HINDUSTANI CLASSICAL EXPONENT, BHILAI
Some stories are born centuries back, some evolve with generations, and some are born after cultures blend, some are lore’s, and some are mythological, but stories never die, and they are true and stand with the human race as long as the planet earth talks of these stories
STORIES ARE TOLD, TALKED AND TAUGHT. But there are stories, which are talked about less and felt more….here is such a story… a story where profit was never calculated so there was loss never seen. In this story profits were harvested by the guru, through her disciples. This is a story where the guru is written less, and the shishya is exalted more….
Here goes the story
Alka Deshpande, fondly called ‘Music Aunty’, or ‘Kakku’, by her students, is Bhilai’s daughter in law. Hailing from a family of lawyers, and musicians, from Jabalpur city, Deshpande had her inoculation to music through her mother and elder sister, who were the first to introduce her into the intricacies of Hindustani classical music. “My mother Maalti Sapre, was my first guru, it was from her, I surrendered myself to the world of ragas and taleem” clarifies the singer as she started singing at a time, when there were not much of her female counterparts, especially in central India. She was seven, when she began her professional musical training under Dada Deshpande and Anand Joshi, both stalwarts of the erstwhile Gwalior gharana. Her initial training led her to a larger narrative of the presence of women in Hindustani classical music, and makes her one of the torchbearers of the Gwalior gharana style of singing. “Take whichever artists of yesteryear, they were all stalwarts. Whoever was performing were true stalwarts. I won’t say one is better than the other, they are on par. The expression differs that’s all. We have much to learn from every single “gharanas”exclaims Deshpande as she feels every style of gayaki is versatile and it depends on the prakruti (nature) of a raga. It doesn’t matter who sings the ragas, as long as the delicacy of that raga is maintained.
“Music is imbibed in my virasat, and I have all these years trained my student to imbibe it and keep it near to their soul. You have to owe music to your soul, to understand the depth…” and more than me and myself its my students who made me proud, as they go and touch the roofs of the world, and spread the charisma of Hindustani classical music in lands unknown and still untouched by its charm” mentions the revered guru, who feels completely justified in saying, it’s the shishya who crowns the soul of the guru, their taleem reciprocates a journey of a generation, one to another.
To continue with the story, the guru chose 4 of her dearest shishyas to be written off.
While the fact that they are women unites them, it is their music that unites them even more
I found my passion for music, especially vocal music, at a very young age. I have always believed that I was incredibly fortunate to get the right opportunities to learn more about Indian classical music and hone my passion into skill – the biggest part of which was played by my esteemed music guru, Mrs. Alka Deshpande.
I started training with her when I was barely 10 years old, and from the very first time I met her, I addressed her as my music ‘Aunty’. I remember how kind and patient she was with me, always, and at the same time, she would often be stern and methodical with her teaching. For example, we would spend an entire music lesson only rehearsing the high ‘Sa’ swar or note of the Hindustani Classical notation, until I hit the note perfectly. And over the years as I matured, I realised how important these seemingly small lessons were. She knew me as a person, not just her student, and she knew what was best for my voice and my music, always encouraging me to do better and most importantly – enjoy music. And I genuinely believe that that’s the greatest thing a guru can teach a student.
But Aunty was never just my guru. She was and still is so much more than that – not just to me, but for sure to all of her students. I feel lucky that I got to grow up having her blessings, and also for her apt scolding at the right moments, and everything she ever taught me about music. But what always stays with me is how much she believes in me – right from when I was a little girl participating in school and BSP competitions, to when I was preparing to go to college, to this day when I’m pursuing my PhD in neuroscience all the way across the world in Germany. I will never forget how year after year, she would always show up at the exam centre to boost her students’ morale when we would give our practical exams for the music diploma from Khairagarh University. She even traveled to Pune with me, just the two of us, so I could participate in the national music competition organised by Akhil Bharatiya Sanskrutik Sangh – and sure enough, with her guidance and confidence, I won multiple awards there that year. I’ve always known Aunty to be an independent, talented and ambitious woman with a strong will and a meticulously hard-working nature. These qualities in her and having her as one of the most important female figures in my life, have contributed a lot towards shaping who I am today and how far I’ve come in life. She has always inspired me to strive for my goals and aspirations in academics, fine arts and of course, the world of music. Now, after all this time, when I close my eyes after a long day of work and household chores as I build my life in a foreign country, I often reflect on those beautiful years of learning Hindustani classical music and I get overwhelmed by feelings of warmth, love and respect towards someone who has never stopped believing in me even in situations where I have almost given up on myself.
I personally believe the percentage of blessed people who have the most revered of gurus as constant supporters and guide to life, is going fast extinct. And of the extinct crowd, we belong to that tiny percentage of blessed people who have a Guru like Alka Deshpande, who we all student in love call as ‘music aunty’. She is not only a Guru in my musical career, for me I have learned many important and beautiful things in all aspects of life from her. I have gained a different level of interest and love towards Indian Classical Music after starting taking lessons from her.
Her classes are not only of ragas and sur; they also have soul stirring motivations for life and its goals. And with so many years spent learning from her, I realise how precious those moments used to be during the classes, how important her lessons were.
Now being married and living in Prague, what I miss the most is being with her, her voice, the style of her taleem, and her dear to life inspiring and kind words.
“Her continuous will power to work so hard in every aspects of life, her sincere dedication towards music, her passion towards Hindustani Classical Music, her unconditional love for students and her continuous sincere efforts of making life simple and rich” is an inspiration to all of us.
The bonding that I share with my Guru or what I feel for her can not be described in words. All I know is, I am drenched in gratitude that I have her in my Life. I cannot thank enough. Like I said, I believe it’s the tiny percentage in this world that is so blessed to have one Guru like her.
I started learning Hindustani Classical music at the age of 4, since then Classical music has been very important part of my Life. I had recently a wonderful opportunity to perform at the Embassy of India, Prague and have also performed in few more local Classical Cultural concerts and events in Prague. Rounding up the story, every note, every sur, every tal, every aalap, has the guru in me…
Currently working as Jr.Clerk in Indian Railways (SECR) Bilaspur, headquarters, I started learning music at the age of 13, when my parents took me to my guru Smt.Alka Deshpande ji.She taught me that music has the power to heal wounds and it binds us together in versatile unity.
Over a period of 14 years, as I have evolved as a performer and having gained the confidence to perform on stage, I look back to the journey which was both methodological and melodically tuned.
Only words can’t express my feelings and emotions for my revered guru. The best thing which I like the most is that she loves each and every student equally and treats them like her own .Despite of all the love and affection she showers on us, when it comes to music she is very concerned and strict regarding the purity of Swaras and Sur, and for her maintaining the Purity of the Ragas, is of utmost importance, as she would often say, there is an emotion hidden in every Swara which should always be maintained.
In music “Shadaj”(SA) is the initial and important note that all music revolves around. She is the “Shadaj”of my life. With her blessings I have performed and secured position in state as well as National level Music Competitions in light and classical singing. My recently released Album is “Beti hai Roshni” on you tube with eminent shayar of C.G. Shri. Mayank Chaturvedi “Manas”ji. I am extremely fortunate also to perform in every auspicious event of Chhattisgarh’s,”Jashn‐e‐Zabaan” organised by Shri. Ashish Raj Singhania and also honoured to be blessed and witnessed by Shri. Madan ChauhanJi (Padmashri) in Folk and Sufi Singing.
They say in Japan, you are blessed, when you have a guru, and they also say when you are loved most by your guru you go beyond blessed. This context goes well with Guru Alka Deshpande and her most beloved student Rahila Iqbal. “She is my manas kanya” tells the guru, as she fondly remembers the many instances, when her love for her beloved child, goes beyond comprehension. Down here the disciple herself pens her devotion and reverence for her guru…
Born and brought up in Bhilai, now in Melbourne, I am quite passionate about music. While I enjoy all forms of music, I have developed a deeper liking for Indian classical music in the last few years. I have joined several Hindustani classical groups in Melbourne which has given me the opportunity to listen to and enjoy vocal and instrumental performances by renowned artists including Rashid Khan Sahab, Ustad Shahid Parvez, Kaushiki Chakraborty Mahesh Kale etc.I started learning from Deshpandey aunty when I was around 8 years old. What started off as a teacher-student relationship has now grown into a very strong and close bond, a bond I will cherish all my life.She has always been a selfless teacher. I have never heard or seen her do anything to promote herself -it’s always been about her students, a quality quite rare in these times.
While my guru was by my side (or sitting in front of me) during all my performances in Bhilai, the one we both remember quite fondly is the Lata Mangeshkar competition in 2000. The whole journey, starting from the application, to the umpteen riyaaz sessions, the time she spent organizing our stay at Indore, the relationships she helped me develop with the talented artists accompanying me to us winning the competition- every moment is still etched in my mind and I am sure in hers too.
There have been so many instances where my guru has gone out of her way for me. I still remember the calls I used to get from her between 8:30 PM – 10:30 PM to come over to her place and learn a new ‘taan’ she had just written. Or the days when she used to drive her luna with me on the backseat, only for me to meet another learned musician and improve my ‘sur’. Just recently on my birthday, she composed and gifted me a beautiful bhajan in a ‘raag’ I had requested. And these are just a few examples.
A guru’s place and role is irreplaceable in Indian classical music. And I have been blessed & extremely fortunate to have Deshpandey aunty not only as my guruji, but also as a mentor and guide. I owe everything I have learnt to her and will be forever grateful for her time, effort and love.