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On a sultry Sunday evening, we decide to visit Pandit Hariprasad Charausia’s gurukul. Tucked in a corner in the Mumbai suburbs, we enter his school to be greeted  with the melodic notes of the bansuri. There is a serene feeling in the atmosphere. Kehte hain na, alag hi mauhaul hai. (They say, it’s a different vibe altogether!) Any guest who enters the complex needs to be approved by Panditji’s friendly dogs! The weather in Bombay is very humid. In between shots, Panditji never fails to ask us if we want some water. He has a magnetic personality and once he starts to speak, you are just swept into his enigmatic world. Here’s how our conversation went:

Do you remember when you met Shivji for the first time?

My first encounter with him, well atleast what I can remember, was in 1957-58 in Delhi at Talkatora Garden. He came from Jammu University and I came from Orissa and we met at a youth festival. We did not have much interaction the first time. He plays so well and I really appreciated his music. We then met in Bombay for the second time in a recording studio.

How do you think the relationship of Shiv-Hari has changed over the years from the ‘Call of the Valley’ days to now. It is a long lasting relationship that started in the 50s.

I don’t think that anything has changed. We are the same. The only thing that has changed is our age! Our nature, our friendship, nothing has changed. Whenever we meet (these days he’s very busy travelling and I am busy with my gurukul), there is the same love and affection because we are closer than brothers.

Tell us more about your gurukul. 

The Gurukul is not a school and therefore there is no specific age group or time to learn. Here it is devotion, this is a sort of temple, you can stay here till you can devote. You can sit here for as long as you want, come here whenever you want, there is no door here. We start at 6 am, and we end at 9 pm. So it just goes on. It’s not like school where you just blow the whistle or ring the bell and it closes at 5. The food and attendance is absolutely free at the Gurukul.

There are 18 or 19 students who stay here, and there are about 40-50 students who come from other places and stay as paying lodgers. We eat together, have breakfast together and we talk a lot. There are students from Bengal, Orissa and Assam and other states of India. We have students from foreign countries as well.

Can you tell us how the day starts for Hari ji?

The first thing I do in the morning is drink water, a whole bottle of water. I purify my heart, I wash my face and then have some almonds. After almonds, I have some tobacco, and then go for a walk and some exercise, just to stay young. And then I have no idea how the day passes and the next day begins.

Classical music has evolved over the years. How can we make sure the youngsters are connected to the idea of classical music?

For the past 20-25 years, I have been going every year to schools and colleges to meet the youth and expose them to Indian classical music. I encourage them to ask questions and the kind of interest in Indian youngsters is so much that it makes me very happy. They don’t want to know about the ragas but are inquisitive about classical music history and the singers – what they feel with their singing. So we tell them a bit about their research, their practice and their singing technique. The knowledge they gain in these two hours can never be found in a book.

And when I go to colleges like IIM, they have questions about the flute (bansuri) and are curious about how we make the flutes. You can find other instruments but there is no factory for making flute.

The flute is one the oldest instruments and was created by Lord Krishna. It can’t be made in a factory as it has to be made according to the length of your fingers and your blowing, so you have to make it yourself. This is all connected to nature – there is no other instrument connected to God in this way, or has been created by Lord Krishna. There is no string to tune, but when you are going to play you have to tune to yourself, you are going with the flow of your breath. Only if you know how to tune yourself, you can learn to play it. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to play the flute.

So this is the first time that Shiv Hari are playing in Holland as Shiv-Hari Jugalbandi (duet), so what do you think the audience can expect from you?

The  audience would like to listen to the best kind of sound, the best kind of music, classical music and they’ve been waiting for a long time. We will try our best to fulfil their desire. I sincerely hope that they will like our programme.

What are you going to be playing in the concert? 

Once I meet him personally, we shall decide what to perform. I want to the music to easily come from both of us. Before the concert, we shall meet and explore the ragas that we love together and perform some of them.

Which one was your first abroad trip?

It was in 1966 in London. I was playing at the Royal Albert Hall and was the best well known hall at that time. The audience for the concert included George Harrison, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Yahudi Menuhin, his wife. Believe it or not, I was so nervous and tensed, but they came to the green room to meet and bless me before the concert.

What is the feeling of performing at a concert? 

When I go to perform at a concert, I feel that I am going to a temple for pooja for my prayer. So I don’t have anything special in my mind because my bhakti (devotion) is to play in front of God and pray something. I don’t feel like I am sitting with the audience and wondering if they are enjoying it or not, or if I am playing right or wrong. I just forget everything and just play.

Watch Shiv-Hari unfold their magic on 25th June at Zuiderstrandtheater. Get more details here.

Author: Vipasha Tilak

Additional Inputs: Harshita Sharma

Image Credits: Romel Dias