This voice is my life’s greatest fortune: Prabha Yesudas

As legendary singer Dr KJ Yesudas is celebrating his 80th birthday, his wife Prabha, in a social media post, opens up about how she met the singer for the first time and what attracted her to him.

“Yesudas’ life has always been a beautiful song that is in tune with God’s compositions. I and our three kids became the shruthi or rhythm in that song. He often tells me that I am his second wife. For him, music is his first wife. I and the kids come only after that. Like him, we too adore his first wife. That, however, is our family’s secret. I was only eighteen years old when I became part of his life. But I had seen him even before that. Like many of my classmates, I too had liked that young singer as I really loved music,” writes Prabha.

Prabha says she clearly remembers the poster of the movie Kayamkulam Kochunni released in 1966, which said ‘Kayamkulam Kochunni – the movie you have been waiting for. Renowned singer Yesudas sings and shares screen space with legendary icon Sathyan!’ Prabha had gone to the theater to watch Kayamkulam Kochunni with her elder sister Shashi and their uncle Thomaskutty. She confesses that she couldn’t stop laughing when she watched the slim young man on screen, with his pencil thin moustache and ornamental hat singing and dancing to the song ‘Surma Nalla Suruma’. After watching the movie she wished to meet the young singer who had captured her attention on screen. It was during that time that Yesudas had come to Thiruvananthapuam to sing at a concert. Prabha too had attended the concert along with her family members.

“The audience would write small notes for the singer on stage, requesting him to sing their favorite songs. He would sing some of those songs. It was so much fun back in those days. We were accompanied by one of our relatives Babychayan as well. The way in which he requested for his favorite song was quite interesting. Instead of a piece of paper, Babychayan wrote his favorite song on the white colored section of a five rupee note and sent it to the stage. Seeing that ‘expensive’ note, the singer smiled for a while and then sang ‘Panchavarna Thatta Pole Konji Vanna Penne’. But the singer modified the next stanza to ‘Anju roopa notu kanden Nenju Thakaranu Penne’ (alluding to the five rupee note) instead of the line ‘Panchasara vaaku konden Nenju Thakaranu Penne’. My admiration for him only increased when I heard those lines,” reveals Prabha.

It was music that brought the duo closer. Prabha and Yesudas met each other at some family functions. She says she still remembers the day when she heard Yesudas’s sound through telephone for the first time. “His sound was not like the sweet and rhythmic voice that all of us were used hearing through Akasahavani. He spoke with a distinct Kochi style. We spoke for some time and before hanging up he invited me for his concert at the senate hall that evening. I noticed that Dasettan kept repeating that he had called me for no reason at all. However, in my mind, I knew that he had called me for some reason. Though I had exams the next day, I didn’t have the heart to reject that invitation. I went for the concert at the senate hall with my family. While enjoying the concert, an announcement came through the mike that the next song would be ‘Pranasakhi’. As we were expecting the popular song ‘Pranasakhi Njan Verumoru’, Yesudas suddenly sang another song ‘Pranasakhi Neeyevide Neeyevide’. It was not composed for any movie. For whom did he sing that song? I wonder whether he saw me among the audience that day. Just like we fall in love with some songs as we keep listening to them again and again, slowly we too fell for each other,” notes Prabha.

Prabha was born in the Modayil Valiyaveetil family in Mallapally to Kurian Abraham and Ammini. She was the youngest daughter in that orthodox Christian family. Prabha recalls that she and her siblings were raised with strict discipline. So, she and Yesudas, even though they were in love, had decided that they wouldn’t get married by hurting their respective families. Their engagement was in October 1969. “At that ring exchange ceremony, I actually got a treasure that is way too valuable than diamonds – Yesudas. He won a unique honor right after our engagement. Yeasudas was singing at a concert in the Shanmugananada Hall in Mumbai. His teacher Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar too had attended that concert. That day, Chembai gifted Dasettan the ponnada (a piece of cloth that is wrapped around the shoulders of a dignitary to honor him/her) that was blessed and given to him by Sankarachaya. I felt it as an auspicious ceremony where the teacher was ordaining his disciple as his rightful heir. I felt immense proud when I heard about it. That incredible honor was indeed our wedding gift from God,” says Prabha.

She recalls a lovely incident from one of their family trips to Kanyakumari. While everyone was relaxing at the sea shore, enjoying the beautiful sun set, someone asked Yesudas to sing a song. He sang the melodious ‘Indulekhe … Indulekhe…Indrasadasile Nrithalole..’ It was legendary singer P Susheela who had sung the humming part of that song written by Vayalar. However, that evening, at Kanyakumari, it was Prabha who joined Yesudas in singing that mesmerizing song that had many beautiful lines that describe the beauty and charm of a new bride. Prabha wonders whether Yesudas had sung that song especially for her.

“I was an introvert who hadn’t met many people. But Yeasudas was a famous singer. He would be swarmed by his admirers wherever he goes. Meanwhile, I would step aside from the crowd and would stay silent and meek. It was Yesudas who changed me into what I am today. As we celebrate forty years of togetherness, I thank God for every moment that I spend with him. Though he gets angry pretty easily, it wouldn’t last longer. He gets emotional very easily as he approaches everything with so much honesty,” Prabha says.

At the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the Malayalam movie songs, Yesudas sang the famous song ‘Manushyan Mathangale Serishtichu’ written by Vayalar. However, his sound broke and eyes welled up. The legendary singer couldn’t complete the song as he was overcome with emotion. With tears in his eyes, the veteran singer spoke about how the religions were spreading hate instead of love. The audience gave him a standing ovation and a deafening applause that lasted for a few minutes.

PrabhA says that Yesudas is extremely protective about his family members. She recalls how Yesudas would be tensed and all worried when she, his mother and his sister Jayamma went for the movies while the family was staying at Chennai. She says Yesudas insists that he should be there for everything in their lives. No matter how late he came home after recordings or concerts, he would wake up the kids and play with them even if they have school the next day.

Their first child was born seven years after getting married. Prabha says that this had pained Yesudas so much. While she was pregnant with their first child, Yesudas had sung the song ‘Malarkodi Pole’ at a concert. There was a line ‘Kaalamariyathe Njan Achnayi’ which was about the paternal love. Prabha noticed his eyes welling up while singing those lines. She says that her children’s faces come to her mind when she hears that song even today.

Prabha reveals that her favorite song is ‘Aayiram Paadasarangal Kilungi’ as Nadi was the first movie that they watched as a couple. Meanwhile, the song ‘Premasarwaswame’ is another song that she likes. However, despite Prabha’s constant requests, Yesudas never sings that song at the concerts.

Prabha says that during her childhood, whenever they heard classical music on radio, her friends would mock the singers saying that they were singing some gibberish. She admits that she too had said that. “After meeting Yesudas, music became my breath of life. Soon, I began training in classical music. I had even trained in playing Veena for some time,” notes Prabha.

Prabha says that Yesudas had never forced his children to become singers even though their sons Vinod, Vijay and Vishal sang well. The legendary singer’s decision was that his kids could enter the world of music only if they are really talented. “Vijay was always interested in music. He would sing even while doing something. When he was in a smaller grade, one of his teachers chided him for this habit. But Yesudas didn’t like it and moved him to another school. I wished one of my kids to become a doctor because I too wanted to become one and had opted for the second group with that intention in mind. But, my life became one with the music that everyone admires. Universities honored that music with honorary doctorates. That too is a miracle of Lord Almighty. Usually, the wives would know everything about their husbands’ likes and dislikes, his job, eating habits and the little secrets that she alone knows. I am extremely lucky when it comes to that as well. Everyone in the world knows about my husband. Everyone loves and respects him as much as I do. The voice that the entire world desires to hear belongs to me as well. Isn’t that the greatest fortune in life?” concludes Prabha. 

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