For someone who doesn’t interact with me daily, there’s a life update – I finally started learning Hindustani Classical Music – vocals and my guru was fortunate to learn from the senior exponents of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana of Indian music. I have started my humble beginnings in her music room and still have miles to go.
It was by chance that I landed on The Music Room. Well-read readers would agree that one doesn’t just pick up a book and read. You beg, borrow, steal (uh maybe not!), or buy a book. You let it sit on your desk, cupboard, or table and let the right mood set in. For me, this happened on a lazy Sunday afternoon after I had it issued from a library and let it immerse in my cosy abode for at least a couple of weeks.
If you have ever learnt even a bit of Indian Classical Music, you would know that much of our Indian music has always been passed on in a Guru-Shishya tradition. It’s a sanskar, a lifestyle, a sadhana, and a different path to reach the same goal that someone on a spiritual path aspires to reach. Namita Devidayal’s book is a beautiful memoir about her much similar journey with her guru – Dhondutai Kulkarni. Like herself, the book also starts with an innocence and just draws you in to make you realise how the author initially is bogged down with the change of worlds every week – from a posh south Bombay locality to the gritty world of outside chaos and the wonderful peaceful music room of her guru to the point where she realises the genius that her guru is.
What drew me in this book is the history that is described so beautifully. This book also takes you through the timelines of the history of how the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana formed, the divinity of Ustad Alladiyan Khan, his disciples, Dhondutai’s musical sadhana with Ustad Alladiyan Khan, and later with the fiery, incredible, yet tempestuous Kesarbai Kerkar.
Dhondutai never married and was loyal to none other than the gharana. There have been artists who have transcended beyond the gharana and there are artists who have never stepped a foot outside and have worshipped the gayaki of the gharana with almost a religious fervour. Apparently, Dhondutai saw glimpses of what Namita can turn into…she almost wanted Namita to reach the same heights that her gurus expected her to reach.
While reading the book, you mature with Namita. One sees her world and lives the time Namita lives with Dhondutai. Whatever painful times Dhondutai must have encountered are resolved in an almost simplistic manner. The book doesn’t make you feel uneasy about anything in Dhondutai’s life. Her life is described in a relatively simple manner -- her remaining single, her looking after her old mother, then losing her mother and her friend, her struggle to retain the sanctity of the gharana or even when she loses her home, she finds another haven almost too simplistically. Maybe the objective of the book isn’t to focus on the hardships but on the relationship between the guru-shishya. No matter what, the book gives you a warm feeling almost like you can see the glimpses of their life through the pensieve. For a student of classical music, this novel made me fall in love with the art and go back to learning with slightly more, if not sincere dedication than before.