When Bhimsen Joshi said: ‘Akka, haadi torsala?’

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Padma Vibhushan Gangubai Hanagal, like Bharat Ratna Bhimsen Joshi, was a disciple of Sawai Gandharva of Kundagol. Although eight years older than Joshi, the two jewels became lifelong friends.

Deepa Ganesh of The Hindu recounted a lovely anecdote involving the two friends a couple of years ago:

“In dry Kundagol, it was Bhimsen Joshi’s duty to fetch unending pitchers of water for his guru’s house from a distant water tank. ‘Poor fellow, in the scorching heat, he would carry water on his shoulders… but as he walked he would constantly sing. How many times I’ve heard him practising the taans of Multani, Shankara…!’ recalls Gangubai.

“After class as Gangubai would get ready to return to her home in Hubli, Bhimsen Joshi would accompany her to the railway station. ‘It would have got dark and I being a young lady, my guru would never say no to Bhima.

“We would have barely got to the street, and Bhima would ask: ‘Akka, what did you learn today?’ I had to give him all the details. And then he would say, ‘Haadi torsala (‘shall I sing it for you…’).’ And in this way they would exchange notes till they reached the station, till the train chugged away.”

Also read: Jewels before the train for Hubli chugged away

Photograph: A young Gangubai, part of the collection of the Museum of Indian Classical Music at her residence in Hubli (courtesy: Frontline)


Read Deepa Ganesh: A life in three octaves

Read Gowri Ramnarayan: Where north meets south

Read Sabina Sehgal: The gaanewali

Read the PTI obituary: The voice of tradition