The Aesthete

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Pandit Jasraj
Pandit Jasraj
Age: 79
Profession: Hindustani classical vocalist, doyen of the Mewati gharana
Secret mode of doing riyaz: Switching on the television (on mute), laying out a game of solitaire on the bed, and then sitting down to sing Photo: Shailendra Pandey

AMONG INDIA’s seniormost classical musicians, Pandit Jasraj may seem a venerable figure. He certainly seems to assume that role in public, raising both hands in a gesture of blessing as he strides onto stage. But Jasraj is keen to dispel such a notion. “People think I’m trying to be a sadhu or something, but it’s not that. That mudra is meant to signify an embrace of the god inside everyone. And I adopted it unconsciously.”

Jasraj attributes much of his calm and the power of his music to his unshakeable faith. “As a young man, I was a Hanumanbhakt,” he says. Now, it is Krishna to whom he feels deeply connected. There is certainly something Krishna-like about the man – a combination of playfulness and serenity that is appealing youthful. “Beauty is a form of the divine. A lovely young woman is like a half-blossomed flower. Sundarta ka aankhon se raspaan karna (letting the eyes soak in beauty) – that keeps one young.” Immaculately turnedout in public, Jasraj insists he is “bachelor-like” in private. “In my bedroom, I throw my clothes everywhere,” he chuckles. He admits classical musicians take time to deal with change. “But badlaav is life. Only that which adapts is alive,” he says. “I’m lucky my voice has changed very little with age. Yes, I can’t perform the miracles of my younger days, but I didn’t know then the karaamaats I do now.”