Ravi Shankar packed centuries of achievement into a lifetime
It is difficult to believe that Pandit Ravi Shankar , my guru, my mentor, is no more. Everyone knows he is the man who made Indian music reach unprecedented heights. But he was also the person who inspired me on so many levels — musical, personal, professional.
With his demise, a large and very important part of my life is lost. I knew him from my childhood through his association with my father, Pandit Shankar Ghosh. But my real association with him began on November 16, 1993, in Brussels. After hearing me in a concert there, he invited me to play with him. I will never forget that day because that’s when it all began. When someone you have idolised for years asks you to perform with him, you don’t know how to react. It is one of those rare gifts. I had the privilege of sitting on stage with him for a decade. A million memories are floating in my mind.
I found guruji to be one of the most curious people I have ever known. A book cover, a strange sound, an interesting story, a colour, a smell, a sight from a plane, a pretty lady — everything around him was an object of curiosity. I think it is this quality that made him the unparalleled personality that he was. This space is too short to list his achievements. From being involved in dance theatre with his brother, the great Uday Shankar, to performing in legendary concerts, to playing with and teaching musicians such as Yehudi Menuhin, Philip Glass and George Harrison and putting Indian music on the global stage, he was brilliant at everything he did. In 92 years, he packed in what somebody could have done in 500. How many people are so prolific?
I started getting to know the man better when he was in his seventies. I have rarely met an older person who is so keyed in to what is being said. Telling him a story was a pleasure. Hearing one from him was even more fun because he told you that story with a rare sense of involvement and passion. Almost always, when he saw, read or heard something interesting, his eyes sparkled. I still remember a concert in Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall, where I was accompanying him. His health was not very good