I met him for the first time around seven years ago when he came to perform at a concert with Sandhya Mukherjee. It was amazing to just sit there and listen to him sing all those songs that I’ve grown up listening to, live before me.
Later at a dinner after the concert where we were invited, my father (Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty) introduced me to him. He said that he was very keen on listening to my songs and so my father arranged for some of my CDs to be delivered to him. I couldn’t believe it when he called up my father a few days later from Bangalore and wanted to talk to me. He had heard all my CDs and he blessed me so much! He asked me to be careful about every step I take because he said that he could sense ‘what promise you have’. This coming from a singer who could do justice to any song in the world, I knew the value it had for me.
The next time I met him was when he was in Calcutta and he paid his promised visit to our music institute Srutinandan, in Tollygunge. This was a time I saw a completely different side to him. It was just him and us and he was in a very relaxed mood. He chatted about the time he was meant to record the song for Padosan with Kishore Kumar. He told us how confident he felt when the song came to him because it was a classical-based song, “Arre iss mein toh hum Kishore ko phod dalenge!’ There was no malice. Complete innocence and spontaneity with which he said those words before narrating how Kishore Kumar went on to outdo him in the song. With self-deprecating humour and a lot of respect and regard for Kishore Kumar’s talent he spoke of his co-singer.
I think it was the person beyond the music that makes him so much more respectable.
The last time I spoke to him was a few months ago over phone. And that was the first time and the only time we spoke on a singer-to-singer level, unlike other times when it would usually be him sitting with my father having long discussions and me just a passive listener. We discussed music that’s happening today and he said that he was too unwell to go out and attend concerts so he’d listen to music mostly on television. He asked me to perform more on television for people like him and also in order to reach out to youngsters so they would take an interest in classical music. He expressed his wish to listen to more of my music. He also asked me to come and spend some time with him on a visit to Bangalore.
Although I did send him my music, I could not manage to make that trip. Now all that remains is regret.
Kaushiki Chakrabarty is a Hindustani classical vocalist