NP Seshadri, my dear friend for 50 years, passed away in New Delhi on November 16, 2009. When his daughter Raji informed me of his death, I was shocked. But I was not surprised because Seshadri, who was an eminent astrologer, had told me many times: “Debu saab, I will not cross November, my time has come”. Though Raji kept telling him that a leading astrologer in Chennai had said that Seshadri would live till he was 85, he kept on telling me that his time had come, and for him time was very important.
About 30 years ago, my late wife Manjusree had asked Seshadri: “Bhaisaab, why are you getting Raji married so early? She is barely 19”. Seshadri replied: “Time has come for Raji’s marriage”.
Seshadri was a great astrologer but besides me, his family and some of his close friends no one knew that all his predictions about national and international events were always correct. Seshadri was such a gifted man that just by looking at a person, he could predict everything about him/her. Raji told me that whenever he used to read a horoscope, no matter whose, he would study it thoroughly and write down each and every small point about it.
Whenever there was an important development, we used to marvel to how correct his predictions were. Astrological predictions came naturally to him. He would study them till early in the morning and then send his neatly handwritten predictions to the person concerned. No matter who the person was — a politician, bureaucrat, artist, doctor or even gardener — he would do it with the same affection and sincerity. Men like Seshadri are not born every day, he was indeed a rare phenomenon. Like a true karmayogi, he believed that a dedicated man must do his sadhna with energy and in the process even forget himself.
Seshadri never sought any position though he could have easily got something big for himself. He firmly believed that he must devote all his time to ordinary people and that’s what he did. In the evenings, his residence would become the centre for cultural and religious meets. People from all walks of life, known and unknown to him, would go to his residence for advice and everyone returned satisfied. He always said that astro-palmistry is sadhna and never made it his profession.
He felt that it is possible to guide a person to a major extent about his good or bad days. An ardent devotee of Lord Venkateshwara and Punniainallur Sri Mariamman, Thanjavur, he often used to tell me that life is anitya and there is no use of hankering for power and material prosperity. Above all, there is something called unison, which could be attained by leading a dharmic life.
On the advice of Jawaharlal Nehru, Seshadri founded the National Cultural Organisation (NCO) for the promotion of Indian culture and national integration in 1950. Since then, the NCO has been organising cultural festivals including the prestigious Tansen festival, which was always inaugurated with a shehnai recital by Ustad Bismillah Khan.
I remember an incident in 1967. Seshadri had organised the festival and as always it was open to the public. After Ustad Bismillah Khan’s performance, an old gentleman went up to Seshadri and said: “Main to ek chhota sa pan ki dukaan wala hun, magar bahut din se Khan sahab ki Shehnai sunne ki chahat thi. Usse aaj apne pura kar diya. Allah aapko lambi umar dein.”
Seshadri’s one singular achievement was that he brought the south and north culturally closer and created mechanisms so that they could benefit from each other and retain their distinctive colour and tradition in the purest form. It was to Seshadri’s credit that he could make Hindustani music and dance popular among south Indians and south Indian classical dance forms and Carnatic music popular among north Indians. He was also the organising secretary of the Akhila Bhartiya Veda Vidwat Sammelan. As the organising secretary of the sammelan, he was not only responsible for conducting it but also for publicising the secular aspects of the Vedas.
Seshadri held several important positions in the Government of India. As handloom commissioner, he added a new dimensions to the marketing and publicity of handloom products. He also popularised handloom expos and fairs throughout India and abroad. It is to his credit that today handloom products are so popular.
His death is a great personal loss to me and his contribution to cultural and other fields cannot be described in words. Seshadri’s majestic personality, sonorous voice, eloquence, helpful nature and humility will always be remembered by everyone.
He was a man of action who moved with the present and envisioned the future. I hope and pray that his children and admirers would carry forward the rich cultural legacy that he has left behind.
Debu Chaudhuri is an internationally renowned sitar maestro The views expressed by the author are personal