THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When Kerala Kalamandalam invited students to enrol at its new sub-centre in the city, the centre coordinator Sharada Thampi had college goers and school students in mind. Little did she expect 79-year-old Kunjukunj N and 64-year-old K Soman Nair seeking admissions to their new music batch.
Kunjukunj doesn’t understand why everyone should be so surprised that he is learning music, at his age. “Age is never a barrier for learning something. In fact with age, the intrigue to pursue one’s interests grows stronger,’’ says Kunjukunj. Soman Nair agrees. He says, “One should grab everything that fascinates one. Age should never serve as an obstacle.”
Soman and Kunjukunj have traced entirely different trajectories in their life, before they joined the centre. The former had always wanted to be part of the Kalamandalam, and the latter, wanted to learn music. Due to the obstacles that life posed, both could not pursue their dreams when they were young.
In Soman’s case, it was severe opposition from home. He, who was interested in Kathakali, became a government servant in the Department of Health. After he retired, he started working at a private hospital. Deep inside he still wanted to be a student of the Kalamandalam.
Kunjukunj needed a job, not a certificate in music. He joined a government school in Kachani, but kept his passion alive. Whenever he would find some time, he would pick up a book on music. A huge fan of old Hindi and Tamil film songs, he would listen to M K Thyagaraja and K J Yesudas on the radio. His love for music ensured that he encouraged the young music talents from Vellanad, his village.
They grew old, lived through several experiences, earned crowfeet and wrinkles. However their childhood dreams did not wear out with time. Finally, now, the wish is fulfilled.
Though Soman Nair’s parents disapproved of his artistic bent, his wife and children are very encouraging. Kunjukunj, who is a bachelor, also enjoys complete support from his family.
Even though only three days have passed, their teacher is all praises for both of them. Sharada Thampi says, “Kunjukunj is always seen in the front row of the class. He pays utmost attention to all the lessons taught. He insisted that he wished to sit on the floor along with the other students.”
About Soman who is in the other batch, the teacher says, “He is one of the most active and talented students in the class. Other students are motivated by his passion for Carnatic music.”