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Interview >> V. G. Karnad

My experiences with Pandit Pannalal Ghosh

By ---- Pt. V.G. Karnad

Jai Guru! 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.

My mother’s 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.

During 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.

When 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.

My education 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.

In 1943, 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.

After 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 reproduce.

In 1948, 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.

One Mr. 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.

The organizers 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.”

With 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.

I have 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….

Then 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.

I first 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 the notes.

So when 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.

I asked 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.

When 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.

In 1945 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.

Now I 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.

After 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.

After 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.

In April 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.”

Although 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 with him.

He encouraged 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 Gurudev.

During 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 to music.

He had 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.

His system 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 or not.

Pt. Brij 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.

He was 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.

Like 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.

When 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.

He came 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 soul.