This is easily the best book that I have read so far, this year. I have mentioned the book and the several appreciative reviews the book received here, here, here, here, and here; and, the book deserves all the praise it got and more.
Though the book is said to be
the story of three great musicians,
it is mostly the story of Dhondutai Kulkarni, her musical journey, and Devidayal’s own musical journey with the guidance of Dhondutai. If her gurus, Kesarbai and Alladiya make an appearance, they do so in relation to what they did or did not do for Dhondutai; and, in any case, the biographical information about Khan Saheb and Surashri that the book contains are more gossipy in nature. Even in the case of Dhondutai, there is an element of gossipiness – however, since Devidayal seems to have heard most of these stories from Dhondutai herself (and with a bit of reconstruction to make the narrative interesting), it has the flavour of a strory of oral tradition, which, of course, adds to the charm of the book.
Devidayal’s strength lies in the nice manner in which she reconstructs the events of the past; the book managed to bring tears to my eyes more than a few times. The narration is very tight and reads more like a well written novel. In fact, I finished the book in a couple of sittings in a single day.
All this is not to say that I agree with Devidayal in everything she has to say in her book; I certainly do not agree with the following sentiment of hers for example:
It was a good thing that Alladiya Khan was never recorded, even if posterity may never get to glimpse his genius. When the technology came to India, he was close to seventy-five and on the decline. If he had been recorded then, his signature would have faltered. It would not have been the real him. In such cases, things are better left to imagination.
The passage not only was jarring to me, but also, in my opinion, shows a callous attitude towards history and scholarship. But, fortunately, passages like this are few and far in between in the book.
Bottomline: a great book about one of the exponents of a great gharana, and is a must read for every music lover!