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This page is an account of Asit's association with his main Gurus and mentors in raga-sangeet and the way they have influenced him at different stages of his development. Faithful and detailed accounts of biographies of the Gurus are easily available elsewhere.
Ustad Dabir Khan
A few months before Asit was born, Ustad Dabir Khan, the last well-known daughter-side descendent of Miyan Tansen, a Dhrupad singer and Been player of the revered Rampur Senia lineage, started coming regularly to Asit's College-Street-area household to give lessons to Asit's eldest sister Sabita. Even today in Asit's family, the word Guruji means only one person, that is Ustad Dabir Khan. He never took any fees for the talim, and very often used to bring other well-known musicians with him for these regular sessions. Since the time he was a few months old till Guruji died, Asit had a regular presence in these sessions. In fact, exams or illness, nothing could stop Asit from attending these sessions. Asit's mother used to say jokingly that Asit would not move an inch from his position in those sessions even if he was pelted with stones.
Guruji mostly taught Sabita, but seeing the young boy's interest, soon started encouraging Asit. However, the reality was more complex. Since childhood, Asit was brilliant in academics, and his parents were apprehensive that, given full opportunity, Asit would leave academics altogether and become a full-time musician, something they could not accept whole-heartedly.
However, Asit's learning continued in the most natural way possible. Sometimes he was even asked by Guruji to accompany on the tabla when the regular tabla player Nanku Maharaj-ji (of Benaras Gharana) was not present. Guruji mostly used to teach raga-alaps and traditional Khayal vandishes. Although he was a Dhrupadia, he knew the traditional Khayal vandishes of Agra, Gwalior and Kirana Gharanas of Khayal and sometimes of other Gharanas. The above is probably a reflection of the fact that most of the Khayal gharanas emanated from the descendents of Miyan Tansen. He also taught Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal and other semi-classical forms. On a few occasions, he even brought a person to correct Urdu pronunciation in Ghazals. Asit performs these days a Hori Bhajan "Kesariya angiya rang daro" that was learned from Guruji.
Association with Guruji also gave the rare opportunity of listening to all the greats of the time literally from hand-shaking distances, both in big concerts and small house-concerts. In addition, there used to be the yearly birthday celebrations of Guruji, where Radhu-babu (Pandit Radhika Mohan Moitra) and Vidushi Meera Bandyopadhyay were regular features among others and an immaculately dressed Guruji always used to be the first performer playing ragas like Shree, Purvi, Gauri, Lalita Gauri etc., usually on the Rudra Veena. Guruji generally used to wear humble clothes, except on his birthdays when he used to dress up in Nawabi attire, including an ornamented stick that he used to carry in his hands.
By early teens, Asit was introduced to all the major raga groups and talas, including quite a few rare ragas. Vilambit Khayal vandishes were all in Tilwada and Jhumra and rarely in Ektal.
Guruji used to teach by singing and asking the disciples to repeat after him, with occasional use of the word "behuda" (meaning indecent) if the disciple failed to reproduce the phrase after several attempts.
Guruji's main focus was the raga. Anything that compromised with the melodic structure of a raga was strictly not approved by him. Contrary to common practice, there was never a palta given for riyaz. In his opinion, in all movements of the raga presentation, starting from the vandish to taankari, melody of the raga should be given utmost importance. He also gave special importance to aa-kaar riyaz.
Another special area that Guruji used to emphasize was the development of the mandra saptak (lower octave) in vocal exposition. He himself could reach the mandra Sadaj with a silky smoothness (without any extra effort) and with the same tonal quality as otherwise. This is very much evident in the only vocal piece of Guruji available in youtube in raga Lalita Gauri.
Guruji passed away when Asit was just into his teens. Asit was too young then to appreciate the treasures of musical value, taste and benchmark that was set for him already at that stage. With every passing years since then, Asit has come to realize more and more the real value of those early years of learning. Technically speaking, he did not learn from Guruji the Khayal form as such with its various angas and especially the danadar taan, for which Asit struggled for a reasonably long while until he found his next major Guru.