Of music and memories in Pune: 22 years on

It doesn’t take much to trigger off old memories. Take for instance the invitation I received to attend a classical music concert by renowned flautist Milind Date at the Gandharva Mahavidyala, Pune.

The invitation took me back to the time I was studying in Fergusson College (Pune) where Milind and I were batchmates with some common classes and practicals.  We were not close friends or belonged to the same ‘group’, but were more of acquaintances with some common friends. All through college, I had no idea of Milind’s music and got to know of it only in my third year of college. How I got to know is a story worth sharing, but I request for a little patience from you.

Milind and I re-connected many years after college when I joined Facebook in 2007 and over the next few years, remained in touch via Facebook. I followed his concert announcements and tours and listened to the snippets that he would share, but never managed to meet him or make it to one of Milind’s live performances. The invitation was a chance to remedy that. 🙂

The invitation was doubly attractive as it was taking place at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, where I learnt Hindustani Classical music. Every Wednesday morning, for 2 years, I attended vocal music classes before college. I loved everything about my music school — my guruji, the traditional architecture of the school building, the cool whitewashed halls and dhurrie-covered floors, the music rooms lined with tanpuras, sitars, harmoniums and tablas… Those musical mornings were magical and after a world filled with Bihag or Kaafi or Yaman or Patadeep or whatever raga I would be learning at the moment, it would be difficult to concentrate in my college lectures.

In other words, it was musical heaven and one that I had not visited in 22 years. And after I receive the invitation, I could not wait to visit it again after all this time. So that Wednesday in January, I took the afternoon bus to Pune to arrive well in time for the evening concert.

You know that feeling when you are about to meet someone or return to a place after a long time? That feeling of mounting excitement? That’s what I was feeling when I got off the rickshaw and walked towards the entrance to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.

Within minutes the excitement turned to confusion and then frustration when I couldn’t find the entrance. I walked up and down the crowded street paying attention to every single shop sign, every marker, every signboard for a clue that would direct me to the school entrance, but in vain. Granted it was 22 years since I had last been here, why couldn’t I find the entrance when the address remained the same? Was my memory wrong? Misplaced? Was this a sign of ageing?

Finally, I asked a shopkeeper and was directed to the school. And realised why I had missed it. Gone was the old building with its traditional architecture; in its place was a modern, concrete building. The changes continued inside as well with a reception, tiled floor, notice boards, an office… it no longer felt like the cozy heaven I remembered. I felt quite dazed and if it were not for the sounds of students learning music, I would have thought I was in the wrong place and fled.

Instead, I made my way to the concert venue and waited for Milind to arrive and the concert to begin. There was a percussion instrument concert before Milind’s concert with Nitin Satav on the  Djembe, Rohit Kulkarni on the Keyboards, Uday deshpande on the Tabla, and Sukhad Mundhe on the Pakhawaj. I’m glad for that as it helped to get me out of the dazed feeling I had got into.

Uday Deshpande, Sukhad Munde, Gandharva Mahavidyalaya
Uday Deshpande on the tabla and Sukhad Munde on the Pakhawaj

By the time Milind’s concert began, I had also stopped bemoaning the changes that had taken place in my music school. Milind played Jog and Bhoopali and was accompanied by Sridhar Parthasarathy on the Mridangam and Charudatta Phadke on the Tabla. It was wonderful to finally hear him live after all these years. The small audience at the concert hall in Gandharva Mahavidyalaya was an appreciative one and it was a pleasure being part of that experience as well.

Charudatta Phadke, Milind Date and Sridhar Parthasarathy, Gandharva Mahavidyalaya
(L to R) Charudatta Phadke, Milind Date and Sridhar Parthasarathy

As I watched Milind play, and listened to and absorbed his wonderful music, I couldn’t help recalling an incident from 22 years back.

My final year exams were over and I had come to Bombay (now Mumbai) on a day trip to meet my brother who was working in the city at that time. I literally bumped into Milind, who was running to take the train to Pune, at Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus).

Both of us expressed surprise at meeting each other at Mumbai of all places. And I remarked how I hadn’t seen him for quite a while during classes and practicals, blah, blah, blah… And what was he doing in Mumbai? Milind replied that he had come to buy some “flu…”. Due to the constant announcements and general din, I didn’t hear what Milind said. And before I could ask him again, he excused himself and ran off to board his train.

Now, Milind used to be very thin and lean at that time, and with his irregular attendance this was the perfect combination for my overactive imagination to take flight. Was Milind ill? Unwell? Did “flu…” mean fluids ? Were there special medicinal fluids?

I brooded about this for quite a few days. When I went to college to collect some document, I sought out Vaishali, a common friend of Milind and mine. And then asked her if Milind was unwell.

To say that Vaishali was taken aback is an understatement. When she asked me for details, I told her about the Bombay incident. Vaishali laughed herself silly first and then told me, “Flutes, not fluids. Milind went to Mumbai to buy flutes. Don’t you know that he plays the flute, and that he is a disciple of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia?” I don’t need to say how stupid and foolish I felt then, do I?

Milind Date
Milind Date

It doesn’t take much to trigger off old memories, does it? All kinds of memories too — nice ones, warm ones, embarrassing ones… 😀

PS: I wrote this post after attending Milind’s concert in January 2013. Yes, this post is a year old. And I don’t know why I didn’t publish it immediately.

Earlier this month, I had met Milind when I had gone to Pune and we had a great time discussing among other things photography, blogging, tablets, and music. That’s also when I remembered this piece lying in my drafts folder remedied it by posting it with some modifications. Hope you liked it.

15 thoughts on “Of music and memories in Pune: 22 years on

    1. Thanks, Anu. Yes, this post was in my drafts folder for over a year. I wasn’t entirely happy with it so left aside. After a while, forgot about it, and then after a visit to Pune in mid January, dug it out, polished it up a bit and there you are… 🙂

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  1. Nice cover photo. Laughed at the misunderstanding of “flu”. This year when I went to Pune for Sawai, I was hunting for a book on Kumarji’s Bandishes and after a lot of asking here and there, someone directed me to Gandharva Vidhyalaya. So I can understand as it took me a real long time to locate it. And now will listen to some Milind Date on Youtube 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Sonal. The location of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya hasn’t changed; only the entrance has shifted doe to redevelopment in the area. But I know what you mean, for someone who is not familiar with the area, it will be every difficult.

      Hope you had a nice music session 🙂

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  2. Thank you very much Sudha. It was a pleasure to have you in the audience. Many have written in many newspapers around the world on me and my performances but none had the warmth in your writing 🙂

    Thanks a lot for this 🙂

    M

    PS : You got to know of my music in the third year as you were the most studious, sincere and intelligent student in the entire college. Where as we used to be only in Canteen 😛

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    1. Studious? Sure. Only you never saw what all I read 😉
      Sincere? Hmm… okay.
      Intelligent? You really need to meet my mother. She’ll quickly correct your perceptions.

      I lived in Lonavla at that time and as time in college was governed by the 3 hour daily commute. It never left me with any time to socialise with anybody in our batch. Except for the day I had the music classes, I would arrive in time for the lectures and leave immediately afterwards.

      Thank you for your comment, Milind. Hope to attend many more of your concerts.

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  3. It must have been great catching up with old friends. I am glad the reunion made you finally publish this post 🙂 Had you posted this last year, it might have probably been more a review of the concert than a personal one that brings in so many emotions dipped in memories. What is more, I might not have read it — and what is even more, I might not have commented on it, not being knowledgeable about Hindustani music. So all is well that ends well 🙂

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    1. Yes, all’s well that ends well 🙂

      I just feel that the delay was somehow meant to be. My initial draft was quite different and reading it after a year only made me sure that I had to change the focus a bit and rewrite some some portions.

      And you are right. The draft was more of a review than the personal memories that it has now.

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    1. Thanks, Raghav. Classical music is only the context for the post and while writing this I remembered the Beatles tour I did while in the UK. Maybe I should write about that as well 🙂

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  4. Ah! And I read it when I am leaving for Pune tomorrow 🙂 (Though merely transiting since I am going to, a wedding in Shegaon). I never was one for regrets, Sudha, but if there is one regret it my life it is never having learnt classical music.

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