Monday, February 22, 2010

Of Travel, Music, and Memories

The past three days were spent in Chittor and Udaipur with no purpose other than to see the cities. With Taraji as our knowledgeable tour guide and Nikhil as the indomitable driver, we set off for the roadtrip with Amrit and Kusumji. There was the usual sightseeing - the large fort in Chittor, the palaces and lakes of Udaipur, temples and gardens of ancient times, and so on. What made the trip memorable was not the places we saw, but the people we met. These individuals were part of Taraji's vast network of family and friends and through them I caught a glimpse into Taraji's life as it used to be.

Before the social activist there existed a national swimming champion and a student of vocal music. We visited the house she was born into and lived in for 22 years. It was merely a few feet away from the walls of the City Palace and the glassy-watered lake that housed the Lake Palace Hotel. As a child, this was her swimming pool. Unlike the training centers which coached well off swimmers, this one had crocodiles. Neither these reptiles nor the slaps from her mother prevented her from being the best swimmer in Rajasthan.

A couple of houses up the alley was the home of Yogeshji, Taraji's music teacher and best friend. During hr school days she learned singing from him. His guru was Pundit Chaturlal Das, the famous tabla player who regularly accompanied greats like Ravi Shankar. Yogeshji was the one student to whom Pt. Chaturlal bestowed all the music knowledge he possessed. This student of his had great potential as he studied in south Delhi. One day, Yogeshji noticed he couldn't see during night time. Slowly, his vision disappeared until his eyes were of no use.

As we sat with him, he played his tabla with a zest and passion that was contagious. "When foreigners come to learn with me, " he points out, "they don't understand the Indian style of music. So I have to show them how to play the tabla in their own style." He banged on his percussion adroitly as if it was a drum set. For the next hour, we sang and clapped. Listening to the animated conversations between Yogeshji and Taraji, it was clear their bond was much more than that of a guru and his student. They were friends who held a deep respect and admiration for each other.

Coincidentally enough, there was a concert in honor of Pt. Chaturlal that very evening. Yogeshji invited us to come. Amongst the musicians were Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and his son, Salil Bhatt. My trip to India had prevented me from attending the Pundit's performance organized by AID. Now that I finally experienced the beauty of his instrument, some part of me felt that maybe there is such a thing as destiny.

1 comment:

  1. A singer, a swimmer and now a social activist - Tara ji sure has interesting persona. I so would like to meet her someday.