Page 21 - seniors today August issue
P. 21

I have had the privilege to be the first disciple     teaching me, to stay a step ahead of me, and that
        of the legendary Padmavibhushan late                  enriched her own music. So from then on she
        Gaan-Saraswati Kishori Amonkar (whom I                never accepted from me a single paisa for all the
        shall address as Kishoritai or Tai hereafter).        wealth of music she showered upon me!
        Kishoritai lived an accomplished life as an           In 1962, I stood first at the University, and took
        avant-garde vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli            the decision to join IIT Bombay at Powai for
        gharana of Hindustani classical music during          my B.Tech. in chemical engineering. Since the
        her illustrious 86-year life. What follows are        campus was residential, with rules not allowing
        some reminiscences of a devoted disciple, friend      students to go home on weekends, this meant
        and philosopher, a role I had played for about        an end of my further music training. But Tai
        50 years in her life. Kishoritai was only 12 years    gave me a strict ultimatum: Either you come
        older than me, and therefore these three roles        for music lessons every weekend, or terminate
        inter-mingled rather easily in the long journey       your training! I had no option but to seek
        of our lives. However, the most prominent role        special permission from the Director of IIT to
        was that of her disciple, and I shall primarily       go home to Mumbai every weekend. He gave
        dwell on it in this narration.                        me that permission with the condition that
                                                              it would be withdrawn if I ever lost my first
         My initiation as Kishoritai’s disciple happened      rank in the class. With God’s grace I managed
        somewhat accidentally. When I was hardly 12           studies, and weekends and holidays of full-time
        years old, I had a chance encounter with her          music lessons. I not only maintained first rank
        when I had visited her mother and Guru, late          each year, but won the President of India Gold
        Padmabhushan Gaan-Tapaswini Mogubai                   Medal at the final B.Tech. year, having stood first
        Kurdikar (whom I shall call Mai, as we all            amongst all branches of engineering. Needless
        used to call her) just to see what the legend         to say, Kishoritai was mighty pleased, and even
        looked like, and to pay my respects to her. I was     attended my convocation.
        undergoing training under Ustaad Abdul Majid
        Khansaheb at that time. Mai made me sing for          Rigorous routine
        her during that visit, so she was aware of who        I am tempted to write about the music lesson
        I was. Many years later, at the age of 17, when       routine during each weekend. After the
        I approached Mai to ask if she would take me          practicals on Friday afternoon, I would take
        under her tutelage, she politely declined, but        the bus from the campus to Vikhroli station,
        knowing of my preparation in vocal music from         and then after a long train journey, reach
        five years earlier, she suggested her daughter        Tai’s home at Gowalia Tank in the evening. I
        Kishoritai, not so famous then, to play that role.    would then have five sessions – One on Friday
        I readily accepted, and thus was the beginning        evening and two each on Saturday and Sunday
        of what was to be the most scintillating musical      mornings and evenings. I would then take off
        relationship for the next five decades!               for Powai late in the evening on Sunday, reach
                                                              the hostel sometimes as late as 11 pm after a
         My first year of training began with Raag            two mile uphill walk from Vikhroli station, as
        Bhairav. I had finished First Year at college         there would be no bus service at that hour! I
        and was into the intermediate science year.           would miss dinner, and fill-up on biscuits and
        Music practically became my second, equally           water. And the classes would begin on Monday
        time-consuming, activity during that time. The        morning. The reason I have mentioned this
        lessons were regular, about three to four times a     ordeal each weekend is to emphasize the fire in
        week. Tai started with me for fees of Rs. 50 per      my belly that drove me to satisfy Kishoritai’s
        month, but in a couple of months, she stopped         strict, rigorous demands of learning the
        accepting any fees. Her reasoning was that            authentic Jaipur Gharana Raagas as fast as
        she herself liked the challenge she faced while       possible. Of course, during Diwali and summer

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