Kurchi Dasgupta, an artist, and her husband Kanishka, an artist and designer, set up an independent publishing and recording house called Lotus Print in Calcutta at the beginning of this millennium. They asked me to translate two poems by Jibanananda Das for a collection they were putting together; then they decided to release a CD of my music.
I’d already done two recordings with HMV India in the 1990s of Hindustani classical music, singing, largely, the khayal compositions of Pandit Laxman Prasad Jaipurwale of the Kunwar Shyam gharana. They’d been handed down to me over ten years by my teacher in Bombay, Pandit Govind Prasad Jaipurwale, before he died unexpectedly in 1988 when he was still in his forties.
For the Lotus Print CD, I recorded six more of Panditji’s exquisite compositions, in ragas Gujri Todi and Madhuvanti. No sooner had I done the recording and physical CDs were available than I lost interest in it, as one does in one’s creations, as writers do too in the work they’ve written most recently. This indifference is a form of self-protection. Any claim to be happy about a new offering is a pretence.
Still, my abandoning was extreme. My wife reminds me that I asked her to put the CDs in the storage space under the bed so that I wouldn’t run into them. I’m not sure if it was some kind of ailment I was suffering from; the madness of perfectionism. Or it could be that I was internalising the indifference that artists have to deal with, or the scepticism that a writer who’s also a musician must face.
The surplus of time in hand I suddenly have brings with it access to neglected things. That CD has resurfaced. On listening to it after 18 years, it seems like it’s worth sharing. The recordings I’d done prior to this one were governed by the long play record format; so you’d sing two khayals, each for around 30 minutes. Here, I had the freedom to sing Gujri Todi for about 45 minutes and explore alaap, sargam, tankari, and layakari without the relative constraints of time. The Gujri Todi is almost the length of a live performance.