I still remember the day: it was October 31, 2002. I entered a small house in Srinagar extension in Bengaluru. I was introduced to him by my journalist friend Aravinda Navada. We discussed for around 20 minutes. I had no idea about any raga, leave alone Shruti. Prakashji asked my preference for any musical instrument. I told him that since he was a bansuri player, I would prefer the same. He asked me on the first day itself: Are you learning bansuri just for the sake of some tunes? I said I wished to learn it just for the sake of learning. Then he gave me a big bansuri to blow. I did and it made some noise. He told me to start the classes from next Monday.
Then onwards, it was a journey into the world of Hindustani classical music. First, I learned how to blow properly; later, I was taught how to make right kind of sound which should be aligned to a particular frequency of the tanpura. I learnt how to keep the breath without losing the quality of the tone, about the seven basic swaras, the half notes, and the two and a half octaves. My guruji taught me every aspect, wrote homework in my notebook (which I still use), and gave books to read about various ragas. I had three classes a week during morning hours. For the last four years, I had the privilege of attending early morning classes with him from 5 am to 7 am. Those are the classes which I will cherish for my entire life. Anybody could listen to those mellifluous renderings from 4 am onwards. Though being a professional performer, he never missed initial warm-up exercises for an hour at least.
I could not reach the expected standards of playing bansuri. But his divine character made me to go to him without fail. He was a versatile personality. He was a Fine Artist, a professional carpenter, an avid reader of Kannada literature, a teacher par excellence, and he could assemble a violin. He never wished to read newspapers or watch TV channels. Once, he didn’t even know that the chief ministers were changed thrice! Such was his detachment from worldly affairs. He never missed practise even during major festivals, and allowed us to attend them. Last year, I came to know that September 9 was his birthday, after reaching my office from the music class! My Guruji never aspired for publicity.
I practised bansuri all these years, though there were frequent breaks as a result of my professional wandering. Despite these discontinuities, my guruji made me to understand the nuances of ragas. After some months, I could recognise some ragas in concerts. It was a great joy. I still wonder how he made me to accomplish this small step, as understanding music after mid-life is a challenge for any person.
My Guruji ran music classes and taught several instruments like Tabla, Keyboard, Sitar, Hawaiian Guitar, Harmonium, Vocal Classical to name a few. He had mastered all these instruments, apart from being the best in bansuri, his first choice. For the fourteen years I saw him, he played with the same bansuri, which was gifted to him by a bansuri maker in Delhi. Having grown up with bansuri (and making bansuri himself), my Guruji was deeply immersed in the sea of music.
I must admit here that my personality traits changed a lot after coming under his divine musical influence. I developed a lot of patience and stopped responding violently and instantly. Bansuri practice made me calmer. Whenever I was mentally down, consoled me and made me forget the bad and look for the good. His meticulous schedule, his thoughtful renderings, his calm approach towards any crisis, his friendly nature influenced me deeply. He changed the course of my life towards musical Dhyana. If any good thing is done by me, it is purely out of his guidance and blessings. All the sins are my original traits.
I must inform you that he was younger to me by four years, but he was the most respectful personality beyond his age. His life came to an end just after his 49th birthday. But he was the embodiment of a yogi. It is not just me, but hundreds of his students had the chance to learn from him. His classes, jokes from his pan-stained mouth, his innocence, his learning curve, his zeal for a good life – all are etched in our hearts for ever.
For me, he was the first and only guru, and I lost him forever. I wish to be reborn and join his classes again; I wish to gently slide the door once more and sit in front of him; I wish he starts his alaap in Ahir Bhairav; I wish it goes on for an hour and then there is dawn, with birds chirping outside; I wish to see him take me into that endless sea of music.
I wish I am his pupil forever.