His chiseled features would remind you of some Hollywood star. But, as they say, appearance deceives. For, this charming Libran's association is not with the silver screen, but with one of the most reverred instruments of Indian classical music. Santoor to be precise.
For beginners, the son of santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma, has already carved a niche with his albums Maya, Time Traveler, Zen et al.
Not to forget his collaborations with world renowned pianist Richard Clayderman and keyboardist Kersi Lord.
Yet he wears his honours light and becomes the guy next door as he speaks on his new abum Ladakh - In Search of Buddha, launched by Sa Re Ga Ma India.
Philosophy and nature are some of the terms close to this virtuoso's heart. The mystic titles to his albums hence is no surprise.
So what is Ladakh's-In Search of Buddha's genesis? "I have a fascination for mountains, the blue sky. And Ladakh, as it is, has a mystical touch to it. I had been there only once and yet its serene beauty set an indellible impression on my mind".
"The mountain terrain and the monastries inspired me to the extent that I could not but weave a concept to capture its beauty. Secondly, Ladakh's proximity to Jammu and Kashmir, the heartland of santoor, also prod me towards the concept", he says.
Philosophical, as he calls himself, is evident from the concept of reincarnation he has dwelt on in the album. The title track, Om Mani Padme Hum, he says in a tone quite philosophical, means "hail the jewel in the lotus". It is about the search of a young man for a Tibetan Buddhist preacher, who he met some years ago at a monastery. As he reflects on the moments he spent with the wizened man on his second visit, he is accosted by a boy who turns out to be the reincarnation of the preacher."
What is it about eastern philosophy that fascinates him? "I am philosophical by nature and have tried to bring out santoor from the realms of romance to philosophy. Partly it is my fascination for the Karmic law in Buddhism and partly my stint at the Osho ashram in Pune have given birth to the philosopher in me", he explains. Truth to tell, Rahul shares his name with Gautam Buddha's son, who also went on a search for his father aeons ago.
So, has this dashing musician, who also chants Buddhist mantras in his real life, little room for romance? A big chuckle follows and then the "I am romantic" claim.
"Indeed I am very romantic", he avers; "But my idea of romance is not confined to soulmate alone. It also extends to romancing the mountains in Ladakh". May be that explains his liking for Sting's number Tea In The Sahara.