Portrait of an artists’ community: The Dhrupad Gurukul

The Guest Post Series on “My Favourite Things” has contributions by those sharing my interests in travel, books, music, and on issues that I am passionate about. These posts are not always by fellow bloggers, and the authors are always those who have interesting experiences to share.

Today’s guest post is by Ajinkya, who writes about the challenges that the guru shishya parampara faces in contemporary times. He is a student of Dhrupad and learns at the Dhrupad Gurukul in Palaspe, Panvel. The Gurukul is run by the legendary vocalist, Ustad Zia Farid-uddin Dagar, and his illustrious rudra veena playing nephew, Bahauddin Dagar.

“Alap entails the search to get the most perfect pitch of every note….”
                                                               –  Ustad Zia Farid-uddin Dagar

It is 4:30 am.

The trucks low through the thick of an outskirt town’s sleepy oblivion. Somewhere, a chai wallah starts to wash his vessels and the clank of his kettle dissolves noiselessly into the tired rattle of bus tires and bumpers coughing though the dusty highway. Hidden away on the side of the road is a small cluster of houses lost somewhere in the limbo between Bombay cityscream and the undisturbed solace of Palaspe village. A tramp wraps his newspaper a little more tightly around his skeletal frame and huddles into a ball. Mosquitoes circle his body like vultures hankering for a dying man’s last sigh. The dim darklight of a morning taking angdai falls lazily on a dilapidated board saying “Dhrupad Gurukul”.

The D hangs half lit like a symptom of an era. The same old debates circling around the romance of a lost time and the preservation of an art come to one’s mind. Scratching away at the surface of recycled intellectual trash these irrelevant speculations are quickly forgotten as one approaches the gurukul.

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