I was born in Varanasi, a city pervaded by the spirit of art and music. I was surrounded by musical legends such as Kishen Maharaj, Girija Devi and Ravi Shankar, from whom I picked up my earliest musical notes. I would fearlessly wander into the homes of these musical geniuses. Little did I know then that they were some of the most revered figures in the world of Indian classical music.
At school I was not the brightest of students but was hard working enough to keep out of trouble. I ensured that my parents never got to hear any complaints from my teachers.
My actual initiation into the world of flutes, however, happened when I broke a flute that belonged to my father, mistaking it for a toy. It happened to be a treasured possession of my father, a gift from the famed flautist, Panna Babu. My father, a homoeopath doctor who also dabbled in flute playing and oil painting, was very angry. He gave me a spanking that is fresh in my mind even after so many years. This proved to be a turning point in my life. I became serious about music and started training under my father. After I moved to Mumbai in 1974, I began to take lessons from Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao.
But if you think it was all work and no play, you are greatly mistaken. In Varanasi, my friends and I would smear ourselves with mud from the bank of the Ganga and take a plunge in its cool waters in summer to wash off the grime. This was one of our favourite pastimes. The other, of course, was to steal the world-famous Banarasi langda mangoes from the gardens on long lazy afternoons, to devour them at leisure with great relish.
My favourite sport was kabaddi. Now that I live in Mumbai, I yearn for the kabaddi akhadas where we spent much of our time. Many of you perhaps dont even know of the existence of the sport, but, believe me, it is not any less entertaining than some of the games you indulge in.
Little friends, always remain rooted in your own culture. There is nothing bigger than your own country, its customs and its practices.