Om Akhanda Manadalakaram Vyaptam yena Charaacharam I
Tadpadam Darshitam Yena Tasmai Sri Guruve Namaha II
Guruji (Bharatratna Pt. Ravi Shankar) …my Dronacharya and modern world’s Polar Star for Indian Classical Music and World Music.
As a Tabla player I learnt the Banaras style of Tabla from Guruji Kaviraj Ashoutosh Bhattacharya Ji in Kashi. While learning from him I also got the offer from Pt. Ravi Shankar Ji to come to Delhi, live with him and learn. I shifted to New Delhi where apart from learning the art of Tabla accompaniment from Pt. Ravi Shankar Ji, I also learnt many more aspects of music and being an artist. It’s been 30 years since I came to Delhi to live and learn from him in an age old “Guru Shishya Parampara” (Teacher-Student Tradition), ever since he became my family, guardian, guide, role model and my Super Star.
Coming from Allahabad, a small towner and very dogmatic background, in the beginning it was rather a shock that the man whom the world saw as a giant was such a humble, fun loving and easy to talk with man. He was so different to what Guru meant to me back in Allahabad. He was so stylish, not wearing dhoti-Kurta all the time, not looking serious and on top he even had track of Govinda and Amitabh movies!!!
I still remember going with him to the movie theatre (Of course he would be in a disguise) to watch Amitabh’s “Agnipath” and Guruji had only one comment after the movie “He has proved he is Amitabh” (As Amitabh’s carrier was going through rough tides and had given lots of flops before Agnipath) After living with him for a while I slowly started to understand him and his values. He was so deep inside his work but he never made it boring, not for a single moment he missed to look around and see what the modern world has to offer, what is more to learn, to know about other things too which are happening around us…seeking knowledge was his eternal quest…he was a tremendous reader about all different subjects. He could talk on any topic and not only about music and this is what amazed me the most I guess. But even after having all these quests he was a very deep rooted Indian classical musician and a purist. His presence of mind was incredible, in everything he found humor, there was never a dull moment while he was around. I remember once we all were havinglunch and Anoushka remarked that Guruji’s necklace was hanging out and stuck to his kurta buttons. She said “ Bapi your pendant is hanging out”, guruji replied immediately “may be it wants to become independent” or once I saw something was sticking on Guruji’s face, when I told him he asked me to remove it. As I started removing it, I realized it was a new mole growing. He immediately said “arrey ota faltu noye rey…paltu hochchey”(it’s a pet and not stray!!!).
My most precious moments with Guruji used to be when he practiced in his puja room alone and called me to accompany him and simultaneously he would teach me too. Here I use to see the student in him which never died, practicing the same basics every day like a beginner, planning his concerts, discussing about new possibilities, what more could he give to his audience…With him it was a neverending learning process. I learnt not only while he was teaching music but just to observe him while he was talking to people, traveling, eating, reading, walking, concert preparation, stage arrangement, making projects, composing music,working in a recording studio and so much more…each and every second of my life with him I always tried to observe and learn from him yet he never sized to surprise by teaching always something new.
Once I had a small accident with my hand and Guruji immediately said ist a bad omen and organized a special Puja (ceremony) with Havan (the fire ritual) at the Rama temple near the place I lived with him in Delhi.
I was so touched just with the thought that being such a busy Star musician, he still had time and this feeling for his student.
It’s been heaven’s fortune to live and learn from him and a great honor to accompany him on Tabla.
A Guru I would like to go on learning in my next lives too.
My Shradhdhanjali and Pranaams to Guruji.