower rural women in the 1980s. The NGO also runs professional workshops for farmers to help them generate income in the off-season months.

After working with leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Vinobha Bhave and Martin Luther King Jr., the nonagenarian has a broad view of the country's growth since independence. "I'm sad that hostility and poverty between castes kill the spirit of life despite 72 years of freedom," she says. "The great spiritual atmosphere in India is affected by religious tensions and narrow-mindedness."

Though she has slowed down due to her advanced years, Krishnammal says that memories of her famous life keep her going. This includes Vinobha Bhave singing spiritual songs in Tamil every morning when she worked with him in 1952 during the Bhoodan movement.