“Age is a cage where I sit and watch my youth pass by, Though I cannot run as fast as I did before, musically I think I am better than ever for sure. Should I be missing my youth, or thank the Lord and rejoice in the everlasting magic of the music. ” Ravi Shankar 2010
Last month I was struck with grief after hearing about the death of our beloved Guruji, Pandit Ravi Shankar. Raviji had suffered from upper respiratory and heart issues over the past year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last month at a hospital in San Diego. Although the surgery went well, he was not able to recover and transcended back to the heavens at the age of 92 on Dec 11, 2012.
I feel so blessed to have had the amazing opportunity to know him and his family personally since 2007. As a sitar player and student of Indian Classical music, I was fortunate to be able to play tanboura for him on three concert occasions in Modesto CA, Dallas TX and Los Angeles CA. Over the past few years in addition to the music, I was able to help him relieve his pain through bodywork. He was my oldest client! During the sessions he would make me laugh telling amazing stories about his life and would ask about my husband Andrew and how my sitar practice was going. His amazing energy and light that always shined through his eyes no matter how lousy he felt was true evidence of the soul’s presence and agelessness. To me, he was the closest I ever felt to being in the presence of an enlightened being. I will always remember and cherish those quiet moments I shared with him.
His memorial was held on Thursday, Dec 20th 2012 in Encinitas and was beautiful, but bitter sweet. The legendary musician was remembered as an unfailingly generous teacher with a gentle spirit and sense of humor whose music fostered understanding between East and West. Different family members spoke as well as Isreali conductor Zubin Mehta who said he felt like a ‘little crumb’ listening to him play. Olivia Harrison also eloquently spoke saying Raviji helped a young George Harrison achieve a more meaningful life. She said, “They were like father and son as well as brothers and he completely transformed (George’s) musical sensibilities. They exchanged ideas and melodies until their hearts and minds were intertwined like a double helix.”
As a performer, composer, teacher and writer over an 80+ year career, he has done more for Indian music than any other musician. Like Mozart or Beethoven, Raviji’s music and legacy will never be forgotten. May he continue to inspire and influence many generations to come.