We were practicing Raga Ahir Bhairav in the class today. The challenge this particular group of students are facing is that while they can play the Raga and improvisations in it pretty well, they tend to forget about ornamentations that make the music sound richer. We decided to work on ornamentations today and best way to do that is to play a known tune exactly the way it is originally played/sung.

Since we were practicing Ahir Bhairav, we decided to choose this beautiful Bhajan by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Lata Mangeshkar – Ram Ka Gungaan Kariye (Roughly translated as – Sing praise of virtues of Lord Ram)

This composition happens to have special place in my heart. I remember it was Saturday in August 1988. It was the first time I went to Hariji’s home and asked him to teach me Bansuri. When he told me that he does not teach beginners and asked me to play something, I played this Bhajan.

While we were playing this Bhajan in the class today, it occured to me today what place Lata Manageshkar and Bhimsen Joshi have in my and most of our lives. Imagine the world where there is no Lata Mangeshkar. Or Bhimsen Joshi. Imagine us born in different times than these stalwarts.

And then think about all those melodies that we would not have. Or may be they would have been sung by someone else, who may not have had the God-graced power of pure notes.

What would that world be like?

Imagine if Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia were born in different times. What would that be like….

For one, I would not have had any inspiration to learn Bansuri which today makes my life so much richer. My life would be incomplete even without me knowing about it. Something that helped me survive through bad times and better cherish good times, would not exist.

We would have perhaps had other Bansuri players trying to mimick other musicians rather than capitalizing on strengths and emotionality inherent in Bansuri. We would have had a lot of mechanical music.

Role models like Lataji, Bhimsenji, Hariji or Zakir Hussain are not born every day. But when they do, they take their domain to such heights that it inspires generations to try and scale those heights. And our lives are not only enriched by their own music, but the music of all those who get inspired by them.

All of us – whether we are musicians or not – have many reasons to be grateful to these role models.

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