Meet the Artist: Ashwini Bhide DeshpandeyPart 2 of a long interview by Dr Sunil Deepak, Bologna, Italy, 11 November 2008
This is part 2 of a long interview. The links to the remaining parts of this interview are at the bottom of this page.
Interview - Continued from Part 1
Sunil: In your mother Mrs. Manik Bhide's time, being a musician must have been very different. I have seen one of her recordings but at that time the kind of pressures and influences on the artists must have been completely different from what they are today?
Ashwini: My mother had an illustrious career, not as a performer but as a disciple of Ganasaraswati shrimati Kishori Amonkar. For sixteen years, my mother accompanied the maestro to all her music concerts. Where ever she went, my mother went along, between 1963 and 1980.
Sunil: Why she didn’t do concerts herself and followed Kishori ji?
Ashwini: I think, I have a feeling, I am not saying that I am right, but I have a feeling that being a disciple of such a great maestro was itself very time consuming and also mentally consuming, so that she didn’t have the scope to pave her own way, to make her own career.
Sunil: That sounds like a very interesting concept that being with a great maestro can be like being under a great tree.
Ashwini: I am not saying so, and I wouldn’t like to say so, I am not blaming anybody. It happened. As you have rightly pointed out, those times were different and my mother was not ambitious. She didn’t say that I want to have a career of my own and I want to go on my own. After she taught me, she has been a guru and a mentor to a series of other persons. So although, she did not have the career of a performer, she first had a disciple’s career and then a guru’s career.
Sunil: As disciple or as guru, she was a working woman with a family. Today when you look at yourself and the kind of name you have, do you feel that it is more difficult today to be a working mother compared to your mother?
Ashwini: Not really, because times are different now and I have full support of everyone in the domestic circle. Also psychologically and mentally, I am more free and liberated than she was.
Sunil: You are well known and famous. For example, there is lot of you on sites like Youtube. Do you feel under public scrutiny and under pressure as a woman?
Ashwini: I feel that I have been blessed, because everybody, my husband and my daughter, they are very accomodating and understanding in nature, so I have their full support.
Sunil: Your daughter, does she play music as well?
Ashwini: She has trained in classical dance but not in terms of being a professional performer. She is now studying to be an engineer.
Sunil: I feel that when persons take on science, medicine and engineer careers and then at the same time develop their creative sides, it is very fulfilling and it allows them to develop a new creativity in both those aspects of their lives. Have you read Namita Devidayal's book The Music Room and does that book reflect in any way your experiences with your teachers?
Ashwini: Yes, I have read it but it does not reflect my experiences with my teachers because I had my mother as my teacher. I had lot of discounts because my guru was my mother. My learning with my guru had its advantages and disadvantages, from the point of view of my being my guru’s daughter. Advantage was that I had my guru around me, anytime that I wanted I could ask her something and study. Second advantage is in terms of freedom, the liberty to ask anything to my guru any time, to raise any question, to probe into any stupid thing. Had she not been my mother, I would have thought hundred times before asking such things to a teacher. The disadvantage was that I was her daughter and she wouldn’t let me go off. As I said, she has been a strict disciplinerian. Like she would say, “Nothing doing, you are sleepy, go wash your face and come back. I don’t want you to sit in front of me and yawn.” Those kind of things, she wouldn’t have been able to do had I not been her daughter.
Sunil: Did you pass through a teenage rebellion phase?
Ashwini: Yes of course.
Sunil: I had read in an interview about your preparation for an All India Radio competition, that had changed the way you looked at music?
Ashwini: That is the point when I started learning from my mother. That was accidental. She was there at home and she was available all the time. I had never paid any attention to her, but she had also never paid any attention to me in terms of learning music, in terms of education. It was Pandit Narayan Rao Datar, who used to come to our home and who was teaching everybody at home, starting from my grandmother.
In this particular instance, I was unable to prepare myself because of the sickness. I was down with typhoid and then I had a relapse, so I was really very weak. I said that I can’t appear for the music competition. At this point, my mother said, “What is wrong with you? I will see how you can not!” And she took the reigns in her hands, she said I will teach you, prepare you just for the competition, let’s see.
So she taught me the fighting spirit also, never say no, never say die. She prepared me for the competition. It was a month and half long training that I took from her, rigorously and she changed my whole outlook about music. Till then I was learning from the point of view of giving exams, I already had the sangeet visharad degree at that time. I knew many ragas and I knew the differences between similar sounding ragas. I thought that I had lot of knowledge of music.
Only when I started learning from her I realised that I had the knowledge but knowledge is only one aspect of the art. She opened for me the whole art of stylised gayaki, the Jaipur Atrauli gharanedar gayaki. She was instrumental in opening this insight for me. It was like opening the Ali Baba’s cave for me. Then the training that started, it has lasted all my life, and I have imbibed the characteristics of the gharana. She is a very strict and disciplinerian teacher.
Then over the last years, I have been training under Pandit Ratnakar Pai. He is a senior stalwart of the Jaipur Atrauli gharana and is a store house of a lot of bandishes and rare and difficult ragas, which used to be a characteristic of my gharana. Like he can sing "Anvat" or "Achchop" ragas and to leave people guessing about them.
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