Radha Viswanathan (1934-2018)

A life of devotion and indomitable spirit by Gowri Ramnarayan


For most of her first 50 years, she was celebrated for her beauty and charm. For the next 35 years of untold suffering, she was an invalid, steadily declining in health, wheelchair bound, needing a caregiver all the time. She was totally bedridden towards the end of her life—which came on 1 January 2018. This was the tragedy of Radha Viswanathan, M.S. Subbulakshmi’s stepdaughter, steadfast companion and sterling vocal accompanist.

That a woman who suffered so much could remain ever cheerful, unfailingly optimistic, continue to be interested in the lives of those dear to her, and get some fun out of her own life, was not just amazing, it made her a motivational force, a role model.

And who was Radha’s heroine? This little incident tells us.

The venerable maestro with oil massaged into his skimpy tuft is seated on the swing in the verandah, singing an expansive Todi, as he waits to take his morning bath. A child is working on her sums close by. Suddenly, the singer exclaims, “I simply can’t sing the high notes like your mother!” To his great amusement, the little girl responds matter-of-factly, “Adudaan teriyume!” (Of course, we know that!)… read more