The first time I heard Velukudi Krishnan's Thirupaavai discourse, I was reminded of the few people I met from Thanjavur who'd speak the language with such poise that you immediately began to pay attention. The crystal clear tone and the clarity in his voice is remarkable. The listener is even more surprised when one gets to hear his English lectures. If he does not mix a single English word in his Thamizh lectures - then the opposite is true for his English lectures (where he usually quotes only from Sanskrit literature). His fluency in English is as remarkable as his fluency in Thamizh. Velukudi is not exactly Thanjavur jilla. More Thiruvellarai - which houses a beautiful, well-constructed, gigantic temple. But his clarity in expression is just as good. This skill is probably just the 'pullaiyaar suzhi' of his staggering repertoire. He is in many ways a complete speaker. His voice and prose are so unique and rich that one can spend quite a bit of time describing its singular beauty. The amount of verses he remembers from the Vedas, upanishads, puraanas, ithihaasas, prabhandams, and desika sthothrams - is fascinating. As the son of an eminent Hari Katha exponent Velukudi Varadachariar, he left his C.A practice to continue his father's work (the linked article is a good read inspite of the Prema Nandakumar's queer "earth-scene" introduction).
Another important attribute that attracted me to his lectures was - his ability to create an environment where the listener is led to believe that one is participating in a 'technical discussion' as opposed to a spiritual discourse. I have listened to Balakrishna Sastrigal and Krishna Premi. Sometimes their love for their subject makes them digress so much that a younger listener loses interest in the topic. I am not trying to discredit them. They are very good in their subject matter. Just that in the case of Velukudi Krishnan, a half hour package contained so much information and references to so many verses that it is hard to listen without being alert (or in the case of several hundred grandma's in Ayodhya Mandapam - without taking rapid notes). Most people who come out after listening to his lectures often say "how does he remember so much and quote it without missing a beat".
Some other aspects most listeners like are - the strict punctuality, the no-nonsense approach (he is really uncompromising) and clear diction. If you don't believe the "classroom atmosphere" thing - do drop-in on one of his lectures and witness the sudden hush'ness the moment he begins to speak. Like the way many good speakers do, he'd communicate to you that you cannot make any noise and the lecture will start and end exactly on-time - without saying so in as many words. On the topic of professionalism - one incident that I'll never forget, happened during a discourse in Jayagopal Garodia school. Velukudi was narrating the "kovil Puranam" segment SriRangam and was describing historical accounts on the brutal killing of about 12 thousand Srivaishnavas during the moghul invasion of the temple. It was an emotional segment and one could sense the seriousness in the air. Suddenly he stopped his lecture. A person in the first row apparently had fallen ill (severe chest pain & dizzyness) and fainted. There was the usual 5 minutes of commotion, where that person was put in a car and taken to the hospital. Immediately, without announcement Velukudi continued his lecture. It took people a while to understand that the lecture was ON again. In 10 seconds people were back in their seats, the silence was restored and he went on to finish the lecture bang on time.
I am glad he is coming to Seattle and I am hoping to catch some 1x1 time with him. Interested folks in USA can check out his schedule here and listen to one of his lectures.