Mesmerized by the alternate world of the classical arts- May 2, 2012

“This is what Shaji wanted to say when he talked about opening the world of math to children (with reference to post on teaching math),” I thought, listening to the countless permutations and combinations, several tempos and meters of Pandit Sarathi Chatterjee’s rendering of Raag Yaman today. The renowned musician sat a few feet from me in a wonderful baithak setting, once again created in the home (with reference to a post on a kathak event) of my kathak guruji Jaishree Acharya and her husband tabla maestro Shiv Shankar Rayji, who was accompanying Sarathiji today.

Masterji taught me well indeed, to be able to appreciate and also understand what the singer did, the method he used to render the alaap, climbing up slowly one note at a time, while teasing the audience with a hint of the note yet to appear; what orders of notes he combined to achieve his taans; the dialogue he had with the tabalchi while playing with the beat cycle in myriad different ways! By masterji, I mean my music guruji in Lucknow, Milon Debnath, who often had to deal with a sulky adolescent me, unwilling to sing Raag Yaman for the 1500th time and yet happy to eventually get cajoled into doing so after a 15-minute diversion into something like Bageshri!

Ah! Those were the days! The alternate world of music; the world in which I, as a child, could effortlessly slip in and out of. Today, when I listen to good Hindustani vocal music, especially at close quarters, I regret feeling like an outsider to that inner sanctum that once had a place for me.

And yet, I truly appreciate masterji’s effort now, so many years later when I am finally learning to listen well. I cannot thank him enough. The magical evening started with an 80-minute recital of Raag Yaman, and moved on to renditions in Raag Hamir and Raag Anandi, concluding with a thumri in Raag Pilu.  In the end, there was silence and lots of happiness in the room!

I want to be able to give my children a window into this beautiful world, not just as rasiks (those who listen, appreciate), but as practitioners of these classical arts that have a timeless beauty, even as I want to reclaim a bit of it for myself.

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