Musical notes, letters, rare photos of Pt Ravi Shankar found in a scrapyard in Mahim


Through
Khalid Mohamed


Author SMM Ausaja was looking for vintage movie posters when he came across a suitcase full of memorabilia; the content suggests that they belonged to Ravi Shankar and the son of his musician wife Annapurna, Shubho, who died in 1992.

Musical notations composed by Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, as well as letters written by him, photographs, newspaper clippings from the 1960s, signed brochures, etc. were collected from an old, battered leather suitcase that was dumped at a junkyard near Mahim Station. The suitcase made available to Mumbai Mirror, in addition to bringing back a treasure trove of memories, contains voluminous files of notes and notations by Bharat Ratna Ravi Shankar for some of his famous operas and ragas which have been performed in shows around the world. The authenticity of the material can be verified from Ravi Shankar’s signature on most of the documents recovered.

A draft letter of complaint from the musician to UK concert tour organizers reveals that early in his career he would neither be paid nor “a pat on the back” for his sold-out shows. . Additionally, ratings for the film scores have been discovered, albeit in a mottled condition which, like the rest of the finds, needs to be digitally restored at the earliest.

There are photographs showing Ravi Shankar as an aspiring musician in his late teens, and snapshots of his first wife, the revered classical singer. Annapurna Devi (born Roshanara Khan), daughter of Ustad Allauddin Khan, which laid the foundations of modernity Maihar Gharana.

Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi (top left) separated in 1962 after 11 years of marriage. She died last year at the age of 91. (Top right) a rare photo of Allauddin Khan, Annapurna’s father. Above: A note from Ravi Shankar

Added to this are albums of sketches by their son, musician and graphic designer Shubhendra ‘Shubho’ Shankar, which were all recovered just in time before being shredded, thrown in the trash or sold by weight in kilos to waste paper recyclers.

The suitcase was located by chance by SMM Ausaja, author of the book Bollywood in Posters. While searching for vintage movie posters, booklets and photos, the film specialist picked the suitcase at random and was surprised by its contents, immediately retrieving it. When asked what he intended to do with it, he said, “I’m a collector. I intend to keep it for posterity.

According to all indications, the suitcase belonged to the son of Maestro ‘Shubho’, who died in California at the age of 50 in 1992 of pneumonia. By the end of the years he had retired from the music scene and made a living for his wife and two children working in a liquor store and drawing illustrations for phone books.

Ravi Shankar lived to the age of 92, succumbing to respiratory failure in California in 2012. Shubho’s mother, recluse Annapurna Devi who resided in a skyscraper in Breach Candy, died last year at the age of 91.

That the suitcase belonged to Shubho seems obvious, since it contains his albums of drawings, including a striking pencil portrait of his father. In addition, a greeting card designed as a gift to his father and signed by Ravi Shankar, could have been kept by the son as a souvenir. In a letter to Annapura Devi, he complains that he was neglected on his birthday by his father.

Ravi Shankar's sketches made by his son Shubho.  Also, a letter from Shubho to his mother.

Ravi Shankar’s sketches made by his son Shubho. Also, a letter from Shubho to his mother.

Quite emotionally, the maestro’s business card with his address in the Pavlova building on Little Gibbs Road in Mumbai, and the apartment’s plastic doorplate have been preserved.

Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi separated in 1962 after 11 years of marriage. Both had remarried. The maestro has grown into an artist of mythical proportions of international renown, collaborating with greats such as Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison of The Beatles. However, it is believed that Annapurna Devi chose never to perform again, as she felt despised when Ravi Shankar couldn’t quite accept a section of classical music lovers that she was a top performer.

Oddly enough, a short poem written on the letterhead of a Viennese hotel and signed by master filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak was also in the suitcase. Written in Bengali, the opening lines of the poem, translated into English, read: “Where and when were my old days lost / How they were lost, my heart does not know …”

A close-up portrait of Ustad Allauddin Khan – whom Ravi Shankar recognized as his guru – molds in the middle of the material, demanding professional restoration.

The California-based Ravi Shankar Foundation has sought to carry on the legacy of the superstar sitarist’s music in India and abroad. Meanwhile, the recovered suitcase is a pointer to a touching story – of how a son clung to a bag full of his father’s memorabilia – a bag that ultimately landed at a junkyard.

One of the letters, and a photo of young Ravi Shankar, recovered from the shop

One of the letters, and a photo of young Ravi Shankar, recovered from the shop


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