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A musical legend

February 12, 2009
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is only the second classical vocalist to be conferred the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, the first being the legendary M S Subbulakshmi.

And his choice for the award comes after a gap of seven years -- the previous Bharat Ratna being shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan.

Mohan Nadkarni, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's biographer, recalls his long association with the legend in this tribute. Exclusive to

It is rare that a biography of an artiste is published during his lifetime; every word in the narration of this biography is truthful.'

This is what the maestro, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, said, releasing the first edition of my book, titled, Bhimsen Joshi: The Man and His Music, way back in 1983.

And it was the maestro who had visited me at home and asked me to write his life-story! This tiny biography, incidentally, caught the attention of HarperCollins publishers, in collaboration with Indian publisher Rupa & Co. They commissioned me to revise and update the edition and publish it under their joint auspices in 1994.

News of the conferment of the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian award on the maestro, now 87, is indeed like a miracle that has simply happened. Doubly so, in a land where one has to be either thoroughly dead, or get woefully old and ailing to deserve State recognition!

Especially for this writer, only seven months junior to him in age, this great event is truly overwhelming. Indeed, I am at a loss to know what to say, how to say, and how much to say, as I write these lines. I turn nostalgic and my thoughts take me down memory lane. Way back to February 1943 -- February 16, to be precise.

That was the day of his first broadcast from All India Radio, Bombay (as the city was then called). I still remember his programme schedule of three sittings of 20 minutes each: Miyan Ki Todi in the morning (Daiya Bat Dubar); then raga Marwa (Ab Mil Aaye) at dusk; and finally, raga Puriya (Piya Gunawanta), later in the evening.

Like me, whoever might have heard these radio sessions would have been left in no doubt that a brilliant star had risen on the musical horizon.

Image: Pandit Bhimsen Joshi | Photograph: Arun Patil

Also read: Bharat Ratna for Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

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