I am not a classical music buff. I can follow a beat, and can appreciate a good tune, but when it comes to notes and scales and ragas and sur, I am a complete dumbo. People who know my knowledge of music may be wondering what I am going to write about the maestro.
The year was 1981. Four of us, Ajit Ranade, Me, N. S. Raja & Ashutosh Joshi, were on an expedition to climb Black Peak, alias Bandarpunch, a twenty one thousander in Garhwal Himalayas. We were accompanied by Prem Singh, a native of Garhwal as our guide cum high altitude porter.
The expedition was on a shoestring budget. It was for a month from Mumbai to Mumbai. Of this, for almost 20 days, we were just five of us in the mountains exposed to the elements.
We had carried a cassette recorder with us and a very small collection of cassettes. One of them was Abhangvani by Panditji, a compilation of devotional songs from poet saints of Maharashtra.
Raja, a Tamilian & Ashutosh Joshi who hailed from UP could never agree on almost anything, including which cassette should be played. However, one thing that they agreed upon was playing Abhangvani first thing in the morning. So high up in the Himalayas, we would start our day hearing Panditaji’s Bhajans. Those words and that voice gave us strength for the gruelling day ahead.
In 1988 “Mile Sur mera tumhara”, a compilation devoted to national integration was released by Lok Seva Sancar Parishad. It became hugely popular. Panditji was the first of the string of celebrities who sing the song.
We had experienced national integration way earlier in 1981 during the expedition through the magic of his voice.