I was recently presented with a copy of Sriram. V's Carnatic Summer, and having just read it, I've decided that it is a most wonderful addition to the numerous books on Carnatic music. Sriram V. needs no introduction to the Carnatic music aficionado. He (along with Vocalist Sanjay Subramaniam) started Sangeetam, which is perhaps the best available website on Carnatic classical music.
In this book, in his own delightful writing style (made familiar to us by his editorials on Sangeetam and writings in S. Muthaiah's Madras musings) he brings out the lives of twenty great exponents of Carnatic music (of the past century). What makes it so readable is that the short biographies are filled with humorous anecdotes and little known incidents in the lives of the (often eccentric) greats. Here's a little excerpt from the chapter on the legendary violinist Mysore T. Chowdiah (and his passion for vintage cars).
"Chowdiah's cars were invariably of a sound vintage. He would insist on driving himself and invariably drive to all his performances, even as far away as Kumbhakonam, Madras and Tanjore. The cars that broke down en route necessitated considerable probing into their innards and Chowdiah often landed up late for his performances with a liberal dose of grease on his person! All this gave organizers tense moments, but all was forgotten and forgiven once he got on to the stage.
Once when Maharajah Krishnarajendra Wodeyar IV of Mysore was camping in Bandipur, he happened to notice a ramshackle Austin making its way often on that lonely road at all kinds of odd hours. On getting to know that it was Chowdiah's, he sent for him. On being gently enquired as to why he frequented that path in such a jalopy of a car, Chowdiah replied that it was because he had many concert engagements in Coimbatore. He also praised his car sky high, and painted a rosy picture of its roadworthiness. Later he came to know that the Maharajah had planned to gift him a car, but had changed his mind on coming to know that Chowdiah was so happy with the vehicle he owned!"
Good stuff this, for either the Carnatic music fan, or the history buff (or both!). An excellent choice for a lazy Sunday afternoon.