CUDDALORE: The musical beats have taken the audience to a realm of pure bliss, and they started gently tapping their feet in tune with the rhythm. On stage are two girls in their early teens playing thavil, totally oblivious about their admirers around.
When life turned upside down during the Covid-induced lockdown, sibilings T Sivakalai and T Kalaivani from the remote village of Veppur in Cuddalore, ventured into a world of music and beats, far from that of mobile games and computers. The efforts put in by the sisters, coupled with that of their guru M Sivasankar of Ulundurpet in Kallakurichi, would make them experts in the art two years down the road. The duo is now leaving the audience spellbound wherever they play thavil, a temple percussion instrument.
T Sivakalai and T Kalaivani, studying in Class 10 and 8 respectively at a private school in Veppur, have their father Siva Thangadurai to thank for, as he is the one who took them to Sivasankar so that they could learn the musical instrument. During the initial days of the lockdown, we had nothing to do, the sisters say, adding their father, an ardent devotee of Lord Siva who runs Thiruthondu Valar Thirunavukarasar Thirumadam, was totally against the idea of them whiling away time.
“Since we are interested in music, he took us to the guru in March 2020. It was a kind of gurukul mode of education. We had to stay at the guru’s place as it was difficult to commute due to the restrictions in place. Everything, including food and accommodation, were provided by our guru for free,” they say.
Siva Thangadurai sounds different from others when he says most parents, these days, are bringing up their children like robots. “They are focussing only on their kids’ education, and are forgetting to find the hidden talents of their wards. Though it’s my wish, my children are putting in extra effort to master the art of playing thavil.”
Sivasankar, the guru, is full of appreciation when he says the talented sisters took just six months to learn the basics, something that many others take a year. “When they were brought to me, they knew nothing about thavil. For women, it’s little bit difficult to learn thavil as their hands are softer when compared to that of men. The kids put up a brave face and did not give up on their practice even when blisters appeared on their palms,” he says.
For Sivasankar, it’s unable to forget the first individual stage performance of the sister duo. “It was during a temple festival in Dindigul. I was to attend the event. But unfortunately, or rather fortunately, I fell ill. That’s when I sent Sivakalai and Kalaivani as my replacement. Their performance was extraordinary that the festival organisers called me over phone and started praising the duo to the skies. They also praised me for training them well,” he says as tears of joy well up in his eyes.
For the sisters, the Dindigul event was just the beginning. After that they performed in so many events.At first, Sivakalai says, we found it difficult to play the instrument. “But after the initial hiccups, I believe, we started picking up fast.”
To this, Kalaivani nodded in the affirmative and adds with a smile on her face, the scolding she received from the guru is still fresh in her mind. “Though he scolds us when we do mistakes, he ensures we learn the art properly,” the younger sibling points out.“After all, nothing is bigger than fulfilling our father’s dream. For us, it is the biggest achievement,” the duo says in unison.