Aravind Bhargav is a talented young mandolin artiste who now has concerts tours in India and abroad. He learnt music under the celebrated Mandolin U Shrinivas who has an untimely end.
Recently, Bhargav hosted a 'Remembrance of Shrinivas' event in Chennai.
In this column, Bhargav jots down his standout memories with his guru.
This is what my mother wanted - to start my musical journey with Sri Mandolin U Shrinivas.
That began in 1997. I was 6 years old then.
Shrinivas was equally passionate about teaching as he was about performing.
Every Saturday and Sunday he would sit with us students from 8.30 in the morning to 3 pm at his home and even longer if he was in town.
This happened even when he was busy with his extensive travel schedules.
He taught the ‘saralis’ to the juniors, very patiently. He often became one of us, encouraging students to go the extra mile, allowing them to innovate, provided the grammar or essence of the presentation was not effected.
I would record my concerts that I gave in public and give the CDs to him so that he could listen to them at his leisure and give me feedback.
In one concert (in 2012), I played an elaborate Khamas. He listened to it and playfully teased me saying, ‘Aravind, even I am scared to play Khamas so elaborately'. He then went on to tell the class how much he enjoyed the Khamas I had played.
I remember the 2008 December season in Chennai.
I had been requesting guruji to play Malayamarutham (one of my favourites). So when he announced his main piece for the day in his concert for the Indian Fine Arts Society - 'Dhanudevaro Dasarathe' in Malayamarutham - I was thrilled.
At concerts, we students would always sit on the side of the stage. After guruji made that announcement, he turned, looked at me with his warm smile and nodded his head, as if to say to me 'Happy'? I will always cherish the Malayamarytham he played that day.
After completing my XII standard school studies, I was in a dilemma on the choice of my college studies. Guruji normally never gave advice on personal matters and would always tell us to follow our hearts and instincts. But that day, he said, 'If you dedicate yourself and practise hard I am promising on my mandolin, it will take care of you. Everything will automatically follow.”
I took his word.
After my major concert tour of Europe in May, 2014 I gifted him with a small oil box from he pilgrim town of Assisi (Italy). He told me that Assisi was one of the only cities that he had not visited and was very happy that I had done so.
That was the last time that I met him when he was alone. The last time alive.
Guruji told me he was very happy with the way I was playing the mandolin as a solo instrument, there cannot be a bigger gurudakshina than this and to continue on the same path, no matter what.
In hindsight, I believe, he was giving his last instructions to me.
He took music classes till almost 10 days before he fell seriously ill and recorded nearly 10 songs for me in the last class.
For me, it is impossible to think of the mandolin without 'Shrinivas'. He wanted the mandolin to attain a permanent place in Carnatic music - the way other instruments like veena, violin and flute had.
That is a very tall order. But we hope that as mandolin artistes increase and perform well, that will happen some day.