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If music is their end in the journey of life, then vocalists Rajan and Sajan Misra believe in getting there whatever it takes

Remember how both of us were captains of our cricket teams? Sajan

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER: Rajan and Sajan Misra see themselves as part of each other PHOTO: R.V. Moorthy

Clad in impeccably starched, hand stitched snow white kurtas, their silver hair glinting in the evening sun, such is their presence that even in a place like the India International Centre, used as it is to celebrities, they make a head turning statement. It is a presence that soothes, for there is an element of the rajas and the satva that comes from years of being centred and secure within one's context. Rajan and Sajan Misra, the Hindustani classical vocalists whose rendition of the ragadari music is laced with an almost thirsty quest for perfection.

Their pace is unhurried, as are their musical explorations. By their own admission, the siblings are one soul embodied in two physical forms. The maestros in conversation with Alka Raghuvanshi on the cord that binds them, apart from the umbilical one!

Sajan: Did you see the boys playing cricket in the park? I was reminded of the days when we used to play cricket - from school right through college! Remember how both of us were captains of our teams?

Rajan: It was really nice! And badminton too! Often artistes neglect the fact that sports really are so important for a rounded personality. Besides they help you develop the competitive spirit!

Sajan: Exactly! Often audiences wonder whether there is a sense of competition amongst us. But few know there is a tradition of duet singing in Hindustani classical music from Banaras, and when you see yourself as part of the other, how can you compete with each other?

Rajan: Also the credit must go to our older generations. They taught us by their own example how to live together in love, harmony and happiness.

Sajan: Especially since there were just two of us, it was a very valuable blessing and it is a matter of instilling the correct sanskar. Even musically, I think our upbringing has been rather correct. Remember how our fingers used to bleed when we were learning the sarangi?

Rajan: Most good vocalists in the previous generation like Amir Khan Sahib, or our father (Pandit Hanuman Prasad Misra) and uncle (Pandit Gopal Misra) used to play the sarangi. It is indeed a `saurangi' instrument in how it follows the human voice.

Sajan: People used to ask why we didn't take up this instrument, but you can't be both things!

Rajan: Do you remember how pitaji taught us so many tappas by bribing us with 50 paise? I recall when we were growing up, (there is a five-year gap between the two) while going and returning from the market with the sabzi ka jhola he would entice us with 50 paise if we were able to learn the tappa in the time it took us to go and come back!

Sajan: And that time when the curtain rose to reveal Chachaji (Pandit Gopal Misra) sitting in the first row. Before we could even start, he asked, "paanch rang chundariya, paanch tarah se hoga?" When we were able to sing that composition to his satisfaction, he took out a 10-rupee note with a flourish and gave it to us! Old habits!

Rajan: It is indeed a blessing that we have been lucky to have so much care and unity in our family. People are surprised to know we have shared the same kitchen for the last six generations! The fact is that the women in our families have adjusted so well and tried to instil the same sense of belonging and sanskars into the next generation.

Sajan: Do you know that the women (in our house) thanks to sheer rote, and hearing us for years together have a rather developed sense of music. Once I had taught our grandson a composition and his mother was hearing him practice. She said, "I think your grandfather has forgotten a line here. I think it should be... Better go and check with him."

Rajan: There was a time when a number of women singers were coming of age in Banaras and there were few male singers. It was as if there was a gap of a generation almost.

Sajan: But now there is an extremely talented and very well trained crop of young musicians who are coming up. They have the taiyari and the commitment to make it as good musicians. For without the emotional content or bhavna, there can be no sadhana! Just like when arrogance increases, aastha or conviction decreases.

Rajan: Absolutely correct! Spontaneity and humility are so imperative for a musician. The ability to flow with the mood of the moment, without losing sight of the ground beneath you is so wonderful. Like how we never decide on the raga.

But decide on the raga or the bandish according to the mood at that particular moment.

Sajan: It is interesting how we've never really disagreed on what to sing!

Rajan: I am filled with humility when I hear some of the old ragas and compositions being sung after centuries! But I feel that the ratio with which economic development has taken place, apportioning a percentage to culture has just not happened.

It is about time there was some form of cultural reservation and a certain percentage of the total turnover of the bigger organisations and MNCs should be used for supporting the performing arts, just as two per cent of a government building needs to be used for visual arts as per law.

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