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From a small town boy to Bharat Ratna

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Happy days: A file photograph of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi with his father Guracharya Joshi.
Happy days: A file photograph of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi with his father Guracharya Joshi.

Girish Pattanashetty

Bhimsen Joshi’s brother traces the maestro’s journey

to fame

GADAG: The young boy had a fascination for music. Whenever there was a procession comprising of a music band, he would blindly follow it and enjoy the music. After the procession concluded, the tired boy would lie down somewhere and sleep. Anxious parents would go on searching for him ultimately to find him with the police.

The father of the boy then got an idea. He would write “Joshi mastarara maga” (son of teacher Joshi) on the boy’s shirt and those who found the boy sleeping would take him to his house.

The boy referred to here is Bhimsen Joshi, who has been chosen for the coveted Bharat Ratna. The above incidents occurred when Guracharya Joshi, father of Bhimsen, was a teacher in Bagalkot. Guracharya Joshi then moved to Gadag to become a teacher in the Municipal School, where he got Bhimsen admitted. However recognising the boy’s interest in music, Guracharya asked Agasara Channappa of Kurtakoti to teach Bhimsen the basics of music.

“Bhimanna himself has said that Agasara Channappa was his first guru. But after learning basics of music, he left home in search of his teacher and travelled to many towns of those days in search of a guru. He even worked as a servant to fulfil his dream,” said Sushilendra Joshi, one of the younger brothers of Bhimsen Joshi, who presently resides with his three other siblings in the house that Guracharya had built in Gadag.

Guracharya Joshi, a scholar in Sanskrit and English, was a native of Hombala in Gadag taluk. Although his qualification entitled him to the post of Collector during those days, he chose teaching as his profession. After initial service as teacher in Bagalkot, he came to Gadag. And a committed teacher he was, he went to establish “Sadachara Shikshana Gruha” to help the poor children to get education.

Bhimsen was the eldest among the 16 children that Guracharya had from his two wives. Guracharya married again after the death of his first wife Ramabai (Godubai) and renamed his second wife also as Godubai.

“My number is 13,” said Sushilendra. “The age difference between me and Bhimanna is 36 years. By the time I was born, my brother had already established himself as a classical singer. Whatever I know about Bhimanna’s initial years is mainly from what my father used to tell us and also from the biographical piece my father wrote about Bhimanna for a Kannada book,” he said.

“My father was a principled man and always taught us to set high goals. Probably that’s what made Bhimanna to strive for becoming the best and reach the position he has reached now,” said Sushilendra, who is associated with theatre and is the man behind “Abhinaya Taranga” of Gadag.

Young Bhimsen had left home in search of his guru on several occasions. And on one occasion, a senior musician told him that he had a “guru” living close to his native place. Young Bhimsen came back to Gadag and his father took him to Kundagol to get training under legend of Hindustani classical music Sawai Gandharva.

“Whatever happened after that is history. Bhimanna toured across the country giving music concerts and finally the patronage of people of Pune made him to settle down there,” Sushilendra said.

Bhimsen Joshi who paid regular visits to Gadag earlier, has now stopped doing so because of his ill health. According to Sushilendra, it was in 1992 that Bhimsen Joshi last visited Gadag, when he had come to give a music concert in programme organised by “Abhinaya Taranga.” But the family members are in regular touch with Bhimsen Joshi and his younger brothers go to Pune regularly to see him.

For the Joshi family, Bhimanna is still a simple person, who loves to have “bhakri” (roti), chatni, palya, mosaru, mirchi for lunch and is happy with whatever is served to him. Naturally the entire Joshi family is happy for and proud of Bhimanna. Soon after the announcement of Bharat Ratna, the family members spoke to him to greet him. The happiest among them is Bhimanna’s step-mother Godubai who is almost of same age as that of Bhimsen Joshi.

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