Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Music Room.

No, I’m not thinking of Satyajit Ray’s superbly visual movie, Jalsaghar (1958). I am thinking of a book. The world of books is populated by two kinds of denizens. So far as the first kind is concerned, you want to part company with them as soon as possible. With the other kind, you never want the tête-à-tête to end. Namita Devidayal’s The Music Room (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2009) belongs to the latter sort. It is history told to perfection in the style of a fictional tale. You could perhaps best describe it as an enchanting, almost seductive, personal narrative encrusted with details recalled with care and love. In the process of telling the life story of her music teacher, the author skilfully weaves in the history of Hindustani classical music with panache and an eye for exactitude in the many sub-narratives she offers. I’m a bit puzzled, though, by an obvious slip in this regard when she describes a peace concert at Shivaji Park after the demolition of Babri Masjid (6 December 1992). She writes that she was “all of seventeen” then (page 113). If she was born in 1968 as the blurb on the back fold of the cover slip states, she must have been twenty four at the time of the Artist Against Communalism all-night vigil. Mistakes happen. This minor lapse does in no way devalue the worth of her irreplaceable contribution to the cause of Indian classical music. I recommend The Music Room to anyone who is even remotely interested in music. A stupendous read, believe you me.