Pandit Ravi Shankar treated me like family, says his sitar-maker

Updated: Dec 13, 2012, 09:45 AM IST

Rikhi Ram Musicals is famous for many reasons. Their clientele ranges from The Beatles to the recently deceased Pandit Ravi Shankar.

The central Delhi-based musical manufacturing shop had a close tie-in with the Indian sitar maestro and the families have long been closely involved. After all, what’s a musician without his instrument!

Sanjay Sharma, owner of the family-run store, spoke about his time with the legend in an exclusive interview with Arya Yuyutsu of on Wednesday, right before he left for a prayer meeting organized in honour of the sitar guru.

“He was our father, grandfather, guru…anything!” Sanjay reminisced, “He was everything to me and my family. And he always treated us like family. He never made it a client-customer relationship. He used to call me Sun-joy saying it always gave him great joy to see me.”

Sanjay had the unique honour of not just touching Ravi Shankar’s sitar, but also making them as per his preferred specifications. He’s also gone with the maestro on tours, all over the world, and he says people would yearn to even just catch a glimpse of the legend.

“He was like the King of the World; the Emperor of the Music World. People would flock to meet him. Big and small, important and regular, they would all crowd around him and want to talk to him. I used to hold his hand as he went from the stage to the green room and there would be a lot of important people who would come to him and touch his feet. Everyone respected him a lot.”

Sanjay adds that he was a wonderful person. “He never spoke ill of anyone. People threw criticism at him and instead of getting angry, he admitted the statement, without retaliating. He never hurt anyone and nobody ever had a grudge against him.”

The sitar legend also took up the responsibility of teaching sitar to Sanjay’s fortunate son, Rishabh, who, at 14, gained initiation at the Ravi Shankar Centre at start of this year. Rishabh was his youngest disciple and was progressing very swiftly under his guruji’s eyes and he intends to continue in the field.

Sanjay described the death as “unexpected and sudden” and added: “This has suddenly left us with a huge lull. While we are fortunate we were so close to him, the entire family is bereaving his death. We didn’t expect him to go so early.”

Pandit Ravi Shankar left his body at about 4pm Pacific Standard time in San Diego (about 6am IST), having been unable to recover from a heart-valve replacement surgery.

“He used to say,” Sanjay added with a strong note of nostalgia, “’San-joy, you’re my two eyes; without you I cannot walk on the path of music.’”

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