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Death of a Caregiver

Why the world of Indian classical music should mourn the death of Rooshikumar Pandya

Written by Suanshu Khurana |
April 29, 2013 3:38:06 am

Why the world of Indian classical music should mourn the death of Rooshikumar Pandya

A death went unnoticed this month. There were no obituaries,no shraddhanjalis in different cities and no public prayer meetings. Rooshikumar Pandya was Annapurna Devi’s second husband — a fact that becomes significant because her first was the celebrated Pt Ravi Shankar. To the world of Indian classical music,Pandya was still a student (although his teachers included Ustad Ali Abar Khan and Annapurna Devi),to the corporate world,he was a management guru. But,his value to Hindustani classical music can be gauged from a letter that Annapurna had written to The Indian Express a few years ago. “I am able to teach because of him all these years. I don’t think I would have lived this long without his care,” she wrote. Pandya died on April 13 after a cardiac arrest and was declared dead at Breach Candy Hospital. He was 73.

Annapurna’s disciples agree that the reclusive sitar player,who had shut herself away from people and distraction after her failed first marriage and her son’s death,would have faded away without Pandya’s selfless devotion. Consequently,Pandya’s contribution is not to be measured by his musical credentials — music lovers thank him for keeping Annapurna alive and healthy for more than 50 years,during which she taught a range of up-and-coming musicians.

Only a handful of people discussed Pandya and circulated his lectures on YouTube. One of these videos shows a short and stout man talking to management students and telling them about the skills needed to crack an interview. Yet,his first meeting with Annapurna,in 1972,had him very scared. Pandya had moved from Canada to Mumbai after learning from Khan in the US and wanted to continue his taleem. Khan urged him to meet his sister Annapurna but Pandya was apprehensive. “I had heard that she would almost always refuse to meet visitors and the Padma Bhushan had to be delivered to her house. I did not understand this. She was a little aloof when I met her. She even referred to my long hair and said,‘I don’t teach hippies’,” Pandya had said in an interview in 2010.

He learnt for almost 10 years before asking her to marry him. “I did feel anxious. But we both were single. I knew that the risk was that she will not teach me again. When I asked her,she said that she has been hurt before and it was a difficult decision for her. But,she agreed after four days,” Pandya had once said. Since 1982,he has been Annapurna’s sole caretaker as her health failed. Annapurna still remained a recluse and lived imperiously on her own terms,but she taught more,and,sometimes,even smiled.

Pandya was the person who stood between Annapurna and the rest of the world that she never wanted to meet — VIPs,musicians who wanted to learn from her,the media and concert organisers. Pandya died exactly four months after Shankar. Devi has confined herself to her apartment again. And this time,it will be a little more difficult to draw her out.

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