Saturday, March 30, 2013


Chabiwala Bank, Guwahati celebrates Holi 2013 copy-book style at the Bank House. The beautiful evening is adorned by a Holi full moon, which carries a reddish hue, and rises from a South-ish East, patiently keeping us company as the night progresses. A light classical mehfil carries on along the entire length of the evening, like a babbling brook of crystal-clear water, in which you could soak your hands and wet your dusty faces at will & to your heart’s content! We try to recall a little poem, not by Wordsy-tenny-percy-byro-speare, but discovered by us on the contemporary, run by as a cyber-group of 4,00,000 barefoot poets.

Stand very still, look,             

under cold waters fish cruise
slowly, silently.
                                             Gurgle, burble, splash. 
                                              Peace of mind is what I find
                                             listening to streams.
I dreamed
I was water
In the mountains
Collecting leaves and pebbles
                                                 wavy wet
                                                 flowing tumbling rolling
                                                 rocks boulders sand silt
                                                 scouring churning eroding
                                                 rainy soaked

The evening saunters along languidly, and then suddenly we are jolted out of the reverie by a 4000 Volt lightning bolt, in the form of a drut holi bandish that crashes on our ears- ranga na dalo Shyamji, gori pe... That’s Sohani, we exclaim- how forgetful, Missus exclaims- it’s by Kalapini Komkali naaa…from the house of Kumar Gandharva, aka  Shivaputra Siddramayya Komkalimath:

being the Kumarji original.

Kumarji had been an astonishing prodigy, whose career went through tortuous twists and turns, for he lost one lung to Cancer, surviving by sheer will-power, and then went on to develop the unique style displaying trademark short staccato machine gun taans, dictated by his severely curtailed lung capacity.

As we confided in one of our earlier posts, when in Delhi, Kumarji stayed either at Gandhi Peace Foundation, Rouse Avenue, or imparted glory to our garibkhana. The great vocalist was a chum of Dad’s Mama Rahul Barpute. Once YT, then (?) a green-horn, asked him in paparazzi fashion as to how much of a handicap the absence of one lung was, he laughed heartily and said something like “अर्रे बाबा, देवाने खूप spare parts दिले आहेत आपल्याला - एक lung च खूप आहे !”. Very true- ek hi kaafi thi!

Usually the group travelled as a quartet, comprised of Kumarji, Rahulji, Guruji Chinchalkar, and Wankarbabu, the photographer. Tabalchi was on occasions, Sureshbhaiyya, a CA by profession, who had his own arrangements in Delhi, but visited Kumarji casually for practice. Needless to say, he was the warkari type of tabalchi, not the senapati type, that is, he was in the Shaikh Dawood mould, which God broke accidentally and had to enlist the Devil’s help for fashioning the new one, he,he,he…

Legend has it that (and Dad vouched for its authenticity), as a 12 year old, Kumar mimicked with utter precision Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s 2 hour recital, immediately after the Ustad took the bow, of course with the Ustad’s nod. Disciples were livid, but the Ustad reprimanded the followers- “what I could not drill into your heads in years, he has mastered in no time! He is the future of our Music!”

The quartet was accompanied occasionally by well known vocalist, Vidushi Suman Dandekar, for the record. The caboodle would chew betel nut and betel leaves all day, and the paad-daan happened to be a tin-box, a memorabilia of Raj Kapoor’s movie Dharam Karam, which we all saw- mince the tin-box. Now and then a cry would go up “Where is Dharam Karam ?”, “get me Dharam Karam” “haazir ho” etc. etc., as if Dharam Karam was another member of the troupe. We have tried to reproduce the iconic box below, and forwarded a copy of the picture to Guruji’s son Dileep for information and necessary action, he,he,he…!

Both Pt. Bhimsen and Kumarji were contemporaries, but their peshkash was so different. If Pt. Bhimsen’s taans can be likened to Mount Rushmore, Kumarji’s artistry resembled the kathak danseuse seen performing in the  Dayal Bagh  in a swirling filigreed dress.




You don’t find Sohani performed very frequently. Iti Ustad Shujaat Khan, the famous sitarist, son of Ustad Vilayat Khan who anchored that excellent programme on DD Bharati. The reason is that the distinction between Sohani, Puriya and Marwa is very difficult to maintain through a recital. We check up on Encyclopedia Madhulica:

Missus uwach: All the three have five swaras in the aroha and six in the avaroha. (audav shadav ragas). Rishabh (Re) is komal and Madhyam (Ma) is Tivra, while all other swaras are shuddha. Pancham (Pa) is warjit. Vaadi-Samvaadi sets are different, giving rise to different degrees of therav of different swaras:

Marwa:  Vaadi Re and Samvaadi Dha, less of Shadj ; Puriya: Vaadi Ga and Samvaadi Ni;
Sohani :Vaadi Shadja and Samvaadi Ga. Sohani is  uttaranga pradhan, with taar saptak shadj ascendant.

Thevan being so very similar, it’s like trying to paint three figures on a canvas with water colours of different hues, which due to their affinity and identical consistency are difficult to be kept from mixing, and keep on blotting the neighbour into confusing swirls.

This is the upama Parrikar (r/o California) bestows upon Sohani:

“This sprightly raga is an instant pleaser much like that buxom leotard-wrapped babe at your local gym that you lust after while pretending to work out (by way of comparison, think of Marwa as your mother-in-law: solid, ponderous and unfunny).

Some artistes have excelled at Sohani. One can name Pandita Malini Rajurkar and Ustad Shahid Parvez- and of course the Komkalis. In cricketing parlance, they are the batsmen like Gavaskar, MAK Pataudi, or Sachin, who could negotiate the fastest ball on an Australian pitch with ease- be it from Lillie, or Halls, or Imran, or Shaun Tait-  they ‘read’ the fast incoming  vaadi Ga of Puriya and Samvaadi Ga of Sohani, dispatching them in copybook fashion. This is Malinitai:

check tarana after 8.35- it’s based on pakhawaj bols and one of the most remarkable taranas you’ll find on Youtube. You will agree it has something to do with the common heritage and pre-occupation of Amir Khusrau and Pta. Malinitai- Mathematics.


Missus recalls her Ram Bhawan days quite fondly. The Pathak family resided in a humble abode above the Coal Depot at Ram Bhawan, Bahadurganj. Allahabad used to be a popular destination for music concerts, inhabited as it was by cognoscenti. Prayag Sangeet Sammelan and Bhatkhandes’ were the major schools, often united in rivalry, if that means anything, he,he,he..!

When the stalwarts visited Allahabad, it was natural for the Pathaks’ of Ram Bhawan to host homely concerts.  There was a moderately large hall, with a corrugated sheet partition in the middle, which used to be dismantled for space. One such concert was planned with Manik Verma, Dad’s ‘sister by adoption’ and Pt. Ratanjankar, among others.

Maniktai stayed at her in-laws’ place next to Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, and being so close, naturally misjudged the hour, and by the time she arrived at Ram Bhawan, Pt. Ratanjankar, tired of waiting, finished his recital. Maniktai refused to follow suit, such was here reverence for Pt. Ratanjankar. He was the Gurus’ Guru! The audience however left disappointed, for they were there to listen to Maniktai’s Marathi Bhajans, in the first place!


Guruji was one of the most artistically inclined persons we ever met, and in his heyday was the numero dos Indore painter, numero uno being the fakir who initially had to perch himself on film-poster scaffoldings, paint-brush in hand- you guessed it right: Maqbool Fida Husain! We were fortunate to be the recipient of Guruji’s astonishing artistic insight. In this picture, Wankarkaka was instructed to bring out the contrast between a white beard and a black one, the latter adorning the visage of YT.



This has been debated on occasions by Missus and YF. Missus plumps for Kalapini. Of course Kumarji was the teacher.  Our contention is simple: the feelings are supposed to be expressed by a feminine spirit, maybe Radha. Ergo, Kalapini's should carry more conviction, touche 

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