20 February 2007

The Rendezvous

It was late in the evening of some day in the first week of January 2004. The freezing winter of Pilani didn't really deter me as I galloped towards the music room on the BITS campus. There were two other enthusiasts (Neema Kulkarni and Ojas Sabnis) who joined me in the quest on that day.
It was an unforgettable moment of thrill as guruji asked me to sit in the half-lotus posture and instructed me on how to hold the sitar. "Sitar is like a new born baby. Equally delicate, equally enticing, equally beautifully. Guess you can understand how you are expected to handle it..." That was something which evoked an understanding smile from all the three of us.
Some details about the half-lotus posture: A right handed sitarist sits with his left leg crossed inwards and the right leg pulled out in the front. The base grourd of the sitar rests on the opened up left leg while the neck of the sitar is supported by the right thigh. The right hand rests on the base gourd from the top; thus giving the base gourd a vice-like grip between the left leg and right hand. Confused? Well, read it again :) This posture is quite difficult to master in the beginning as it tends to cramp the leg muscles. But a regular "riaz" in this posture should do the trick. Also, a correctly achieved half-lotus posture leaves the left hand completely free. But many beginners tend to have this problem of not being able to load the sitar neck on the right thigh, thus leaving an inevitable load on the left hand! But mind you! This will never work out if you are going to actually play the instrument after this!
Guruji thus explaining the posture, told a lot of stuff about the instrument- its manufacturing process, the physics that goes behind it. I still remember having turned back at one of the other two friends and remarked, "Oh yes! The frequency is inversely proportional to the square root of length of the string! So, that explains the gradual reduction in the distance between the frets as we move towards the bridge!"
So far, so good. The sitar, which looked so easy to play whenever I saw the artists perform, now started looking so formidable! "Oh my! Will I ever be able to play it?" Guruji just smiled.
He then asked us to put on a V-shaped pluck on the right index and adjust its supports behind the first joint on the finger. Well, traditionally known as the "mizrab", that was going to be the tool that would get me into playing the instrument.
"So now, all the three of you! Press your left index behind the seventh fret and strike all the strings gently upwards"

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