YS Exclusive: Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia in an open conversation with Sunil Mohanty from YourStory, on hardwork, dreams and pursuit of excellence
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the living legend, who has elevated the simple bamboo flute (bansuri) to towering heights, has undoubtedly an amazing sense of humour. Expressing his shock at the trend of having remixes, he says, “Ye to galat baat hai bhai! Having remixes of anything and everything shows that our minds have become polluted. In logon ne to national anthem ko bhi nahi chhoda! It’s just like having plastic surgery done on your father’s face! Why would you need to change songs?”He doesn’t believe that crowds don’t turn up for classical music events. “I remember being in Ahmedabad in the late 80s for a concert. I was told that people in Gujarat aren’t too interested in such shows and since I was going to perform early in the morning, I thought that there will be few people. But to my surprise, at 4 am, I found that a huge crowd had turned up and they were wide awake, eagerly waiting for my performance. In Gujarat, and even in other parts of the country, classical music festivals are arranged on a regular basis and this is no mean achievement,” he says, before adding, “Even today, plenty of youngsters greet me at the airports wherever I go. They don’t need to do that, do they? It’s this overwhelming love from everyone concerned that keeps me going.”
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While it’s well-known that his father, a professional wrestler, wanted him to follow in his footsteps, he says, “I always used to end up on the losing side when I used to go for training at the akhada! But I fell in love with the flute and would secretly practice it at my friend’s place. Today, I feel blessed because flute is the only musical instrument that is connected directly to the Almighty. I completely surrender myself to Lord Krishna when I am on stage to perform. My biggest dream was to open a gurukul for those interested in learning flute and I feel totally content that I have made that dream come true.” He advises youngsters to follow their heart if they want to be content in life.
Panditji has made unusual sacrifices to follow his passion, apart from getting “all bruised and badly beaten up” while learning wrestling. He wanted to learn classical music from Annapurna Devi, the wife of Ravi Shankar and one of India’s most reclusive classical purists. “Those days, it wasn’t usual for a lady to teach males. Besides, she was very selective about her students. But I was not the one to give up. So, while I was a right-handed flute player till then, I vowed to do just the opposite for the rest of my career and she relented,” he shares. To pursue your dream you will have to make sacrifices and no journey is easy, just believe in your dreams is what Panditji has to share with our readers.For someone who became a home tutor at the age of 11years, teaching seven-year-olds for pocket money, it is not difficult to see where this ‘Padma Bhushan’ and ‘Padma Vibhushan’ awardee maestro’s humility comes from. “I never forget that I started off as a stenographer and whatever I have achieved is more than enough for me. I am a very ordinary person but I am happy in life. That’s all that matters.”
We at YourStory definitely our charged up after this conversation, while we continue to pursue our dreams, we urge our dear readers to do the same.