"Shri. K. Viswanathan of RmKV
Silks, 49 years young, dynamic
businessman, passionate lover & energetic promoter of classical music and fine arts..."
- words I would rather be saying as I introduce him as a guest of honour at
the inaugural of a Carnatica event. Sadly, I have to use the same words today
with a heavy heart and mind in an obituary, for Viswanathan Sir died last
night in a tragic automobile accident near the southern town of Kovilpatti -
a piece of news I'm unable to come to terms with and I doubt I ever will. For
he was much more than just a businessman sponsoring our events...
Carnatica's association with
Viswanathan goes back a couple of years to the time when RmKV Silks - till
then a Tirunelveli-based reputed silk house - was trying to make its mark in
Chennai. Given the time-honoured connections between silk houses and Carnatic
Music, it was but natural that RmKV would also be drawn into supporting and
promoting classical art events and organizations. And we were very happy to be
one of the first organizations that Viswanathan chose to associate himself
with. I still vividly recall that first meeting. I went mentally prepared to
meet with a 70-something, veshti-clad grey eminence, sitting cross-legged
before a short wooden writing desk, poring over his hand-written ledger
accounts. Imagine my shock and surprise when the assistant ushered us into a
swanky, ultra-modern office and the man rising to greet us was this dapper
youngster wearing a trendy full-sleeved shirt, elegant tie, rimless glasses
and that engagingly pleasant smile!
It was a pleasure doing business
with a thorough professional like Viswanathan. He was disarmingly frank and
very clear about his vision, objectives and budgets. And once he gave you a
commitment, there was no going back, no dilly-dallying, no bargaining... just
a determination that he would cut through the red tape and back you to the
hilt to get the event done successfully. I believe these qualities can be
attributed to his family's business background as well as his technical
qualifications - Viswanathan earned a degree in Textile Technology from IIT.
He could talk to you in intricate technical terms about the dyeing technology
behind the 50,000 colour silk saree that created such a splash in the media.
He could enlighten you about the intricacies of the silk business and the
challenges inherent in running a mega-store with 500 staff members in the
heart of Chennai. His store celebrated its second Diwali last November, having
established its name successfully in Chennai in a short span. He could talk
with equal passion about his desire to do something for classical music and
musicians. And he backed up his words with monetary support and human
resources, most recently for our path-breaking Bharat Sangeet Utsav 2005,
making sure it got unprecedented coverage.
I close my eyes and see him
sitting there across the table during one of those event-planning discussions.
Breaking away from the nuts and bolts of the event, he would share some
interesting anecdote about music or business and laugh in that unique way of
his, a silent but hearty laugh that shook his entire frame and lit up his
eyes. He had an unbounded energy, be it for setting up elaborate colorful
kolus for Navaratri complete with daily music performances or for endless
rounds of the vast store to personally oversee tiny details. He ran a tight
ship, being able to recall where exactly the saree of a particular shade was
located in the miles of shelves. He had a natural flair to make visitors to
his store feel at ease. But most of all, we at Carnatica were impressed by his
openness to new ideas, be it for planning new events or considering an
intricate musical theme for his upcoming range of silk sarees.
Forcing myself at this juncture to
believe in the old adage that God makes an early recall of those whom he
loves, I fervently hope Viswanathan Sir has found peace somewhere up there,
listening to his favorite kriti based on the deity of his native Tirunelveli
- "Shri Kanthimatim", Dikshitar's masterpiece in Hemavati.
-- Ramanathan N. Iyer,
January 28th, 2006.