That the superstitious buzz about the world ending on 12.12.12 proved to be a dud, was no consolation for millions of music lovers across the globe yesterday. Their universe ended with the news of Pandit Ravi Shankar breathing his last in a hospital in San Diego on the night of December 11. Over the past seven decades, he had come to be identified the world over with his iconic Sitar, the complex string instrument which became the ambassadorial face of Indian classical music. As the violin legend Yehudi Menuhin, himself a close friend of Shankar, remarked in an afterword to Shankar’s 1999 autobiography, “…from mastering an instrument, we ourselves became instruments of something that possessed us”.
Till the last, Ravi Shankar was admittedly at the peak of his creative enterprise. Even as recently as the first week of November, aged 92 and braving deteriorating health, he had performed in concert with his daughter and shaagird Anoushka Shankar Wright at Long Beach, California. It was a passion and a creative journey that began in the narrow Tilebhandeshwar galli in the ancient city of Benares in the 1920s and soon spun out into a fairy tale romp across continents and cultures into a comprehensive insemination of the imprint of Indian classical music on global music.
Today, trying to talk of ‘Ravi Shankar’ to an average Indian is akin to trying to talk of ‘Mount Everest’ to a group of Sherpas. His name has inveigled into the nooks and crannies of popular culture as ubiquitously as ‘Taj Mahal’ or ‘Jantar Mantar’. From music clubs to hair cutting saloons, from tailors of desi attire to the corner paan shop, there was something suave and ‘international’ about…
(Continued on Op-Ed Page)