The Eureka moment did finally dawn on me but a good 20 years after my return to India.
Finding him was like looking for a mizraab (the striker/plectrum that a Sitarist wears on his/her right hand index finger) in the sands of Chowpati. Even catching up with Khan Saheb’s music, his new renditions, and recordings was difficult, as I couldn’t afford a record player or a tape recorder, or even cassettes. And of course, there was no Internet.
Life went on, and Khan Saheb’s Piloo, Marva, Champakali and Pahadi played on in my subconscious. The Sholays of the 70s and the Silisilas of the 80s all passed by, and in the daily grind of work, all else was forgotten.
In my first blog I had written about ‘destiny’ and how one can master it.
I never like to give any credit or discredit to “destiny”. You are the creator of your own destiny – remember?
But my insatiable urge to somehow meet Khan Saheb must have been intense enough to result in a plum posting for me in Mumbai, with a flat on the posh Mount Mary Road, Bandra. That we lived close to the Bollywood heroes like Jackie Shroff, Salman Khan must have excited my two teenaged daughters, but not to me. I was oblivious to the celebrities in our neighbourhood.
At work, I had the onerous task of turning the company around, and that kept me busy in the office, often working late hours. I had convinced the Directors to give me a desktop computer to achieve the goal sooner. The Directors, fine Parsi gentlemen, otherwise sticklers for traditional office procedures, to my utter surprise, agreed to my proposal but with a rider: The PC had to be sourced from another Parsi company called NELCO, managed by none other than the young Ratan Tata, circa 1989.
That paved the way for my first computer in the office and also one for home on a personal instalment plan, thanks to the Parsi connection. My expertise in operating the new contraption was nothing to write home about, so in came one expert named Darayus to do the programming, followed by a young girl named Arti to actually operate the system, both of whom lived in the Bandra Reclamation area.
One evening, I heard the girl asking the geeky Darayus if he had remembered to attend “Khan Saheb’s concert” on Janmashtami at the ISKCON auditorium.
My ears perked up and my heart was racing. ”Which ‘Khan Saheb’ are you talking about,” I asked Arti.
“Halim Jaffer Khan” she said.
I almost fell out of my chair.
“Where is he? Can I meet him? Just take me to him tomorrow.”
Darayus and Arti looked at their Chief Executive bewildered and amused. “He lives in my building,” Arti said. “Our families are very close.”
Couldn’t believe my luck.
The very next day, Sunday, I remember, I made my way to my future Guru’s home, not far from where I lived in Bandra.
As Arti ushered me into the modest apartment, I saw the Khan Saheb, seated on the floor, mending a string with his hand and guiding a very young girl, scarcely older than 6 years, practising her Sitar that was too big for her tiny hands. When the little girl found a passage difficult, Khan Saheb showed how to play it on his Sitar and the child followed.
A tall and imposing personality in his early 60s, immersed in teaching, and without any airs. I was struck by the fact that this maestro who could be teaching a group of highly trained Sitarists at home was helping a little girl understand the finer intricacies of playing the Sitar!
The apartment itself was a modest one, overlooking the shallow expanse of Bandra creek, a large portion of it was occupied by his countless awards, citation, a picture of the President of India conferring “Padmashree” (Later he received his Padma Bhushan), half a dozen Sitars neatly placed, duly covered,
“Aaiye, “ he said with a captivating smile. He asked me to sit next to him on the floor and enquired about my background, family and how I had come to know about him. We chatted like long lost souls and it didn’t take too long for him to accept me as his disciple.
We made a deal. He would teach me by doing riyaz with me in the early morning hours. That really meant I had to get up early, get ready, and walk down the road from Mount Mary Church all the way to his apartment at Bandra Reclamation by 6:30 AM.
To say that I was thrilled is an understatement.
On the first day that I started my musical journey he recited the Gayatri Mantra along with me and followed it up with “Ganeshay Namah!”
More about my riyaz sessions in the blogs to follow.
Khan Saheb with Ranjana and me in July 2012 at his apartment in Mumbai