Saturday, December 24, 2011


"Hum jahan khade hotey hain line wahin se shuru hoti hai"

The Yuletide spirit is upon us. Descends like wafting snow-flakes. Somehow, by a quirk, or conspiracy, or a happy happenstance, of fate, we are in Shillong on the eve of Christmas 2011 and beyond. We celebrate. If our calendar commences from the date of His birth, why is not the birthday of the Christ on the 1st of the year I sayyy…???, so we aks. Missus has no answer. It’s complicated, we confess.

This is the first time we are is a Christian part of the country @ Christmas, and we rejoice. 57 years is a pretty long time taken to implement, have a tryst with, the hymns and carols we learnt as kids in the very British school of ours, in good old Delhi, maaan…!

Kong Bina invites us to be a part of the Christmas celebration at the Laitumkrah ( t silent) branch of Chabiwala Bank. The audience at the gathering, YF included, are surprised at our felicity at carols, inspite the you-know-what-we-got….! Smooth. A breeze! A number of insights, here. Naomi, the Chaplin of the gathering, describes the child that was Jesus that day. Okkay, we realize, the Christmas sentiment has a lot to do with infancy, and the embodiment of an endearing child. Intimately woven. The vision of the child Christ is a prime mover.

It’s infectious. On 22nd, our Khasi neighbours are scrubbing the streets with enthu and single-minded ‘purposefulness’. The word seems okay, MS Word does not throw up a censorious red underline (does not ‘flag’ it, in Chabiwala Bank lingo), he,he,he!

Streets are brimming with X’mas spirit. We walk for a year and half, sorry, hour and half, soaking ittt in. First the Don Bosco Church, then the tableaus of the child in the stable.

Back in Lummawarie, our current home. How do we celebrate? We prepare an eclectic music list and input it into VLC media player. Includes Tequila, and Mohd. Rafi, and The Ventures, and Ustad Amir Khan etc.etc.etc.etc., etc. To ensure an effervescent and non-serious Christmas eve. But then the choice falls short of the expectations. We are beyond redemption. Of course, we miss Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and his booming, cerebral, looong tans! Pronto, we launch into Youtube, and pick two compositions, Nayaki Kanada in Bageshri ang, and Marwa. “Guru bina gyaana…” the same one that Ustad Amir Khan sang, and earned kudos from none other than Bharat Ratna Pt. Ravi Shankar.

Panditji just swallows us uppp. It was in the bleak December, rather January 2011 to be precise, that we heard shocked Senior call on the cell and tell us that Panditji was no more! Of course, it was on the cards, but so soon?! We inform Goutam and Oniruddha. They are devastated. Bengalis were, and that stems from that unfortunate night of 1985?. Dileep Padgaonkar described it in his obituary as under:

“He (Panditji) liked, for example, to recall his concerts in Kolkata for in no other city, not even Pune, was the audience so enamoured of his music. Once, when he was inebriated and couldn't bring himself to sing a single note despite two attempts interspersed with some sleep and cold-water baths, the audience turned more and more restless. No one broke chairs, hurled stones or tried to set the premises on fire. Instead, many in the audience, feeling let down, broke into uncontrollable sobs. Some banged their heads against the wall to express their anguish. The organisers of the event, dazed by what they witnessed, could only mutter one word: Chomotkar! (A miracle!)”

Goutam was there- present at the concert, for the record. Oniruddha says “: ekhon ekta Josraaj, naa Kishori o, thakbo, emongg the all time greats.” Robida too, we remind him.

So… we tuned to the qaatil Marwa taans. Missus hums Ḿa Ṟe Sa, the typical Marwa swara-samooha! The tabla plays a rhythmic ektaal, theka style, not in the meretricious style of the Hairy One. We propose a theory to Missus. The relaxed and measured beat leaves space for the principal artiste to improvise, whereas the convoluted styles kill the germ of musical thought. We are pleased to report that Missus agrees.

Panditji was Panditji. We throw ideas at Madam. A note here and there will miss the bulls eye, but even that appears endearing. That’s the power of context, I saayyy…!

Panditji unbuttons his kurta as he unwinds. That was another hallmark gesture of his, vouches Youtube, when the sweat, a consequence of grappling, wrestler-‘pehlwaan’ like with taans, got the better of him. Panditji always had a penchant for the strangest, outragiest, and funniest of gestures. We recall attending a concert accompanying N.H.Kulkarni of National Archives, and Dad, when we were around ten. Dad protested, but Narayan Rao retorted, had I sung that well, I would have made even more outrageous gestures. The fact remains that his concerts were a visual delight. Enthralling. We download some music in MP3 form, and some in MP4 form, and the latter we always do in the case of Panditji’s music.

Ata tyanchya badhhal mee adnyani kaay mhanu…?! What about something off-beat? Freakonomic?

Panditji was not, we suspect, a Planner and Schemer. Jasraj compositions appear well thought of and masterfully crafted… so to say. Same for Vasantrao Deshpande. Same for Kishoritai, he,he,he… as if she is my sister-in-law! In the case of Panditji, he seemed to follow his intuition, strengthened by the elaborate riyaaz of his gharana, Kirana. The celebrated taans appear to surface as if they’d permanently resided in Nature, and were ‘discovered’ by him, not ‘invented’. And what taans, boy o boy!

Two examples of fantastic, but ‘invented’, or designer taans here:

Vada jaavu kunala sharana ga” by Asha Khadilkar (with a crazy keherwa), and “Mi punha wanantari…” by Jyotsna Bhole. Classics!

Planners and non-Planners. The Planners will tend to be good teachers. They will establish schools and incubate artistes, while the non-Planners, Kumar Gandharva included, leave posterity gasping! In fact, they keep teaching themselves rather than others, and thereby create divine music!

But then Panditji was quite articulate. Artistes often aren’t. That Left Brain vs, Right Brain stuff. Had a way with words, and used them economically, and to effect. As is known, he was an expert at car driving, and he learnt driving when a novice driver landed their car at the bottom of a ,thank God, shallowish ravine. I then learnt driving, he said, because “it’s better to meet your end as a result of your own folly, rather than someone else’s!”

How soulfully he sang! Just listen to ‘Raajasa Sukumar’, a rare abhang in Shivranjani, set to music by none other than Khale Kaka. Pt. Srinivas Khale, rarest of the rare, who again departed in 2011. And remember “mile sur mera tumhara”? Turn to

for another interesting anecdote.

Finally, to justify our title, an excerpt from the obituary in The Hindu by Partha Chatterji:

“He was always his own man. During the Emergency (1975-1977), when many artists and intellectuals were bending over backwards to please the government, he did not think it necessary to toe the line. It was at that time that he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and came to Delhi to receive it. I remember Bhimsenji asking me for a cigarette and responding thus to my felicitation for the concert that was about to begin: “ Khaak gayenge gaana iss Emergency mein (What kind of music do you expect during this Emergency)?”

It is often said that you become what your name suggests, and Islam a lot to say on this aspect of one's personality.  We thank the mother who gave the name Bhimsen to Panditji..


There was a spate of burglaries in our area. Mom hired a chowkidar within her limited means. He happens to be ‘visually and auditorily challenged”. We expected our building to be a target of the miscreants, yet we remained, touch wood, safe.

Our explanation goes thus: our man hails from the same sections as some of these miscreants. To violate his turf would mean exposing a fellow-being to police excesses, and will be socially unacceptable.. Hence the mercy upon us.

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