Homage to Pt. Ravi Shankar by his disciple Paul Livingstone, a set on Flickr.
I landed in Varanasi in the afternoon and it was pouring unusually for the month of feb. I was in the city for a personality session to charge the youth who have received calls from the IIMs. Waited a whIle before boarding the taxi for my hotel in the city. Baglaji, the CL champion in Varanasi had a surprise for me. He asked me to be ready by 6pm for the surprise.
It was six in the evening and I was waiting for the surprise. It was still raining. Sanket, Baglaji’s heir apparent, landed at the hotel to take me to the surprise – a sitar recital by Paul Livingston, as a homage to his guru, Pt. Ravi Shankar. On my last trip Baglaji, realizing my love for performing arts, took me to a concert of Santoor by Pt. Rahul Sharma. It was his first such concert in Varanasi. He felt relaxed and loved it; and I got to know that he too became a member of this music loving group of Varanasi that organizes concerts every fortnight.
That evening concert by Paul Livingstone is the next in the series of this group and is being held in a Haveli on the bank of the Ganges. Sanket and I drove a kilometer or so towards the Ganges and had no option but to park the car and start moving in the narrow lanes of Varanasi, trying to locate the haveli on the Raja ghat. I am more familiar with these maze of lanes than Sanket. My every trip to Varanasi is all about roaming in these gallis (lanes) capturing life. I was able to guess the ghat and take Sanket in that direction. But I was surprised to enter the Haveli, that virtually stands on Raja Ghat. I have passed by this Locked building so many times that I never realize what existed beyond.
As I entered through narrow doorway of the structure, it opened into a vast open space (aangan) with pillored corridor all around. The pillored space is replicated in the second level too. It is a fascinating space. The pouring rain, and dimly lit corridors added to romanticism, a great ambience to pay homage to the romantic Pt. Ravi Shankar.
The stage was set under one side of the rectangular pillored corridor, while the audience seating was at the opposite corridor. Though the attendance was very thin by the usual standard, due to heavy rain, Paul and his accompanists enthralled the rasiks with melodious renditions. Many of the pieces, Paul chose to play, were creations of Panditji. The concert went on for an hour and half and mesmerized the audience.
I was lost in a different world during the concert, with rain god, the cold breeze and the roaring Ganges adding to essence of the evening. I felt delighted to have been part of the concert.
I had the fortune of meeting Paul again in Delhi a couple of days ago. He joined our family and a couple more friends, Robinson – the story teller, and Gala from Argentina, for dinner at Dill Haat. We had a wonderful interaction, more personal in nature. This was Paul’s sixth visit to India, though he was born in Pune, his family settled in the US. He learnt music in the valley with a a few maestros, including Pt. Ravi Shankar.
Paul also managed to do a last minute shopping for his two daughters, thanks to the visit to Dilli Haat. We dropped Paul at his place of stay after dinner, with a promise of meeting soon. After differing his departure by two days, to record a sitar recital of Doorsarshan, Paul took off to LA yesterday, leaving a thought with me, that , “what passion can really do to an individual”