“Sur kaan par padna chahiye.” That is what Sunita Budhiraja’s mother would say when she would take her children to classical music concerts. This was also the start of Sunita Budhiraja’s lifelong affair with music. Budhiraja has now several published works on music to her credit, the latest being a biography on renowned classical music maestro Pt Jasraj titled “Rasraj: Pandit Jasraj”.
Budhiraja says there was a time when she would go to every concert happening in Delhi, and developed a love for classical music.
Writing about someone you have admired for so long can be a challenge because no matter what and how you write, words are never enough! Budhiraja agrees. She says this was her challenge but goes on to say that a writer should be dispassionate and cannot be involved much. However, her biggest challenge, she says, was to filter down all the material. She refers to them as small “hiccups”. “Did this ever demotivate her?” No, she says and credits two of Pt Jasraj’s disciples Pt Rattan Mohan Sharma and Pt Tripti Mukherjee, as they would keep enquiring about the book.
It took her seven years to put this book into words. “Was Pt. Jasraj co-operative?” Budhiraja responds in the affirmative. She exclaims there was a time when she would carry a recording device wherever she would go, whether day or night because ‘Panditji’ would remember things and call her any time of the day or night. She travelled with him, talked to his friends, family, disciples and then stitched everything together.
Sunita Budhiraja very vividly remembers the exact moment when she was asked to write the biography. She was living in Mumbai and was told to attend an event where Pt Jasraj was performing. It was there that his wife, Madhura Pandit, asked her to write the biography on Pandit Jasraj. She credits Pt Jasraj with a photographic memory and goes on to say that he distinctly remembers every month and year of his life and she never had to review those facts with anyone else.
So, does she feel classical music is losing popularity? Budhiraja disagrees. She says the only reason why classical music lags behind in popularity is because people are not adequately exposed.
Many classical music aficionado have described listening to Pandit Jasraj as a “spiritual experience”, and the singer himself has said on several occasions that he sings for God. “How does that affect the listeners?” Budhiraja says listening to him has been indeed nothing short of a “spiritual experience”. She says there have been many instances when she cried and laughed while listening to his renditions.
Budhiraja goes on to narrate a dream that Pandit Jasraj once had. “He saw Lord Krishna sitting on a throne surrounded with his courtiers and he told Pandit Ji how his songs reached directly to him,” she says. It was after this dream that, according to Budhiraja, Pandit Jasraj decided to sing for Lord Krishna.
Pt Jasraj’s first classical music training was in the tabla. According to the biographer, one unfortunate incident when a renowned artist allegedly insulted him by calling tabla “mara hua chamda”, and said Jasraj did not know anything about singing, which pushed him towards taking up singing. Pandit Jasraj, only 13 or so at that time, promised to himself that he would learn singing. He would practise for about 14 hours a day, says Budhiraja, to become the artist as we know him today.
Ms Sunita Budhiraja says that the English translation of the book is in the pipeline.
The book has been released in the USA and will be released soon in India.