Homage to a Guru
India has an ancient, venerable tradition of elevating the guru to a state of divinity. Our ancient texts of Sanaatana Dharma or Hinduism state ‘Aacharya Devobhavah’ denoting that a learned teacher who selflessly imparts knowledge to a disciple should be revered and respected as godly. Every calendar year, Indians celebrate the occasion of Guru Poornima (which usually occurs in July). This is an auspicious occasion for students young and old to show gratitude and pay homage to their gurus.
In 2011, Tampa Bay lost one such selfless, superb guru and performer of South Indian classical (Karnatik) music, Gomathy Sundaram, on Guru Poornima day. She was 78 years old. Having known this late accomplished artist personally for several years, I look back to musical memories of a beautiful human being, a motherly guru who lovingly taught classical vocal, violin, veena and other instruments. The Indian community fondly referred to her as Gomathy ‘maami,’ meaning aunt in Tamil.
I remember Gomathy Maami’s astute, accurate and yet positive and encouraging analysis of many a concert and performer. Her knowledge of music was deep and comprehensive, and she was thus able to assimilate and enjoy all kinds of good music. The beloved musician provided lovely violin accompaniment to several of my Hindustani vocal performances. Sundaram was ever present in the musical goings-on of the Central/South Florida region – from Composers’ Day and Thyagaraja Araadhana music festivals at the Tampa Hindu Temple to countless other music, dance, cultural and religious celebrations around the area. Gomathy Maami was a constant fixture as an enthusiastic vocal/violin solo performer, accompanist and an audience member encouraging not only her students’ performances but also those of others – no matter their age and level of expertise.
This always warm, welcoming and unassuming senior violinist was very much in demand for accompaniment to vocal performances and also to play at Bharatanatyam dance shows and Arangetrams (stage debuts) in Florida, New York and other states. Gomathy Sundaram’s legacy of Indian classical music lives on in her many deserving students and her musical family – two daughters and four grandchildren.
I will always cherish Gomathy Maami’s lilting music, unconditional love and positivity. She was a rare example of humility that comes from a place of true love and knowledge.
Lavanya Dinesh, an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music, lives in Tampa. She regularly performs at musical venues in India and the United States. The singer has three album releases to her credit. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org