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Finding Dilli: Go for a private traditional baithak

Quintessential Dilli, and yet a Dilli that can slip under the radar of popular interest. The Brunch team discovers a slice of their beloved city that’s not often served to those who do not seek!

brunch Updated: Jan 10, 2015 12:40 IST
Aasheesh Sharma
Aasheesh Sharma
Hindustan Times

Delhi is known for its ‘internal’ life. Some of the best evenings you can have in the city are in people’s homes. Dilliwallas are famed for their warm, generous hospitality. Couple this with a passion for music and you have the makings of a perfect evening – a traditional Indian music baithak.

Entrepreneur Vinod S Kapur is one such music patron. He’s been hosting the superstars of Hindustani classical singing for more than three decades. One doesn’t need to understand Indian classical music to experience its pleasure, says the octogenarian.

Baithaks at Vinod S Kapur's home. He has been hosting superstars of Hindustani classical music for more than three decades.

"We can’t make the audience feel like nincompoops and tell them that they shouldn’t come to listen to classical music if they don’t understand its intricacies. Joy doesn’t require to be understood. Anand ko samajhne ke liye buddhi ki zarurat nahin hai. Anand ek anubhav hai," says Kapur.

According to Kapur, who has been hosting musical soirees at his residence since 1973, understanding music is best left for critics and students. At his baithaks that have hosted names such as Prabha Atre, Girija Devi, Rajan-Sajan Mishra, Channulal Mishra, the late Shobha Gurtu and Shubha Mudgal, the ambience is that of chamber music being played in a drawing room.

"A critical part of organising a baithak is a sense of intimacy and communication," elaborates the 80-year-old founder of poultry brand Keggfarms. "At our baithaks, an artist performs in an intimate and relaxed ambience, surrounded by an audience that responds spontaneously to music. It bridges the distance that a stage puts between the performer and the audience."

Since 1967, when Kapur first heard a young Girija Devi captivate listeners with an open-air performance near Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, where he was posted as the India head of the Western India Match Company, he has been bewitched by the magic of Hindustani classical music. "Girija ji was the first artiste who accepted my invitation to sing. Since then I’ve hosted hundreds of baithaks, first at my Gulmohar Park residence and later at my residence-cum-office near Gurgaon," says Kapur.

On one of these occasions, Pandit Channulal Mishra, who was introduced to the Capital’s music connoisseurs courtesy Kapur’s baithaks, sang for so long that he almost collapsed.

Kapur also cites the occasion when Parveen Sultana, the legendary khayal singer, was invited to a baithak at his residence in the 1990s. She sang into the night and the very next day, she had to perform at the Shankar Lal Festival. One of the festival organisers remarked that Sultana’s singing had been much better at the baithak.

"Look at the atmosphere that they create. A concert can never match the ambience of their baithak," was her retort.

The baithaks are open for everybody. To wangle an invitation, call Aparna on 09891192590

From HT Brunch, January 11, 2015

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First Published: Jan 10, 2015 12:25 IST