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TRIBUTE TO MANDOLIN SRINIVAS: UMA CHALLA (REPRINTED WITH AUTHOR'S PERMISSION)

On Friday, September 19, 2014, I logged into my Facebook account in the afternoon, to find numerous posts on the demise of Mandolin Srinivas, a child prodigy and an international musical legend. Aside from the many posts hoping that his soul rests in peace, I read several posts which expressed shock and dismay. I read a post which even said the author was unable to get out of bed after hearing the news. Most people felt that the death was premature.

 Having experienced and understood death very closely as a result of losing my father, my son and a brother all within a span of less than five years (2005-2010), death due to old age, ailments, accidents...almost all reasons of death (except murder or suicide) seem very natural to me. Premature death, to me, is if one comes with a "date of expiry" stamped on them, and they die sooner than that date. Incidentally, September 19 happened to be the fourth anniversary of my brother’s demise, who died at the age of 38. So, my perspective on the matter was very clear. Unlike most people who were mourning, what I wanted to know was how Mandolin Srinivas lived. I wanted to know if he lived well, because that’s what would have mattered to him.

 I remembered attending Mandolin Srinivas’ live concert once when he was a ten year old boy and once when he was slightly over twenty. I remember him as a very unassuming, pleasant artist on stage. Except for those two instances, I heard his music mostly through recordings. Like most people, including ardent fans, I never wondered nor bothered to find out what his personal life was like…but on September 19, I did.

 I found a couple of news items which talked about his marriage, which took place in 1994, and fell apart in 1997, following which he fought a legal battle for 15 long years to obtain a divorce. The news articles mentioned that Mandolin Srinivas was subject to “mental cruelty” in the hands of his wife, which was the foundation for the divorce litigation, which eventually concluded in the Supreme Court in 2012. There were references about Srinivas' wife threatening to use the Indian Penal Code and the Dowry Prohibition Act to ensure that he would be sent to prison for at least one day.

 I do not wish to delve into the rest of the allegations by and counter allegations against a departed soul, but what stood out was the fact that for a good 15 years of his life prior to his demise, Mandolin Srinivas was dealing with unpleasantness in marriage, inability to know and build a relationship with his son, and the resultant bitter legal battle. The world of music and Srinivas himself were blessed that he continued to charm us with his unassuming smile and enthralled us with his music even during those difficult years.

 Lakhs of men in India go through identical personal struggles and prolonged legal battles every year. Unfortunately, not all of them have the emotional and spiritual strength, financial ability nor social standing like Srinivas, to help them sail through the rough weather without losing their edge in career nor losing the smile on their face. Lakhs of men live lives of quite desperation, and lakhs of men have given up on the battles, and ended their own lives.

 When I mentioned Srinivas’ personal struggles, a friend said to me, "musicians are soft at heart, and they need to have the mental peace to be able to practice and deliver the best to their profession”. I cannot help asking, “What about the average Joe who is not such a soft heart nor an ace musician, but is still trying to pursue a profession to make ends meet, live a decent life, and take care of himself and his family? I believe that every man deserves mental peace and personal space to do well in whatever he does. I believe that every man deserves more than “shock and dismay” and condolences upon his demise. I wish that everyone would pay more attention to how men they know are living their lives - be it one's father, brother, son, husband, colleague, a favorite movie star or a musical legend - and extend care and support to them when their life gets rough.

 I understand that Srinivas endured emotional pain for several years with amazing spiritual strength. I hope that he was also blessed with enough strength to deal with his physical ailment prior to his demise. Here’s to a gifted soul who filled the world with the nectar of music, and in doing so, attained immortality!

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