She breathed life into music
``BALA" _ says the gate of a large house on Ramanathan street in Kilpauk. But it is obscured by a large illuminated board of the Agriculatural University that has hired the place. T. Viswanathan's soul-stirring flute melody wafts in the air. Aniruddha Knight is kneeling in front of a large garlanded colour portrait of Lakshmi Knight. Lakshmi is full of life in the picture, brighter by a brilliant smile. The dimple on the cheek seems to bring her alive. The mood is somber and touching.
``I cannot bear the agony,'' says uncle Viswanathan. ``I played for Lakshmi as she lay suffering the pain of the illness in her last days just as I had played for her mother.'' His eyes speak volumes of his misery.
Lakshmi, the only child of the legendary Balasaraswati is no more. Lakshmi learned music and dance from her mother and her uncle, Viswanathan. She taught and performed in both India and the U.S. for more than twenty years. In December 1991, Lakshmi received the ``Nritya Choodamani'' from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. In the U.S., she received four awards from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of her outstanding artistry. She lived in Stockton, New Jersey.
Her desire was to get to India as quickly as possible when she was told by the doctors in America that she had very little time. ``She was worried she might not last the journey but she made it and was surrounded by the love of her friends here in her last days,'' says Viswanathan.
``She may have come late into dancing but her intuition was amazing. She breathed life into music. She taught Aniruddha even two days before she passed away. Music was her strength just as it was of her mother. They listened not just to the lyrics of a song for which they were to dance but to the raga and imbibed all the music before they attempted an Abhinaya."
Last December, Lakshmi Knight had performed for a small audience at her friend Shantha Guhan's house. The Mohamana Varnam that she performed that night was Manodharma dancing at its best. Witnessing her dance was like sharing a wonderful intimate secret.
V. R. DEVIKA
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