with Pandit Pannalal Ghosh
---- Pt. V.G. Karnad
I will initially be brief about myself. I was born in
Karnataka when it was under Madras Presidency in South
Kanara district, in ---------- some 35 miles away from
Mangalore to the east a place called ---------where
my parents lived. I was born on 22 Sept. 1935, according
to Indian calendar Chaturthi of Ashwin, in the days
of Navrathri. I was the fifth child of my parents. We
had a very strict ritualistic and religious background
at home, with Bhajan-Kirtan being held every evening.
My father was a staunch Congressman and we belonged
to the family of Karnad Sadashivrao, who was my grand
father’s cousin - a renowned Congressman, also
known as Karnataka Gandhi. My father by vocation was
a village officer. We were not very rich, but a comfortably
settled middle class family, with about 20-30 acres
of land, a pucca house, few heads of cattle, and household
attendants. My father was very social hospitable, and
liked by villagers. Mother was a true Indian housewife.
I was three years younger than my elder brother and
we were a joint family. Thus I was born in a typical
religious family. Excluding the one who died, we were
four brothers and four sisters and many cousins.
aunt used to sing bhajans, lawnis etc. I grew up in
this atmosphere. We had a good Purandardas’s collection
and were influenced with Carnatic music. We had a gramophone
and we also had a 78-rpm disc of the great flautist,
Palam Sanjeeva Rao. My father periodically used to play
those and that music was most pleasing to my ears. I
was deeply attracted to that. My father used to play
South Indian music on a gentle flute but did not have
the formal training for it. He used to play it while
sitting in a chair and then keep it locked in a cupboard.
We were not allowed to touch it. But this way, my interest
in music started growing day by day.
rice-paddy harvesting, children used to cut hollow stems
of paddy and blow them like a flute. I used to make
3-4 holes in the hollow stick and thus could produce
a few notes from it when I was six-seven years old.
Once I got a bamboo like pipe in the backyard. I took
it to our bath-hut and made some holes in it. It was
certainly not a proper flute but I could get notes on
it, which I used to play. This was in 1932, when I was
seven-eight years old. Those days the boys were not
allowed to spend time on music and more importance was
given to school studies. So I used to play when father
was out. Even mother did not support me much. However
she used to encourage me during Bhajan sessions. I took
a keen interest in singing Bhajans also and all used
to appreciate it.
I was about ten-eleven years old, father brought a harmonium
from Mangalore. He was keen to train my sisters. It
was necessary for girls to know a little about music,
especially for marriage. In our village, there was one
Mr. Venkateshbhai who had some training, and had spent
a few years in Bombay. He had a good collection of Natyasangeet.
He was appointed to teach my younger sister, who was
not very keen to learn, but used to do some exercises.
But I being interested in music was inquisitive when
he taught and used to watch how to use one’s fingers.
I used to practice with my mother’s permission
when father was away. When I was twelve years old, one
Keertankar, Shri. Kalyanpur Sanjeevrao, who belonged
to our family came there and performed in Konkani, Kannada
and Tulu. In our village he could not get anyone to
accompany him on the harmonium. I requested him to allow
me to accompany him during his practice. He allowed
and liked the way I played. Then he told my father that
why was he looking for an accompanist when Narhari could
do it. Thereafter I used to get the invitation for accompaniment,
invariably in our village. This was my first break.
Thus my interest in music started growing day by day.
was over in middle school, when I was thirteen years
old, and in 8th standard. I had my education till matriculation
in a place called Puttur from where my mother came,
some 20 miles away from my village. I stayed with my
uncle for high school studies. There were two temples
where at night Ashtavadham used to be played everyday.
(Ashtavadham- hymns from four Vedas, Gadya-Padya, some
Ashtakas, sangeet, shankhvadya, venuvadya, etc.) I was
very much interested in venuvadyam and used to wait
for it anxiously, and played it on my homemade flute.
Then one gentleman from our community realized that
this boy needed a good flute. He had a small flute and
he gave that to me. I started playing on that. Thus
I used to have my chance regularly during Ashtavadham.
Those days only 78 rpm discs of 3-4 minutes were available.
I used to copy those on the flute. It went on like this
and the flute used to be my companion everywhere. Without
the flute I never went anywhere and played whenever
I had a chance. Though not very systematic, I was always
very keen to learn music under proper guidance. But
unfortunately in that small villager there was nobody
to guide me, especially for flute. In Mangalore there
were a few good teachers, but I could not afford to
go there and learn. In1942 my father disposed off that
village place and we moved to our ancestral place `Mulki’,
where we have our house.
I got a small job in a co-operative society. You may
laugh but the salary was 15 Rs p.m. which I used to
give to my father. Along with my music I had an interest
in drawing and painting. So I used to paint signboards
and earned 4-5 Rs p. m and used to make cinema slides
etc. I had an interest in the fine arts. In 1944 I got
an offer to work in a private firm at Salem in Tamilnadu,
where I worked for a year. In Salem those days, I could
listen to a lot of good music. In marriage processions
there used to be a lot of good music played, especially
Nadswaram. Listening to such good music, my interest
in music increased a lot. After one year’s stay
I came back to my native place. There was a vacancy
in the Rice Depot where my father was an agent. He wanted
a temporary clerk and I decided to help him. My pay
was Rs. 35 pm. In Jan. 1946 they wanted some assistants
for their inspectors and one Mr. Krishnarao had seen
my work liked it. He recommended me and directly brought
an appointment letter for me from the President. This
was a bombshell for me because I wanted to go to Bombay
with my brother for my career. But my father was happy,
since 3 of his sons were away and at least one would
live with him in his old age. The salary was attractive.
Initially I worked as an assistant, later the post was
made independent and was designated as `Stock Verification
Officer’. In Jan 1948 we received the letters
of retrenchment. Mahatma Gandhi had declared that rationing
should be discontinued so the rice procurement job had
to be given up with the result that we got notices of
retrenchment. On 30th Jan. We got the sad news of his
assassination. Next day I had to go to Mangalore and
hand over the charge.
the retrenchment I communicated with my brother that
I wanted to come to Bombay and he agreed. My father
wanted me to rest for a while before I left. Accordingly
I planned, and left Mulki on 19th February. I caught
a steamer from Mangalore and reached Bombay on 21st
Feb. 1948. My brother received me. We came to know about
some vacancies in the Imperial Tobacco Company Co. India
Ltd. which was a British Multinational. I applied and
got an appointment letter on 4th March 1948 and was
then working in their godown in Parel near KEM Hospital.
I worked there for thirty-six years in various departments.
I stayed with my brother at Shivaji Park. The office
time was 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. Since I was very much interested
in fine arts, I was very keen to join the Model School
of Arts near Dadar Railway Station. However, the fees
were Rs.30, excluding other expenses, and that remained
beyond my budget. Since I used to get only 104 Rupees,
it was out of question to join the Art school. Then
I thought why should I not do something in music? Mr.
Mohan Nadkarni ( a well-known music critic) used to
live in the same place, where I stayed in Dadar. He
happened to stay with his cousin in the same building
on the 2nd floor and I was on the 3rd floor. This cousin’s
husband brought him to our place once and introduced
him to us. This was sometime in October 1948. He asked
me whether I was the one playing flute. At times he
heard the flute music from the 3rd floor. “Yes”,
I said. “Whom do you learn from?” I said
“From some discs and AIR”. Those days there
used to be very good broadcast of instrumental music
between 7: 45-8:15, which I used to listen and try to
our Dharmaguru Swamiji of Chitrapur math Shrimat Anandashram
Swamiji came to Shivaji Park and there used to be pooja
every night , where he stayed. I used to play the part
of venuvadya. Shri. Mohan Nadkarni too used to come
there. Thus we became close friends. Initially I learnt
from him all the basics of music like swar-saptak, ragas,
gharanas etc. and consider him as my first Guru. He
gave me lot of inspiration. I remember that he gave
me 3 compositions in Yaman, Pooriya, and Darbari in
Teentaal, which I played in front of Swamiji. Pt. SCR
Bhat also performed there and happened to listen to
me. He inquired about me and inquired why I didn’t
learn from Pt. Pannalal Ghosh, a renowned flute maestro.
I said,` I have heard a lot about him but I am a very
small person to go to him.’ Pt. Bhat said that
he was a very nice person and would be happy to teach
me. I was glad to hear that. In my next meeting with
Nadkarni I mentioned this to him. But he cautioned me
that I should have sufficient knowledge of classical
music and for advanced training I could go to Pannalalji.
I searched for classes in flute.
Ketan introduced me to Mr. J. P. Mohile ( Anil Mohile’s
father) who played straight flute and I was disappointed.
On the 13th of Feb. 1949 there was a news in paper that
Swami Nikhilanand of Ramakrishna mission from Chicago
was to come and give a lecture in the hall of Theosophical
Society , at Opera House and after the lecture there
was to be a flute recital by Pt. Pannalal Ghosh. I was
looking for such an opportunity and fortunately that
was Saturday when we had a half-day in office. I left
the office a bit early and reached the hall. The programme
was at 5 PM, but I reached early.
started coming at around 4-4.15 PM, but I was looking
for my beloved Guruji. He came at about 4-50 PM. With
a hefty body, short build, in a spotless white dhoti
and kurta with a flute box. I didn’t have the
courage to meet him when he was coming hence I also
went inside and occupied a chair. My interest was actually
to meet Guruji and see if I would be able to have his
consent to accept me as his student. It was not my age
to pay attention to the spiritual lecture and my vision
was on my Guruji all the time who was sitting in the
front row. In between Guruji came out to smoke. I immediately
rushed out to meet him. I was not aware of formalities
like touching someone’s feet etc. So I simply
stood there and said, “Namaskar. My name is Karnad.
I wanted to meet you because I wanted to learn flute
from you. Please excuse me but I have not come through
anybody. I am directly approaching you.” There
the goodness of my Guruji was revealed. He told me,
“ Why should you come through somebody? I am also
a man like you. So it is good that you have not come
through anybody. By coming through somebody some wrong
notion may been created about me and it would have taken
some more time for you to come to me. So you have done
a good thing by meeting me directly. Now after my programme
I am going home. Tomorrow my programme is in Khar. So
you come there at about 7-7.30 PM and meet me before
the programme, we can have a detailed talk.”
this promise I eagerly waited for the next moment to
meet him. Next day I went to meet him one hour early
because I had nothing else on my mind. He came there
with Mataji( Mrs. Ghosh) and his daughter. I approached
him and said, “Sir, I had met you yesterday….”
“Yes, yes. I know, but now you do one thing. I
am busy for a week or so due to some assignment in films
for playing flute. Afterwards when I am not busy, you
come with your flute to Malad. Catch a train from Dadar
to Malad, pay 8 annas to the tangewala and ask him to
take you to Pannalal Ghosh’s residence. He will
take you to where I stay.
So we selected a day which was convenient for me. I
think it was a Saturday or Sunday and I was counting
the days. I was so overwhelmed by the fact that Babuji
had called me at last to give me a try.
never come across a man with his personality. He was
utterly simple, despite the fact that he was a top musician.
I went to him on that day with a small flute which I
had. He made me comfortable by offering me a seat and
he also took one. He asked me, “Have you brought
your flute?” “Yes.” I said. I showed
him the flute with 7-8 holes, fashioned in Carnatic
music style. He asked me to play something because he
wanted to see how I held and blew the flute. I played
a small piece in MaruBihag, composed by Pt. G.S. Ratnakar
Bhat , uncle of Omkar Gulwadi, who had composed it for
an orchestra and I had picked up during their annual
Rama-Navami festival at Mangalore. Babuji immediately
took the flute from my hand and played MaruBihag on
it. What a difference it made! He had a hefty body,
long fingers and played so well….
he started asking me questions about where I stayed,
where I worked, how spent my evenings etc. I frankly
told him that I had just come from the village and belonged
to a middle class family. I had to work because all
of us brothers had to contribute to our house at the
native place and sisters were to be married off . He
then asked , “How many hours will you be able
to practice?” I said “How much do I need
to?”. “ At least 3 hours”, was his
answer. I readily agreed.
He further suggested that I practice very regularly
and told me that if I didn’t , next day he would
be able to make out if my playing was right or wrong.
It was in my mind that I must not cheat my Gurudev .
All the discussions were very nice and encouraging and
I could see in his eyes, a sort of parental affection
. But now I had a question in mind as to how much remuneration
would I have to pay to such a great Pandit and would
I be able to able to afford it? Those days I was unable
to spend even 50Rs per month, then how could have I
managed his fees? I didn’t want to be a burden
to anybody. I was about to ask him about it –
probably he read my question in mind and before I could
ask , he said,” Look, I am not running regular
music classes like others. So whenever you come, if
I happen to be at home, I will teach you. Whatever I
teach you will be sufficient for you for the next 5
months. The technique and art of flute are not as simple
as we think. For this, I am not charging you anything.
So whenever you come here, if I am not here, Mataji
will give you a cup of tea, have it, sit, practice and
go. Don’t waste your time.” I was extremely
happy with these few sweet words . He further asked
me to bring a flute with 7 holes and the one which I
had won’t do. “Go to the shops and get such
a flute”, he said.
went to Haribhau Vishwanath at Dadar and then many other
places, but could not get it. At H. Ramarao and Sons,
I was guided to Shri. Malpekar’s shop, who could
converse in Konkani, and would help me. Mr. Malpekar
guided me to Mr. Limaye, who taught in Prof. Deodhar’s
class at Opera House. Mr. Limaye did not have a bamboo.
Hence he made a small flute from a local bamboo, by
scrapping the outer surface and polishing a well tuned
one of `Black-II’ pitch. He charged me Rs. 5 which
was a big amount in those days. I took it to Babuji.
He played it and certified that it was tuned properly
and asked who had made it. Then he explained to me how
to hold it with fingertips. He told me that there are
two ways of playing, …… and he started playing
we started playing from the notes, first thing he told
me was, that importance should be given to the ones
posture. It is either Ardhapadmasan or Sakhasan, keeping
the vertebrae very straight. We should play holding
the flute not parallel to the ground, but slightly slanting
towards the ground. By sitting straight, one can keep
his lungs free for inflating and one must be able to
inflate them to the maximum limit, so that you can play
for a longer period. It’s also a sort of Pranayama.
When you start playing, rather blowing, you must have
the feeling in your mind that this is Sharada, the Goddess
Saraswati. You must worship her first. And you must
pay your respect to the instrument by touching your
forehead with it and praying,” Look, I am your
son, I am doing this little service to music. Mata Saraswati,
please bless me to be able to do your service to the
best of my ability and give me all that vision and give
me the knowledge of music to the best of its capacity.
So with this kind of spirit you must start blowing.
Then sa-re-ga-ma shall be played in slow tempo. Initially
it shall be played using little finger for Ma in Aaroha
and not in Avaroha. This shall be reversed next time.
One must be able to use the little finger with maximum
ease, at will, by practicing it. Later he started teaching
me paltaas. These paltaas have to be played in 8 pieces
in each of aaroha and avaroha since it becomes ½
Tritaal and thus can be practiced in proper rhythm.
If, for example, it is a 3 notes piece, it shall start
from Dha like- Dha-Ni-Sa, Ni-Sa-Re…..This gives
a beautiful impression. While practicing too, you feel
satisfied. This is how I started learning.
him, “When shall I come? Everyday?” He replied,
“Kya tum paagal ho, for coming from Shivaji Park
everyday? Have you got that much time? When will you
practice? So don’t come everyday. You may come
twice a week and remaining time you can go to Devendra
and practice with him. Those days Devendra Murdeshwar
and Rasbihari Desai too were learning from him. Rasbihari
was before Devendra, but actually his first student
was in Calcutta when Babuji was a bachelor and came
from Barisaal. Those days `Mentuda’ (Mr. Aminur
Rehman) , who was a steno or clerk in the Municipal
Corporation in Calcutta, then Haripad Chaudhari, Roy,
Sengupta etc. used to come to him. Of all of them I
have seen Mentuda, Chaudharibabu, and Fakirchand Samant.
Others I did not see. All these bachelors were staying
in one room. They were the first batch of students.
Chaudharibabu came to Bombay in 1938 or so, he found
that there was good market for flautists in Bombay.
Therefore he brought Babuji to Bombay in 1940. He was
till then associated with New Theatres in Calcutta.
First they were staying just opposite K.E.M. Hospital
in Parel. Smt. Saraswati Devi was the music director
in Bombay Talkies in Malad. They were experimenting
and trying to popularize playback singing. Amirbai Karnataki
and Shamshad Begum used to sing there. Babuji’s
wife, Parul Ghosh, was also called and she gave an audition
test too. She belonged to a very well known family.
I have seen her mother, who stayed with Sunil Biswas
in Matunga. She was a very well known Keertankar and
used to sing kirtans, Bhatiyalis etc. in Barisaal. Thus
Mataji also had very good training from her mother.
She passed the audition. and appeared on the pay roll
of Bombay Talkies. She used to get 1000 Rs. per month
in 1940. Now they found it difficult to come to Malad
everyday from Parel. Hence they selected a house where
they stayed from 1941, which was on Gavthan Road and
named it as Pannalal Ghosh Road after him. Here Babuji
had a lot of time at his disposal, to practice. Mataji
managed the income. During this time Mataji gave maximum
encouragement to Babuji for practicing.
he had an inclination to take further training in music.
Although he felt that he could play proficiently, the
presentation part of it required some polishing. When
he heard Baba Allauddin Khan Sahib’s programs,
which had a glittering output, there being no repetition
in his play, which developed gradually, he thought that
he should take training from Baba.
At that time Baba was staying in Borivali East near
the railway station. Babuji went there in 1946, caught
hold of his feet and said, “ Baba, I have come
to learn from you.” ( Baba was a short built,
lovely , nice, but also a very short-tempered person.)
Baba said in Bengali, “ Who are you?” “
I am Pannalal Ghosh” .” “Are you playing
flute?” “Yes”. ”Then who is
the one who plays in the big concerts etc.?” “I
am the same man”. ”Then what have you to
learn from me?”. “ Baba, I am playing, but
I know I am nothing and when I heard you, I felt I must
learn from you. Till you say ‘Yes’ I wont
leave your feet”. Baba agreed . Thus Babuji learnt
from him for about a year and a half.
come back to the point when Babuji told me not to come
everyday but twice in a week. He said that you practice
with Devendra, who also belongs to your community. This
went on, and we became friends and I used to go to Devendra
place at Santacruz and sit together for practicing.
In Dec. 1949, I went to our native place on my first
leave of one month. Babuji had said that bamboos were
available in Bengal. My brother used to go to Calcutta
but would not bring any bamboos since he knew nothing
about them. In Western Ghats, these bamboos are amply
available. So I went to “Ujarai” (near Dhramasthal)
and from the forest brought about 30-40 pieces of big
bamboo; but I was not aware which were the good ones.
coming back, in January 1950, I took a whole box to
Babuji. When I opened it, I found that a few pieces
were shrunk/cracked, perhaps had not ripened properly.
Babuji was surprised to know that such big bamboos were
available in that place. While returning I left all
those bamboos with him. Then he asked “Are you
not taking all those with you? ”I replied that
I had brought all of those for him. Perhaps at that
time Babuji realized that I was selfless. Earlier several
people approached him, got the flute from him, learnt
for a few months and started propagating that they were
Babuji’s students. This he did not like and that
was the reason why he did not give bamboos freely to
any body. So he took my test - whether I was practicing
well, whether I was sincere or not etc. He got convinced.
another 1-2 months he told Harudada to take out one
very good Burma bamboo (from the stock which was kept
in a loft above the bathrooms) and Devendra to make
a flute for me (white 4) ( which I still have with me.
I started practicing on that. In 1952, when Devendra
was in Delhi for a job (after his marriage) Babuji had
nobody to accompany him in the concerts who could play
’Black2’. Babuji found out a piece of a
bamboo from his stock and requested Mohan dada (who
was a regular visitor to him ) to make a ’Black2’
flute for me. The bamboo was short by about 1-2”.
Hence Mohan dada prepared a very good flute after joining
a nice matching piece to it in 1952. I started playing
that regularly, may be in Feb or March1952.
or May there was a program arranged in Sikkanagar (C.P.
Tank, Girgaon ) by some music circle . Shri Yashawantrao
Purohit (of Kirana gharana) who was also friendly to
me, had arranged it. By now the frequency of my visits
to Babuji was everyday. He had told me that. May be
he loved me like a son, and he wanted somebody to accompany
him everyday on surpeti/taanpura. Earlier Manudidi /Harudada
used to, and Babuji wanted me to listen to him more
(He used to say Sabse bada Guru kaan). On the day before
the program in Sikkanagar he told me to bring my flute
to accompany him. I said that I am practicing on `Black-2’
for hardly 1-2 months. But he insisted and said, “Don’t
worry. I am playing Yaman for you.” Next day we
started. He had told me that “ “. So he
had generated confidence in me that he would not put
me in any embarrassment. Then he started playing on
tabla and after 2-3 rounds of Tala he looked at me and
hinted me to play to the accompaniment of Tabla. In
front of audience I had to play, come to Sama, was appreciated
by them and Babuji too applauded. Thus he created confidence
in me. Afterwards he played Bihag and made me comfortable.
While returning he said, “You did it well. Hereafter
you come with your flute to accompany me.”
since my school days I had no stage fear, Babuji made
me feel homely. He never ever scolded me. I had an association
with him for nearly eleven- twelve years. Now what I
can say,` Chhota moonh badi baat,’. I can say,
that his qualities, his feelings towards his disciples,
his colleagues the musicians,…..I have not seen
a personality like him. He would never utter a single
word criticizing any artist. Whoever visited his home,
he would make them play or sing, encourage, enjoy and
listen to them so nicely, discuss and only at their
request play for them. Otherwise he would not play first.
Whoever came, irrespective of their age, experience,
or name, he would give them respect. There was one Mr.
Hariharan, who was a South Indian and used to write
about music. He came to interview Babuji. It was a bright
sunny day. He discussed all he wanted. Then he requested
Babuji to play. Babuji played Miya Malhar . Within five-ten
minutes the whole sky was overcast with dark clouds
and it started raining heavily. We had to take umbrellas
from Gurudev to reach the station. Mr. Hariharan mentioned
this episode in his write-up and added that he had heard
of Taansen bringing rains, but this Miyan Malhar was
a real experience. This was my first experience. The
second time Babuji’s program was again in May,
at Mangalore . Sangeet Kalopasak Mandal arranged this.
That time he was accompanied by Pt. Taranath Rao on
Tabla. That day at the Kanara High school hall at Uraval
Hill, was full. People were standing outside. Initially
he played some Raga , but later on when he played Miyan
Malhar, it started raining so heavily that all people
started running inside. Like this I had many experiences.
The person who was responsible for Baba’s stay
in Borivali was Mr.Abani Dasgupta who was well known
in the film music industry as a percussionist.
I used to go to Guruji twice a week initially. Since
I used to practice regularly and sincerely, he appreciated
if I started going to him regularly. This was mainly
because I practiced well and he was in need of somebody
who could accompany him on `sur-peti’ when he
practiced, as well as at the time of concerts. Those
days, unlike today, there were no electronic instruments
available. He had a `sur-peti’, a very fine instrument,
produced by Gore Brothers, Belgaum, which was a very
sleek model just like a book. It used to give a very
nice sound like Tanpura and playing that was difficult.
We, as his disciples, were given very good training
on how to play it and later on along with it simultaneously
to play Tanpura. So, I used to reach there about 8.30
PM. That was quite helpful to Guruji also, at the time
of starting the practice with a cup of tea and a smoke.
He used to take accompaniment on tabla from Nikhil Babu
or any other Tabla player if they were available, otherwise
with a Metronome for rhythm. But the practice was very
regular. Thus I used to play both surpeti and tanpura
more of listening than practice and if there was any
doubt, we would ask him and he would clear it immediately.
That was the way he used to teach. It was not like now
a days, where several students would practice together
and for a Guru it is difficult to find out properly
if anybody makes mistakes. In our case he made us listen
when he played .Since I was a very regular visitor ,
he used to be anxious to know if I remained absent .
Then he used to send a word through Devendra or Chandrababu
to inquire . If he came to know that I was sick, he
used to tell me that I must be careful about my health.
He loved me like a son. He used to practice for us with
love and sincerity. The last train to leave Malad used
to be at 12.00 AM. At 11.45 PM he would tell us to leave,
since it was 20 minutes’ walking distance to the
station. But our interest in listening to him was so
much that we would not stir. It used to be 11.50. Then
he would keep the flute down. Thereafter Devendra and
myself would start running to catch the train. We would
just catch the train, sit in a small bogie where no
one came .and practice. Devendra used to alight at Santacruz
and I used to go to Shivaji Park at about 1.00 AM. By
then I would be feeling hungry and thirsty. I would
drink a lot of water from the municipal tap and go to
bed. In the morning at about 6.00 AM I used to go to
the terrace and practice by half blowing, facing a corner,
so as not to disturb others. This was the daily routine.
I used to practice for one hour in the morning and two
hours in the evening. I had a notebook for recording
my daily practice. On an average it had to be at least
3 hours a day and that was the promise I had given to
my years of association with him, he never lost his
temper. He would play some Taankari for me which I would
try to reproduce. If I did not follow it correctly,
he would play it once, twice, thrice. And if still I
was unable to reproduce it correctly, he would just
smile and say, “Tum paagal”, but could never
be angry. This way our relationship grew stronger.
Once it happened that Babuji lost his hearing and became
stone-deaf. He was very upset and was telling me that
he was not able to teach me anything, still why was
I going there everyday? I said that I do not know why,
but I get so much peace if I just see you and I come
for that. Once he told me to play a small and shrill
flute with full force just close to his ears and said
that he wanted to see whether his hearing was gone forever
or could he regain it. He was then sitting in the room
near the kitchen. Mataji too was sitting and told me
to try. I played for about five minutes. He told me
to continue and I played for another ten-fifteen minutes.
Then he said, “I am happy, my sense of hearing
is not gone completely. I feel as if a flute is being
played a few yards away. You are playing Yaman now?”
“Yes,” I said. After a few days he regained
the sense of hearing and was very happy. But when he
could not, he felt how he could have lived without listening
a second daughter, Noopur, who lived hardly for 2 years.
In 1951-52 she died of smallpox. That day I was carrying
a Glaxo milk tin ( which I used to get from my brother-in-law)
as usual for the child. When I reached Malad, he was
sitting in the verandah where there used to be a jasmine
creeper. He embraced me and started crying, “
Karnad, how can I play now…” I was then
told that Noopur was no more. She used to pluck Taanpuri
and also used to reproduce a few notes if he played.
Babuji used to say that Durgadevi has taken birth in
his house in the form of that child. We all felt very
sad about the child.
of teaching was very nice. He always said that playing
with fast tempo was not that difficult but it was with
slow tempo, where you can demonstrate correct `shrutis’
which are required in any `ragas.’e.g. the soft
Re in Pooriya, Marwa, Shree is produced with some sort
of feelings. In Shree it comes from Sa, in Pooriya from
Ni-Re-Sa, in Pooriya-Dhanashree Ni-Re-Ni ….etc.
Quality of Re should be very correct, then only you
will get the feeling of that Raga, that emotion, which
can come only if you play slowly. That’s why he
used to say, “ You must play a slow tempo as slow
as you can.” In faster tempo listener may not
be able to judge whether the note was played correctly
Narayan had once arranged the first music festival in
Azad Maidan, opposite Metro theatre in a huge tent.
Babuji’s program was fixed there. He sent a big
questionnaire to Babuji to be filled in, before the
concert. According to that, the artist was not supposed
to perform fifteen days earlier and later to the festival,
and that he should be punctual etc…..Babuji filled
and returned it . I accompanied him for that programme.
But we found that there were hardly 20-25 people in
the tent. Those comprised of known artists like Smt.
Gangubai Hangal. The program was over and Babuji was
not paid the amount of Rs. 300 as per the agreement.
Perhaps there was no significant collection. We returned
and Babuji also said not to worry about money. Babuji
never told anyone this incident, but it is known because
of Brijnarayanji’s mention of it in a newspaper
after Babuji’s demise.
a very nice person. If anybody came to him to fix a
program and asked how much money he expected, Babuji
would reply, “ How much can you pay?” Then
people would say, “Our music circle is poor..”
“ Ok, pay whatever you can..” Those days
I did not see that he was getting more than rupees 300
and in the later days people used to pay Rs. 1000. I
remember once we went to Madras at Rasik-Ranjan Sabha.
Mataji, Guruji and Nikhil Ghosh traveled in the 1st
class and Mohan, Devu and I went as accompanists in
2nd class. We stayed with Hari Chhabria’s father.
We were given a hint that in the South the appreciation
of music would not be “Wah-wah” but ”Chuk-chuk”
. The program started. As per their tradition, a few
senior A-class artists would be offered seats on the
stage on both sides. The well-known Carnatic flautist
Swaminathan Pillai was there. The same day a rival Sabha
arranged the program of T.R. Mahalingam at another venue,
despite that there was a big audience, the hall was
full. As Babuji started with Sa, on a big flute, the
“Chuk-chuk” appreciation came from the audience.
Babuji turned to us and gave a soft smile. He, upon
their request played Darbari, followed by some South
Indian ragas. It was a great concert.
this there were so many instances we witnessed. He always
encouraged me for accompaniment. At times he used to
make me play and he would follow me. He used to contribute
by way of Taankari, Layakari etc. and would make a beautiful
picture out of it. He would not show on the stage that
he was my Guru and I was his disciple. It was like a
Jugalbandi. That was his spirit. I can never forget
those sweet memories. He gave me so much of love and
affection. Even now whenever I play, its not me who
is playing but it is his spirit making my fingers play
on the flute. There is a story of the goldsmiths and
tests for gold. Similarly a Guru tests his disciple,
then he teaches him, then their relationship develops.
In one situation , a Guru may act like a chela , not
from the learning point of view but from the affection/love
point of view. I experienced this with my Guruji.
he came in 1959, which was our last meeting, Mataji
told me “Look son, you know that Babuji is suffering
from a heart condition. After his recording with the
studio, bring him home by taxi. You go to your home
only after his safe return. In one of the return trips
, Babuji took my hand in his hand, and said, ”Karnad,
I like you very much. Do you know why? I replied”
What have I done to deserve that affection? You have
done so much for us, taught us, without expectation
of a single paisa, “On the contrary you have spent
so much on us”, he said. I replied ”The
music and love which you have given, I don’t think
I will be able to repay it even after hundred rebirths
and now you say this. That was the expression of his
love. I have never seen that kind a person in my life.
That was the time Guruji and Mataji, both visited my
place and brought gifts for my two young children. What
a great soul, not because he gave us something in a
material form, but because of the love he gave.
for a programme on 13th or 14th Sept.1959. His national
program was on the previous night. He came by air, next
morning. Mataji had told me about this over phone in
my office. She was to come later on by Frontier Mail.
She told me to receive him at Khodadad Circle where
he would reach by a coach, and immediately he should
be taken to her younger brother’s (Sunil Biswas’s)
place and there he must take complete rest. I did accordingly.
That day the program was in the Poddar College hall
at 5.00 PM. It was arranged by Bharatiya Art Society
(South India Music Circle). That was the last accompaniment
that I had given to him. He played Kedari, where I accompanied
him well, Bhatiyali and what else I don’t remember.
That recording is available in Malad. Afterwards I have
not heard that recording. He assigned me a job to receive
Mataji and put her in Malad with a comment that he could
see no one else who would do this job so sincerely.
I did that too. I cherish his memories in my heart and