On 27 December 2017, Pandit Jasraj arrived in Dhaka with his team to sing for the first time in the Bengal Classical music festival. His arrival was delayed by some confusion, his team members complained. Guruji (Pandit Jasraj) arrived in his hotel room at four pm. We were worried about his lunch, he only smiled and spoke in Bangla, no complains, `I have the habit of going without food', then he said, `In any case, I have carried a sandwich, do not worry I would have had that if I was too hungry'.
Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma popped from the room just across, I was able to take a snap and Guruji mentioned `Hamare kamre aamne saamne hey'. They started their private conversations and Durga Jasraj joined in. Durga praised the works of Shivji's son and they spoke about other upcoming programs in India. Tall and regal Shiv Kumar Sharma looked almost the same as he did in 1989 when I met him in Kolkata ITC. Guruji made no fuss about the food or delay due to traffic, there was a calm moment.
The next two days were like being in heaven. I arrived every morning , with daughter Armeen. Padmasri Tripti Mukherjee and sometimes Vidushi Kala Ramnath (violinist, disciple of Guruji), we spent some quality time.
I mentioned a write up to Guruji. One critic had written a beautiful, learned essay on Pandit Jasraj's rendition of the raga Yaman, he mentioned the short piece titled `Ja ja re pagal manwa' and mentioned how Guruji put his stress on pagal manwa, the loneliness of the soul and the resulting feeling of rejection and uselessness being portrayed in the rendition. The second piece is the bhajan he wrote and sang `Rani tero cheero jeewe Gopal'. This piece is also written in Raga Yaman but the opening of the layers, during his rendition is completely different from the previous pagal manwa. Not only is the vistaar but the stresses on the words makes `rani tero' another unique Yaman rendition of Pandit Jasraj. To that Guruji said,`I didn't know about this write up'. Then he said,`No one tells me anything anymore, they watch their own stuff on the internet and utube. When I first sang this bhajan ,I went to my own room and I cried for almost three hours at the dead of night! I myself don't know why I cried this way'. I found one answer from this conversation, this feeling, crying, appeals to the ultimate creator and reverberates in Guruji's voice when he sings.
Sangeet Bibhushan, Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj is now 87 years old (birthday 28 Jan), throughout our conversations I could only hear of his humility. I along with my late husband Musa had sponsored him and his troupe in 1989. The program was held in the British Council and he was also invited by Mr Abul Khair Litu to sing at his residence. Prior to that he was invited by Ustad Barin Majumder, erstwhile principal of Music College and he first came to Dhaka in 1984. My daughter connected him to Bappa Majumder, he sat there like a sage, reminiscing every single name , from Ustad Azad Rahman to my chauffeur Ibrahim who had attended to Guruji during his trip in 1989 .I was astonished at his memory and when he asked me about Ibrahim ,I replied, `He is not driving the car anymore, I have settled him'. Guruji said, `I knew you would, you look after everyone'. I was shocked, I had never discussed any of this with him, we have always had musical chatters and most of my queries were about ragas and meanings of the bandishes.
Next day one of the musicians complained about the sound system , Guruji said, please remember we are not in USA. He did not let the musician criticize the efforts, he belittled none and kept on encouraging. In this world of `Ami ki honu re', I was reminded of the advertisement (of Taaza tea ,shown on TV) where one of the gentlemen in the queue suddenly exerts himself saying ` Tumi jano ami ke?'. My three days with Guruji was an exercise in learning how to undo the ego building which automatically enters your core, as you become learned, skilled, famous, recognized and these days, `rich'. I learned once again that `The tree with the heaviest fruit is bent by its weight'.
Nashid Kamal is an Academic, Nazrul exponent and translator.