Someone by the name of Nalin Chandra Malakar had come with Pandit Jnanendra Prasad Goswami. I have met him a lot of times. He lived a long life too. In the decade of the 1980s, he died. He used to come almost every day.
Whatever incidents happened here, he was a witness to everything. He used to sing, and was a disciple of Pandit Jnanendra Prasad Goswami. He also served his Guru, as was the rule of those days. He used to live in this house with Pandit Jnanendra Prasad Goswami and his wife Radhika Prasad Goswami and also serve them.
Let me say a few words about Ali Akbar Khan, who was practically my Gurubhai. This was because; Ustad Allauddin Khan had wanted Ali Kabar khan to tie his Naara with Allauddin Khan’s own Guru’s family. So he kept Ali Akbar Khan for a few days at my Guru Dabir Khan’s place, who hailed from that family, so that the first Taalim came from him. That connection makes him my Guru Bhai.
He loves me very much, talks with me for a couple of hours whenever we meet, and urges me to take sweets and other food, a very cordial relation we share. I have also taken my wife to meet him, and he had welcomed her with great warmth, chatted with us for two or three hours.
Anyway, Ali Akbar Khan was a person who was oblivious to whoever was playing with him, or whatever he was playing.
It happened so at the Tanen Music conference, that Ali Akbar Khan had started to play with Pandit Shamta Prasad on the table. He completed the Alaap and started a Gat in Dhamaar at a very Vilambit laya. Shamta Prasad had to sit idle, playing only a theka and nothing else. Ali Akbar Khan, who always played with his head down, watched for some time, and then, with a smile, increased the Laya a little and went into Teen Taal, and asked Pt. Pt. Shamta Prasad to play. I have been witness to this, this being in the 1960s.
Lakshan Bhattacharyay was a renowned Sitarist of that time, and produced many good students. None of them, however, made their mark later on. Lakshan Bhattacharya was addicted to a number of substances like Opium. Some common acquaintances often played host to him and kept him as a guest in their homes. But that could not draw him away from the addiction. Later he was known to have resorted to venom abuse from snakes. After that, he would not wake up for a week. A man like this, however, was outstanding while playing his instrument.
Once he was lying in Harish Park after having consumed some substance, and the police had taken him away as a drunkard to Bhowanipore Police Station. The Officer in Charge came and asked, “What is the matter?” And was told that he had been picked up as an inebriated person. But the OC recognised him and spoke to him in familiar terms, addressing him as ‘Lakshan-da’. “ Whom have you picked up?” he said, and took him home in a car. Many a time I have seen him lying on the side of the road, when he was staying nearby. He stayed near Kalighat, Kali Lane or thereabouts, at someone’s house or at his sister’s place. He died there too. This I know, but he was also an erudite man, and a great Sitarist.
I’ll tell you about one incident that happened at the house of one of his students. Lakshan-da was to play, and accompanied on the table by Firoze Khan. We, being young people, 20 or 21 years of age, had assembled there. This was at a small house on Mukherjee para lane in Kalighat in 1947 or 1948.Anyway, it used to take about an hour for Lakshan-da to tune his instrument. As he used to do, hetwiddled a matchbox, smoked a Beedi with a Mirzab on his finger, till the tuning was complete.All the while Firoze Kahn waited, rubbing his hands on ice, looking at his tabla. LakshanBhattacharyay started a Gat in Vilambit, with his head down, sitting upright, holding his sitar, not even looking Firoze Kahn in the face. One Avartan passed, two Avartans, then three and four, the Tabla was silent. After sometime, Khan Saheb found an opening and started to accompany. As he did so, Lakshanbabu put aside his sitar and embraced him, “Oh Ustad, you’ve found it at last!” Then he played for another three hours. I came home at three or four in the morning, and was rebuked for it, that I would come to nothing in life. This is the incident I remember, cannot remember what he had played though.
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About the speaker
Swapna Mukherji is a well-known Sitar Player. She is the daughter as well as a disciple of Sri Amiya Bhushan Chattopadhyay [disciple of Pt. Lakshman Bhattacharya]. She was a graded Staff artist of All India Radio, served both in Raipur and Calcutta Station of All India Radio.
Lakshman Bhattacharya, moody, Amjad Ali Khan, Hafiz Ali Khan, Amiya Bhushan Chattopadhyay, Raga, Puriya,