(First Published in Jan 2005 in Sruti Notes, Newsletter of Sruti – India Music and Dance Society, Delaware Valley, USA)
During my trip to India in Dec 2003, when I first walked into Patti’s house, I was astounded by all the photographs with all the famous people she met. I kept asking my mom, “Who’s Patti standing next to here?” and exclaimed “Oh my gosh! It’s Helen Keller!” On one of our visits, I just listened to my mother talking to her, and heard my mom sing a song for her. Even when Mom sang a song, Patti knew when she made a mistake with the beat. That made me smile, because Mom always tells me when I hit a wrong note or miss a beat, and it was interesting hearing someone else tell my mom that!
During this visit to India, I’d try to go to Patti’s house every day. One day when I was working on my schoolwork, My mom left by herself and came back, telling me that the princess of Travancore was there with Patti. I was so impressed! Of course, I was a bit upset that my mom didn’t take me that day, but it was such a wonder to hear that a real princess was there!
One of the times that I met Patti after that, Mom asked me to sing a geetham for her. I picked the fifth geetham, “Aana Lakhara,” and with much nervousness sang it in front of her, one of the greatest singers ever. At the end of the song, she smiled at me and told me to sing part of it again. I was overjoyed that she enjoyed the song that I had sung! She also told me to practice singing every single day, and not to eat ice because it’s bad for your throat. After she said that she immediately said that sometimes I could have ice cream, just for a treat! After that, my mom told me to dance. I was a little hesitant, but I got up and did a korvai that I knew for her. She clapped her hands for the kita thaka thari kita thom at the end and told me that she enjoyed it very much, in Tamil, when I sat down. I understood very well what she said, but speaking was harder for me. She also said that tomorrow we should all go to Radha Patti’s house and show it to her, because she also learned dance. She smiled at me. I felt so happy at that moment when I realized how much she liked it. She also shared a mini Hershey chocolate with me !
After flying back home, I was a little sad about leaving everyone, including the dog that I fed every morning. It felt so different coming back home and seeing all of the things that I hadn’t seen in three weeks. I still jumped at every little breeze of air that I felt for fear of a mosquito. Anandhi Patti came during my summer break, and it felt more like India again, with dance practice every day and amazing Indian food. Before she left, I knit a light and airy scarf for each one of my grandmothers, and I also made one for Ammu Patti. After Anandhi Patti left, and I knew that she reached India, I constantly asked my mom, “Has Patti got her scarf yet? Does she like it?” and finally the news came that she got the scarf and she loved how soft and pretty it was and that she had immediately tied it around her neck. I was simply joyous at this news. I hoped for so long that she’d like it.
At the time she wrote this, Amritha Mallikarjun was a seventh grader at Lionville Middle School.