HE lives in a filthy cowshed in the backyard of his one-storey home in Maihar's Purani Basti. A grubby mosquito net has been hanging in this cubbyhole for ages. Whisky bottles and ballpoint drawings are strewn around in the mess. Pasted outside the low-slung door are his favourite sayings: 'Visit India, Quit India', 'Think before you leap' and 'All that glitters is not gold'. In a way, the room and the sayings sum up the life and times of its resident, Sri Lanka-born David aka S.D. Podiappuhamy, one of Baba Allaudin Khan's most promising disciples.
They call him the spoilt genius of Maihar. Born in Sri Lanka, David had travelled to England for his matriculation before he heard the strains of a raga and was enraptured. "I knew instantly that I wanted to learn Indian music," he says. He came to Santiniketan, joined Visva Bharati's music school, learning the sitar, tabla, vocal and dance. Considered the most promising student of his times, he completed the five-year music course in four. He met Baba Allaudin Khan during one of his visits to the country in 1951—the legend was a visiting professor of music at Visva Bharati. Khan, struck by the young David's enormous talents and nimble tabla playing, sent him a cryptic cable in 1954 which said: "Come immediately with your instrument."