We were practicing Raga Yaman in my classes this Wednesday. I was teaching my students a simple Gat (composition). While we were playing it, I recalled my own learning days from Hariji and then suddenly remembered that I had recordings of a couple of those sessions.
Those were simpler days. I was studying Electrical Engineering at VJTI in Mumbai. My parents had moved to Pune and I used to live with my grandparents in Shivaji Park area in Mumbai. I used to get grand pocket money of Rs 1000 per month (US$ 25 in today’s money) which used to pay for my basic living costs like travel to college, lunches, textbooks etc. and still used to leave some “savings” to buy audio cassettes and LP records at Rhythm House in Mumbai.
Hariji did not have the Gurukul he now has in Mumbai. But he was extremely passionate about teaching. He had a pretty grueling schedule which involved extensive travel all over the world. However, whenever he was in Mumbai, he would teach us without fail from 11 am to 1:30-2 pm.
The classes were held in the outhouse of a rather run-down open air theatre just off Linking Road near National College in Bandra. This room was given to him by the Government for the classes. The room was pretty run down but Hariji invested some of his own money to get it cleaned and painted. It was right next to a road and you can hear in recordings the sound of traffic – an occasional BEST bus passing by or a rickshaw honking.
The room also had a poster of Hariji from promotional material from Hariji’s concert somewhere in Germany. I used to find this poster very inspirational because of the intense and calm expressions in the photograph. Few years down the line, Rajiv, Hariji’s son, gave me a copy of that poster and I still have it with me.
My meager pocket money did not allow me to have any recording equipment. I could barely afford a Bansuri. Some of the well made Bansuris used to cost around $75 which was way above my budget. It was also a time in India when imports of gadgets such as Walkman were heavily restricted. But Francoise and Catherine – my co-students from France and Canada respectively – were kind enough to lend me some of these recordings. Sadly, both passed away in last couple of years.
The classes used to be small during weekdays, but used to swell during weekends when more senior students like Rupak Kulkarni and Rakesh Chaurasia joined in.
I used to thoroughly enjoy the experience. I must have missed several days of classes in my engineering college to attend these classes. I also used to be in awe of Hariji who took us to all his local concerts. One of the memorable ones was under a huge banyan tree at Elephanta Caves off Mumbai. We had to go there in a small boat.
Here are those recordings*. These date back to 1989-91 (I don’t recall the exact date). I hope you find them as inspirational as I do even after all these years.