The first time I met Pt Jasraj was in 1993. I played with him at a festival in Hyderabad, and later, regularly performed with him. In 2003, I got the desire to learn Hindustani music. I loved his music and wrote to him, asking if he could take me as his student. He asked me to come to Mumbai, which, incidentally, was on the day of Guru Pournima. I have fond memories of driving him around Mumbai, going to the shrines, eating at bakeries and spending time at the beach.
I had a tremendous relationship with him as a student and as an artiste. Jasrajji is a charming person. Be it his persona or his concept of music, there was so much to learn from him. I trained under him for nearly 15 years. He taught me to see music in a different way. As a mentor, he was both strict and jovial with me. My relationship with him was far different from what he shared with his other students. He had the simplicity of a child and the sophistication of a true leader. I remember playing with him for Atal Bihariji’s 80th birthday celebrations, and concerts at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai and even in Jaipur, Atlanta and Dubai. I’ve played nearly 200 concerts with him. He would introduce me on stage as a Carnatic musician and a flautist, and we would have an impromptu jugalbandhi for five-ten minutes. His concerts were always interesting; he would improvise on the spot, which would blow you away.
He was fond of Chennai and often reminisced about his meeting with Rukmini Devi, MS Subbulakshmi and M Balamuralikrishna. He was fond of late Mandolin Srinivas, who had shared the stage with him. He loved south Indian music and would often tell this interesting story of watching Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer perform in Kolkata, when he had accompanied Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. I spoke to Jasrajji a few days ago as well. I heard he had a peaceful death. He was truly a jewel of India.