Vale K Raman

By Sudha Kumar

Music lovers in Australia will miss Kris Raman who passed away on 31 January 2019, following a tragic car accident on 23 January along with his wife Jaya, who is recovering from her injuries in hospital. They have a daughter Maya.

Raman Krishnaiyer, fondly called Raman Uncle or Ramettan among the Sydney Malayalee community, was well-known for his in-depth knowledge of not only music but also the personalities behind the scenes, his vast portfolio of his own photos with the stars (many published with his regular columns in The Indian Down Under) a testament of his many glowing associations.

Working at Macquarie University as a Librarian after coming to Australia in 1974 complemented Kris’ earlier career as a journalist with the Times of India in Mumbai. The work helped his quest for knowledge as his well-researched pieces about temple architecture in India and customs, places, playback singers, Carnatic virtuoso M S Subbalakshmi, Shehnai Maestro Bismillah Khan, Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, Dr. K.J Yesudas and even actor Mehmood and his role in the film ”˜Padosan’ reflected. Raman always went the extra length to collect an encyclopaedic knowledge and research around the personality or subject he chose to write. He nurtured very special relationships with some of the music personalities. Travel was his other passion.   He visited remote Northern Territory, and flew with his wife over Antarctica and other places during his retirement. His curiosity led him to interview such personalities as the champion axe man at the Royal Easter Show or 16 year old Jessica Watson who circumnavigated solo around the globe. His interview with young Olympic performer Nikki Webster whose performance was watched by 3.6 billion people around the world was an exclusive in the Indian Down Under. Writing articles under the pen name of Kris Raman, his passion and reach to people and stories outside the Indian community was his unique quality as a writer which the readers of the paper appreciated.

Kris Raman with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his son

Kris Raman was an inspiring personality, even child-like, when he used to get excited to learn about new places to travel to. His anecdotes were full of life, real and brimming with details like a movie reel relating a tale.

Raman’s passions were wide-ranging – from cinema to music, from cultures to customs, Vedas to sports. He was so mesmerised with cricket icon Don Bradman that he went all the way to Adelaide just for a glimpse of ”˜the Don’. As he walked up and down the street, the house keeper noticed him. Not only did Kris ”˜get a glimpse but also a cup of tea with the cricket legend’, he reminisced fondly.

A prominent member of the Indian and, in particular, the Malayalee community in Sydney, Raman initiated a number of philanthropic activities, fundraising for a range of good causes and charity organisations. Raman was always a keen observer and participant in all community events and kept abreast with the goings-on in the community. It was this quality that motivated him to be the pioneer of a number of organisations that brought people together. In recent times he also started writing for another community periodical ”˜Malayalee Pathram’.

Raman was the founder member and secretary of the first Sydney Malayalee Association in 1976. Considering that at the time Australia was just stepping out of the White Australia Policy, and with minimal support from representative members in government, this was no mean feat.

An ardent lover of all art forms specially music, Raman along with four other families were the pioneers in organising the Music festival ”“ ”˜Swathi Thirunal Jayanthi’, which is an annual celebration of renditions of musical compositions by singer composer Sri Swathi Thirunal, in the South Indian Carnatic tradition. What was conceptualized and initiated in 1999 continues to date attracting several hundred people including seasoned and budding Carnatic music singers every year. Community events such as these are most invaluable, and keep alive traditions for future generations.  

A recipient of various awards through the years, in January 2015, Kris Raman was honoured with the award of ”˜Outstanding Person of the Year’ by the United Indian Association for his ”˜ongoing efforts, valuable contributions and commitment to the community through his profession’.

Raman always had a keen eye for talent, and always took the effort to make it known to the person. His life was always full of stories of the most interesting kind, which he related with absolute passion and joy. He therefore had friends of all ages and from all walks of life.  It is not very often that we come across a multifaceted and multitalented personality like Kris Raman.

It is indeed a great loss to our community.

May his soul rest in peace.

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