My first acquaintance with Pandit Ravi Shankarji was way back in 1979 at Lala Sridharji’s house, where he would always stay whenever he came to Kolkata. He truly cared for and loved young musicians. I understood that when I was first invited by his institution Ravi Shankar Institute of Music and Performing Arts (RIMPA) to perform in Benaras in 1984. When my performance was over, he personally came and handed a cash token and said that accepting fees was integral for a professional musician. Besides performing with seniors such as Ustad Allarakha Khan, Chaturlal-ji, Pandit Shankar Ghosh, Pandit Kanai Dutta, Ustad Zakir Hussain and others, he also greatly inspired comparatively younger tabla players, such as Kumar Bose, Tanmoy Bose, Bikram Ghosh, Samir Chatterjee taking them to his concerts. I had many an occasion to share the stage with Panditji in Durgapur, Goa, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Banaras, Los Angeles, New York, San Diago etc.
Panditji could speak English, French and Spanish, but he would love to speak in Bengali. I remember that at the end of my performances, he would insist on singing a few Bengali songs. He loved eating, and was especially fond of Bengali cuisine. He loved alu sabzi and luchi. Panditji used to come almost every year to Shri Tapan Mukherjee’s house near Shyambazar in Kolkata to play on the Sitar along with the legendary tabla maestro Hiru Ganguly, popularly known as Hiru Babu. Panditji always acknowledged that he saw the most passion for music in people from Kolkata.
What a memory he had! At the age of 92 he could recall even trifle events from when he was 5 or 7. I saw him last when I went to perform at the Medical Science Auditorium, San Diago, USA, in June 2011. He wasn’t well, yet he stayed till the end of my performance. I always regarded him as my Guru. May his soul rest in peace.
Hindustani Classical vocalist Ajoy Chakrabarty is director, Sangeet Research Akademi.
As told to Priyadarshini Sen. This did not appear in print