A Good Guru protects his disciples from His Own Influences

On my one-line Facebook post “a good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence “, my disciple Chandrika Kamat commented “to incorporate and then transcend will require years of tutelage,Guruji”. This set me thinking about what stage and how a pupil begins to “transcend” his Guru’s tutelage. Every artist,at some stage or the other, needs to establish his own identity within the framework of his gharana and sing like himself. This, I should think, has to happen after the student has incorporated and imbibed the Guru’s taleem in ample measure ( for five to ten years depending on his talent and Riyaaz ). That is to say, when he is sufficiently conversant with the framework of the gharana and the singing of his Guru. It is then that the guru will goad,encourage and push the disciple to explore new possibilities,new space,new turns in the raga. The Guru will have to support the legitimate efforts of the shishya when this begins to happen. This is an important leap in terms of creativity for the shishya. By exploring new space in the raga, I mean trying fresh possibilities in the raga within the framework of the gharana. I am harping on the framework of the gharana because there is always the danger of the disciple going astray into unchartered territory and lose himself very easily. Hence,the young artist has to discover his unique identity within the given framework of the gharana. The tenets and principles of the gharana are of paramount importance without which one will have no system to fall back upon.

How can the young and growing artist do this exploration?
He can begin the process by first tentatively exploring small variations in the given phrases with the approval of the Guru. The Guru will approve of them if they are legitimate. If and when the Guru approves, you should become confident that you can pursue such endeavours to take new/fresh turns in the phrases and continue the effort. After many trials and errors you will come to know that this is Chintan ( Manan-Chintan- Manthan cycle of which I have already spoken in another note).
Without wanting to sound vainglorious, I should like to give one or two examples of my own case. In a Mehefil where I was giving vocal support to my Guru while he was singing Jogiya Asaveri, the ‘ mukhada’ is ” Mainu mat marave “. The “sum” is on “ma” of ‘marave’. It goes as

Mainu mat marave
m…..m pp dd…pp

Once, I landed on the “sum” as

Mainu mat marave
m…..m ppĀ nnn ..dd…pp

True,not a great innovation,but a tentative exploration. At this,my guru turned and looked appreciatively at me and nodded and with his next mukhada,he too did what I had done and turned and looked at me!
Another tryout of mine was in Shudha Kalyan. My guru would sing the traditional Bhoop bandish ” Sakhi aaja moundara baaje ” in Shudha Kalyan and would sometimes to the admiration of the audience tell them that he is doing this knowingly. And his mukhada would go as follows

Sa khi a ja moun dara baa je
s r gpg gpg gr r s..rr ..s

Once I took it as

Sa khi a ja moun dara baa je
s r g p dp gr r s..rr ..s

and my Guru again approved of this very small but fresh turn. What is important here is that the Guru’s approval although these were not ground-breaking innovations! It gave me the confidence that I am able to take new turns and new ‘Upaj’.

Then comes ” Manthan” which is a tumultuous turmoil in you.It is creative restlessness that a growing artist experiences. It is a great churning of your Manan,Chintan and Manthan which can lead to discover yourself and not vanity or complacency. A truly creative artist can never afford to be complacent of his work.

If he becomes complacent ,he begins to repeat himself. One should always try to out-do oneself after a long stint with the Guru. With a strong grounding in the framework of the gharana,there is so much one can do and keep doing because the system is inexhaustible. There are no boundaries in the gharana when you begin to explore and find yourself within the system. Only,in desperate search of freedom,one should not become an anarchist and the Guru by enjoying your efforts will release you from his influences.