That Pandit Ravi Shankar was a pioneer in opening the doors to the West is common knowledge. That he made the sitar one of the most known instruments is also uncontested. But for me, there is only Pandit Ravi Shankar the man.
The strongest memory I have is of 2002 when I had been playing with him for nine years. During a concert in Mumbai he was very sick. His body, mind and the sitar were not in sync and he could sense that. After some minutes into the concert, he suddenly kept his sitar down and shut his eyes. The audience waited in silence. What followed after a few minutes was an amazing concert that I had never seen before.
Music was sadhana (worship) for the maestro. He was an unbelievable performer with a spiritual energy. He would do puja everyday and never sit down for his riyaz without having a shower.
Another incident I recall is from his daughter Anoushka’s school. After performing to a packed auditorium, he told me, “Arekta phara katlo (Another hurdle has been overcome)”. What astounded me was a man of his stature saying this after a concert for children.
He taught me a lot in life. In 1995, we were touring Japan. At a sit-down dinner with government officials, I had difficulty eating the half-cooked and raw Japanese food.
When he saw that, he leaned closer and said, “Bickram, you were born a Bengali boy, you can live like one and die like one. But, this is your opportunity to open up to other cultures and collaborate as a musician”. Immediately, I put the squid in my mouth.
He had never had any formal education, yet he could speak 15 languages and was aware about every incident in the world. There will never be anyone like him.
(As told to Ratnalekha Mazumdar)
Tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh played with Pandit Ravi Shankar for 11 years.
He reminisces his association with the great master.