Back home, I am so happy that Pt. Bhimsen Joshi received the country's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna at the age of 86. On one hand, I was feeling happy to see Barack Obama becoming President of United States and the news of Bhimsenji appeared soon after. Immediately, we called Panditji's residence in Pune and conveyed our greetings and happiness to him. I could feel the ecstasy of joy and happiness in his voice. I really felt very happy to talk to him after such a long time. May God give him a very long, healthy and peaceful life.
Gharana is a very important word for Indian Classical Music which literally means a musical identity. There are several Gharanas of the vocal music. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi belongs to this unique 'Kirana' gharana.. In fact, as a young struggling musician, he heard a recording of Abdul Karim Khan Saheb of Kirana Gharana singing' Piya milan ki aas' and 'Piya bin nahin awat chain', both Thumris. Panditji has often mentioned that the appeal and impact of this recording was so powerful that he seriously decided to become a classical vocalist and in admiration of Khan Saheb he said 'If one has to sing then he should sing like Abdul Kareem Khan Saheb only'. I am also personally a great admirer of the music of Abdul Kareem Khan Saheb and equally of his two daughters who also became very famous in India, Hirabai Barodkar and Roshnara Begum, who finally went to Pakistan. He was the first North Indian musician who was greatly admired and loved by the people of South India. So much so that Maharaja of Mysore appointed him as his court musician in his durbar. My father always said that it's more interesting and satisfying to see a student mention that so and so is my guru as opposed to the guru claiming students! I witnessed a testimony to this statement when I had invited Bhimsenji to sing at my father's memorial festival in Mumbai in 1975. I received a personal note from him which spoke volumes for itself. Panditji mentioned that during his struggling days he learnt from many great gurus but he also came to Gwalior for three years and learnt from my father, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb. In fact, he lived our house (now Sarod Ghar, the museum) at Jiwaji Ganj in Gwalior. Panditji specially mentioned about learning the intricacies of Raga Maarwa and Raga Puriya. As both the ragas have the same musical notes, to maintain the character of each is a challenge for all artists. Panditji often mentioned that if any classical musician can sing and differentiate the character of both the ragas then he will be considered of some stature. In his many of his interviews Panditji has always mentioned my father's name among his gurus.
By God's grace, today Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has became the symbol of vocal music in India. Every time I visited Pune to perform at the Sawai Gandharva Music festival, Panditji used to take me to the stage and used to address the audience in Marathi saying that I am his Gurubhai (Son of ones guru). It was a permanent feature that after performing at the Sawai Gandharva Festival, the lunch next day used to be at Panditji's residence. It was only and his family members and course, his wife Vatsalaji who was full of warmth and love.
Once on my wife Subhalakshmi's request, Panditji sang in our humble residence on the eve of my Birthday. It was perhaps the best gift I ever received. He sang for over three hours and after his recital, we had dinner together, which was then breakfast as it was wee hours of the morning. I am indeed very happy that Indian Government has respect and love for all the contributions of great classical musicians while they are still performing. Once again my heartiest congratulations to Pandit Bhimsen Joshiji for this coveted award.