It’s 11:00 am, people can be seen rushing towards their offices, cars honk, and traffic is moving at a hurried pace. That is what Mumbai’s suburbs are known for. But if you pass through Brindavan Gurukul, situated amidst the otherwise busy locality of Versova, the serenity can be striking. Lingering notes from the bamboo flute fall on the ears as you enter, and each note seems sweeter than the earlier – it’s the place where India’s greatest flautist Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia teaches in the traditional Guru Shishya method.
Chaurasia is the lone luminary of Indian classical music, who in the true sense is keeping intact the tradition and value of the gurukul way of learning. Chiraag Sutar attends one of his classes, absorbs the atmosphere, and comes back impressed. In a tete-a-tete with the maestro, he inquires about this age old system of learning.
I am told that this is the best way to learn Hindustani classical music…
Yes, it is. They (students) follow the teachers, how their teachers behave. There is a close relationship between guru and shishya.
Did you also learn under the same method?
(Immediately) That is why I want to continue teaching in this method. I want to pass it on to my shishyas.
In brief, what are the advantages of learning in this method?
In any kind of art, if you are with your teacher, you learn a lot. And you are talking with them, you are interacting with them, you are walking with them at every step. That is the way how a mother teaches her sons and daughters.
There are many westerners who are getting interested in learning via this method?
The way I have learnt, I pass it on – be it westerners or Indians.
What do you observe about today’s generation, are they inclined towards learning classical music? Are they dedicated?
Yes, you have seen it this morning.
It is said that Indian classical music requires a certain kind of a dedication – what will you say about the level of dedication among today’s youth?
These days they have so many problems. Their parents want them to study in schools, college and get Phds – many things are planned by the parents, but they don’t listen to what the child wants, and they don’t want to fulfill their wishes, except education. This is the problem with the parents, because sometimes parents are more business minded than the children. And they want to make them businessmen or make them take subjects that will make them financially stable – like engineering, medicine. They want them to achieve that, and get money.
I think most of them do not know that there is no limit to what a musician can earn, and not just earn but also earn a lot of respect.
Lot of respect, and lot of adulation from all over the world…
Many musicians have schools in the west, didn’t you feel like starting one too?
No, no, the way I have learnt I just want to pass it on. I think my students will also follow the same thing.
Yes, one by one…. they have to learn how to present the music, how to play the ragas and raaginis, and have to learn to understand the audience. You have to make music according to the audience, and you have to meet media, and how they should behave in front of them.
Are there still such Gurukuls in India?
I don’t know about that. But I just wanted to create that kind of Gurukul in which I had learnt. And I loved that, and I still love that.