Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Radhika Mohan Maitra: His Life and Times - V

[Continued from Part IV]

11. The End

In 1976, to the astonishment of everybody present, just after finishing a concert in Calcutta, Radhubabu announced that he was retiring from the professional arena! He then proceeded to unwrap a package from which appeared a set of printed sheets which he distributed to the audience. In these sheets was an explanation of the conditions under which he would, in future, perform: using wittily composed rhymed quatrains he explained that he would stop all broadcasting activities and would only play in small private gatherings of those who were particularly interested in his music.

Some months later when he was asked to explain the reasons behind his retirement, he said that he no longer felt like continuing with the rigorous schedule of riyaz (practice) that is essential to maintain ones skill levels. He said that this was particularly so since there were anyway few takers for his austere variety of music.

Retirement turned out to be a disastrous error of judgement for two Contradictory reasons. Radhubabu, who was famously disinterested in “pleasing mass audiences”, had nevertheless become addicted to the attention he received as a performer and soon began to crave for this “high”. As a result he went back on his promise not to give public concerts. Whenever requested by individuals, (like Amjad Ali Khan) for whom he had a particular fondness, he would oblige. But he was no longer the technical virtuoso he once had been and these reappearances did little to enhance his reputation.

On the other hand when he played for the smaller audiences he had in mind in his retirement statement, he showed a far mellower aspect of his musical personality: most listeners felt that if he had adopted such an approach during his professional heyday, he would probably never have experienced the feeling of neglect which led to his retirement.

Ironically the people of Calcutta at last woke up to the fact that a remarkable musical personality had been living in their midst. The matinee idol of Bengal, The late Uttam Kumar, organized a civic reception for him and many other organizations honoured him for this contributions to music in Bengal. But it was a bit too late to stem the rot.

During the last years of his life he was lonely and depressed. Some of his senior disciples had moved away from him others, while still faithful, were making a living outside Calcutta. His daughters had married and were far away, most of his close friends had passed away or were themselves too frail to come and visit him.

In July 1981 a small cyst was detected on his lower back. Though Dr Chandra, who removed it surgically, repeatedly told him that the growth was benign he became convinced that his “time was up!”

One morning in the first week of September his brother found him lying bleeding and unconscious at the door connecting his bedroom and bathroom. He had evidently taken a fall during the night and suffered a concussion. A scan revealed serious hemorrhaging in the brain.

He was operated upon but although he recovered consciousness and was soon speaking coherently, his condition slowly deteriorated and he passed away on the 15th of October, 1981. The neurosurgeon who had treated Radhubabu ruefully told Radhubabu’s daughter that his patient would certainly have survived had he not lost the will to live.




I've been looking since long for an extensive article about Radhubabu as I'm a dye-hard fan of him.Thank you very much for this excellent stuff you provided.I must say a great work.God bless you
Dr.Ashfaq A.Khan

Manohar said...

Thanks a lot Abhik for directing me read this article. It was so engrossing that I read all the parts of the article. I regret now that I was not so fortunate to listen to such a great artist. How ever we are lucky to have the wonderful recording.

Manohar Bodas

Manohar said...

It is a wonderful article. Thanks a lot Kalyanda. Now I do regret I was not so fortunate to listen to this great artist. At least we have some excellent recordings of Radhubabuji.

Manohar Bodas

Anonymous said...

Thank you Prof. Mukherjea for a very informative article about Pandit Maitra. I play the sarod myself and Panditji's style is what I keep trying to reproduce.

vinay said...

these are delightful...i think you should consider expandng this into book form and write about the milieu post wajid ali shah in calcutta. thank you so much for telling us about radhubabu. i hear his chaaya bihag ( that you refer to) all the time, it is one of my favourite sarod recordings.

Soumya Chakraverty said...

Dear Kalyanbabu

Thanks for taking the time to write such a beautifully chronological event of the life and times of Radhubabu. He was my Guru's (Samrendra Sikdar) Guru, and I felt fortunate for having met him personally at a young age. I am proud to carry the mantle of the Gharana and the legacy that he established.

I have recently launched a website on the Shahjahanpur Gharana (www.sarodia.com) with some details on Radhubabu and other musicians. Your inputs and comments will be highly appreciated.

Aparajit Agarwal said...

Dear Kalyan-ji,

Thank you for posting this article. I am a student of Pt. Buddhadev Dasgupta. I have heard many a story mentioned here and also several others.

Knowing what I know now, I can appreciate some of the sternness Guruji would always tell me that Radhubabu had. It also helps me see and appreciate my own roots.

Your article also brings out the frustrating sentiments one feels even today about the state of Indian classical music.

Thank you