Thousand Full Moon: Shrimati Gokhale 81+
Contributed by: Dr. Raghunath Boradkar
July 24th was the first day of Shravan. It was also the birthday of my music guru late Mahadevbhai Shastri founder of Sangit Upasana Mandir Annie Besant Road Surat.
We shifted from Baroda [Now Vadodara ] to Surat in 1965. My husband was promoted as Head of the Department of Pharmacology, in the newly started Government Medical College Surat.
He was already known in his field for his research and administrative abilities. We were new to Surat and the college staff quarters were under construction and hence we had to find an accommodation elsewhere. Luckily we got an accommodation in one of the bungalows, belonging to the contractor Shri Shirishbhai Desai. A part of it was rented to us but the rest of the bungalow was under the control of his sister Shrimati Urmilabe Bhat, who was a minister in the Gujrat Government. It was a little difficult to put up with the pomp and show that goes with the minister's post and yet we stayed there as there was no other alternative available.
It so happened that my daughter Vidya, suddenly fell ill. We consulted Dr Rajendra desai a friend of ours. Unfortunately, it was found out that she had Rheumatic heart and had to undergo complete bed rest. She had to be lifted up and carried. To add to this my sister in law in Mumbai fe[[ ill and I had to shift to Bandra. Everything was well for some days. But then one day Vidya vomited in the morning and we had to admit her to a Hospital. It was said that there was an infection but she became critical and also started getting fits. She used to get up from sleep and suddenly catch me and tightly hold me. Nothing helped and on the third day she breathed her last. It took a lot of time for me and Partha, my son to get over the shock. As my husband had to go back to work we again shifted to Surat. It was impossible to stay in that house now, it looked so empty without Vidya. I pestered him to look for another house and found one in Adarsha Society on Ghoddod road, not a very populated area, and far from the maddening crowds. One day one of his colleague, Dr P B Roy professor of pathology staying in the same colony paid us a visit. We knew each other very well and our children used to play together. Vidya was his favourite and he considered her as his daughter. He suggested that I should learn music and said it could be a good diversion to console my mind. He offered to introduce me to my Guru. So I asked my husband if I could go and then went to see Guruji.
The house was quite old. The family consisted of three sons a daughter in law and a grandsons.
The sons were employed. One of them was a vocalist and the other one played Sitar. The youngest was a tabla player and was Guruji's favorite. Mahadevbhai was a disciple of Pandit Omkarnath Thakur belonging to Gwaliar Gharana. He was a pleasant God fearing personality and had a deep understanding of music. Music was his world. Since his wife's death he had confined himself to his room and taught music to those who came to learn. If someone did not practice he used to be sad. He immediately agreed to teach me. He had some words of consolation for me. Music makes you forget everything he said, adding that life and death was God's will so let’s surrender to his will and get lost in the eternal joy of music. I was asked to come at 2 pm sharp. I adjusted accordingly making arrangements for Partha to be looked after and did not want to miss a day. When I used to reach there, I used to see Guruji tuning the Tanpura. “Be calm”, he used to say and after I would settle down, would ask me to start with the first note SA and when I could do that he would ask me 'What are you going to sing today?' I had told him that I had started learning music from the time when I was ten years old. It's not that I knew many ragas but I had acquired a sound knowledge of musical notes. I always tried to sing exactly like chitale Kaku, my childhood teacher, and though not a complicated TAAN, I could easily sing the AALAAP. She used to say, Manik when you sing with me I feel like singing and I get an encouragement’ and both of us used to sing and get lost and would forget the existence of time. When her little Raju started crying we stopped and wound up and kept the instruments aside. Was the losing the sense of time and one's own identity was a state of SAMADHI? I did not know the word samadhi then, but I did not want to come out of that state.
I was busy with college studies, Social gatherings, Drama, and playing. At home my father and mother discussed Tatwadnyanmanjiri and I found it boring. In a way the atmosphere was conducive to my learning music. It was fun going to Gol Bag with friends and singing film songs or Bhavgeet under the starry skies. I appeared for Madhyama of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya of Ahmedabad and passed with good grades.
It was 1968 when we shifted to newly built staff quarters in the Medical College campus, New civil Hospital Majura gate Surat. In September, Surat and Bharuch both cities were flooded. Rivers crossed the danger mark and water entered the cities. We experienced very difficult days then. In October Chhaya was born and Partha got a sister. It was as if Vidya had returned. This made everyone happy. These were breaks in my sadhana as I could not go for my music lessons and yet I used to get up early in the morning and practice with dedication amounting to religiosity. Gradually everything was normalized. We found a girl who could look after Chhaya and I started going to Guruji again. I was happy and overjoyed and found that my music acquired a different dimension and became more enjoyable. I used to feel the difference. Ragas have their natural attributes and not all ragas can give you a continuous feeling of joy. Puriya and Marwa have similar notes but Mawa expresses the poignancy of the late evening and Puriya reminds you of a woman separated from her lover and expresses her longing and pain. Guruji used to say, “Our music is the mirror of our life”. A great loss in life makes the music more meaningful. Tears used to come to our yes while singing such soulful ragas. Rushikumar and Jayubhai and his wife Madakini said that
Guruji had loved his wife very dearly. His choked voice sometimes used to give vent to his feelings.
In 2017 now all these memories are tending to fade from my consciousness and I hardly recollect any complete ' CHEEJ ' taught to me by him. But when we sing I remember only one raga, one Bhairavi 'Jogi mat ja mat ja mat ja' and for me it never ends. It may sound a little egoistic but when Guruji was told that we had to go to Jamnagar he wept. “A disciple like you is found only once in a life time”, he said. He also said his life would be barren again. He did have another disciple but she got married and went away. Her main interest was basically commercial. She wanted to become a Radio Star and sing on Ahmedabad Radio. Guruji had said 'She knows the notes well but she has not found the soul of music'. She knew the ‘SWARA’ but had not found the 'SOOR' and I was interested only in the SOOR and getting lost and forgetting myself. “This forgetting is God realization” Guruji had said. Guruji knew the reason why we were transferred to Jamnagar. That pain, the DARD would express itself while teaching and singing a CHEEJ like 'Soutan ke sang rat bitai Piya ghar aja' and we used to get lost with tearful eyes.
Thirty years passed in between and then I met Mrs. Yoginitai Garud when I came to Pune. When I met Dr. Boradkar in Pune he casually asked me if I still sing. I said no. He told me about Yoginitai and her class and we once attended a Guru Pournima function of the class where I heard her and was impressed. I then met her and asked her if she could teach. She said age is no problem if you have the desire. So once again my life was full with music. Yoginitai encouraged me and I continued. I learnt a lot and experienced some moments of ecstasy and I should say had a short but memorable time. But past never stops to haunt, and leaves its marks. Yet I have some beautiful memories of my musical journey to cherish and I live by that.
Music was my world, a different sort of world that I was bent on having. Life doesn't always give you what you want and there is a limit to everything. I have no strength to fight now and I am tired, too tired. So be it. Oh. God!