Rendezvous with Divinity

A few days ago, I had a rendezvous with divinity when at the 9th Kalinga Literature Festival held in Bhubaneswar, I had the opportunity to have the most transcendental of conversations in my life with none other than the revered iconic flautist, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia. My heart was hit with a million ideas – questions to ask him, observations to share, remarks to make. I spent the night preceding our meeting, meditating to the flow of his ageless bansuri and let myself catch the glimmers of the five right thoughts I would put before him the next day.
Closing my eyes, letting the mildly warm waves of his rendition of Raga DesiTodi (Kaafi / Asavarithaat) touch me, I felt the overwhelming sweep of my past – my writing of over twenty-five years, verses from my poems, words that traced the inconceivable patterns of destiny, mine and of those around me. I pictured the death of my father, his head in my lap, his soul progressing through the darkening tunnel of his body to make an exit through his eyes. I was touched by moments in my story that betrayed the mesh of time and space –the many hours dedicated solely to listening to an instrument, sleeping under a tree and being aware of the contrasting designs caused by the crawl of tree-shade and sunlight on my skin, outlining the flight of a blue bird around the backwaters where I once floated in a boat – the creature never seemed to perch anywhere, painting a whirling dervish on the saddest of days, dreaming of colliding with the sun, witnessing my sleeping body from a higher plane(and dreading it), and many more. I perceived the connection of these images with this moment that was going to arrive, this presence that would soon reach me from across the threshold and transform me with its light forever.
In the morning, I was at the venue and in no time did I catch the sight of Pandit Ji entering, being led to his seat. I sensed the energy shift in the hall and simply could not deny the wetness in my eyes. We were invited to the stage to start the conversation. Merging with his aura, I touched his feet, realising that seeking his blessings at the onset would indeed empower me to spell that ineffable thing I had experienced, grow within me all life.
Pandit Ji has always maintained that his fluting is his yoga. Beyond the romance of his breath with the bansuri, lies another dimension of being wherein he meets his Guruma, becomes Krishna. In that context, I asked him to define the highest state in music – the equivalent of Samadhi in yoga – both for the musician / singer and for the listener. As his voice poured into the microphone, I was swayed by his innocence, his unmistakeable authenticity and the tide-like passion that is central even to his minor gestures. The maestro explained how music was his prayer, how it catalyses his metamorphosis into a perfect devotee, and how this ascent continues to happen, even today. His words, palpable, I was transported to a zone that life has hinted to me at times, but remains elusive when I seek it consciously.
Further, dwelling on the marvellous feat of his introducing the austere flute as an important instrument in classical music arrangements, I asked him about what he believed was the bansuri’s contribution to the Dhrupad school. Pandit Ji’s simple response about how the everyday instrument, this bamboo-make that has been seeded from nature, has elevated the standards of something that was earlier perceived to be discriminatory, distant and difficult, touched me deeply. He acknowledged it as a universal instrument, a tool, even at the disposal of a farmer, who, after a strenuous day at the field, returns home to unwind, picking up his flute, serenading but all. With the inclusion of the flute, music meets breath, the genesis of your being.
Having meditated to the alaap of the bansuri over some time, I have been experiencing an increase in my spiritual strength. The dhyaan lasts longer, and is more effortless than ever. Next I tried to ascertain his thoughts on why the alaap is indispensable to a composition and, whether it serves asa metaphor for something else. He sighed as if I had struck the right chord, as if I had caught the note perfectly, as if, my plunging into the depths of this question was something that he had waited for, for long. And then he unravelled the truth – alaap is the introduction to the piece; it stirs the listeners and leads them into the state needed to enter the song, almost a cleansing ritual before a sacred task.

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