His master's voice

Pandit Debu Chaudhuri during a concert in New Delhi. Photo: V. V. Krishnan  

Renowned sitar maestro Devabrata Chaudhuri , popularly known as Debu Chaudhuri or ‘Debu Da', was the happiest person on earth when his dream came true and the UMAK Centre for Culture, established in memory of his guru Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan in the year 1990, came into existence with its own building. The building was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit recently.

The congregation of artistes and art lovers present on this occasion witnessed a compact programme comprising excerpts of a film based on an interview of Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan taken by Dilip Chandra Bedi 40 years back, from Doordarshan's archival recordings, a Saraswati Vandana and an orchestral piece in raga Desh composed by Debu Chaudhuri and performed by the students of Umak Centre for Culture.

Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar recited Sanskrit slokas invoking Lord Ganesha and Devi Saraswati for their blessings. Senior artistes like Asad Ali Khan, Buddhadeb Dasgupta and L.K. Pandit paid their compliments to Debu Chaudhuri for his extraordinary Guru Bhakti.

Talking about his determination to build this building, Kiran Walia, Delhi Health minister, said, “Debu Da has always been a man of resolve.” She cited the historical amendment when the Delhi University had to change its rules which insisted on academic qualifications for a professor's post in the university. This opened an opportunity for traditional musicians who had mastered their art in guru-shishya parampara. The Chief Minister not only congratulated Debu but also assured help in future.

Talking to this writer about how the idea of this institution came to his mind, Debu Chaudhuri delved deep into the poignant memory of his Guru on his death bed. “My Guru was suffering from cancer and withstood a lot of pain during the last stages. When he saw the inevitable end approaching he called me to Kolkata, held my hand and said the pain is not only physical, it's also about my music which will end with me. With tears in my eyes I assured him that I will not let it die. My Guru passed away the very next day. With a heavy heart I came back to Delhi after his last rites were over, and pledged myself to establish a Gurukul in his name and carry forward the musical tradition of his Senia baaj. It was not because he was my beloved Guru but also because he was an honest musician who never compromised his art for cheap popularity and adhered to the tradition of pure music.

“I had no resources, even my service at Music Faculty in Delhi University was threatened, but I was not willing to accept defeat. I got the Gurukul registered in my Guru's name and approached the then Chief Minister, Sahib Singh Verma, who very kindly donated money and organised loan from the State Bank of India. At this very time, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. Broken-hearted after her sad demise, I had to mortgage our home for paying the penalty for not being able to construct the building till then. Sheila ji was kind enough to help in the time of distress. Citing the Bangala Geet ‘ki pai na..' he says, “I will not talk about what I did not get, but would express my heartfelt gratitude for what God has bestowed upon me in the form of friends and well wishers. I may not live, but the tradition will – as I promised to my departed Guru.”

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 11:26:34 PM |

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