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Arvind Parikh is 60

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Arvind Parikh is 60

The Economic Times, October 18, 1987

A jubilee year – be it silver, gold, diamond or any other type – is rightly and understandably an event for rejoicing as much in the life of an individual as in that of an institution. And fanfare, bonhomie and camaraderie always mark the observance of such events in varying degrees.

I have been happily associated with such events concerning those who have been active in the field of music and contributed to its enrichment and propagation in various ways. Specially during the last three years, diamond jubilees have come my way almost in a row to my great delight. And many more will do so in the years to come.

But the provocation for this week’s column comes from a piece of information I received only the other day from an authentic source. It is that tomorrow (October 19) marks the 60th birthday of the sitar virtuoso, Arvind Parikh. I have known him rather closely for several years and precisely for that reason I did not find it necessary to verify the truth of my information. If the believes that his 60th birthday is like any other day, I would only say that it all speaks of his temperament and approach to his life and music.

Arvindbhai comes for Gujarat – a region whose contribution to classical music has not been as substantial as that from the regions forming its boundary, like Rajasthan or Maharashtra. What is more, despite his deep involvement in the business profession, he has managed to take time off his daily schedule to devote at least two hours to his riyaz. He even finds time to coach many a gifted youngster in sitar playing as a labour of love – as an act of vidya daan.

What also redounds to his credit is that Arvindbhai does not have a musical lineage in the conventional sense. But the environment at home was conducive to his interest in music. His grandfather, a local educational officer, was a sitar player by choice. But the strongest influence in the development of music comes from Arvindbhai’s mother, who was a gifted partner of her time and who also brought art into the Parikh family.

Arvind Parikh showed keen sensitivity for music while yet a child of 7. His first love was the dilruba, a bow instrument. Endowed with a keen ear and even keener power of observation, he would handle his instrument with uncanny precision. His curiosity for other instruments was no less keen, so much so that by the time he was 14, he could wield the violin, the flute, the mandolin and the jalatarang, with equal facility.

Arvindbhai’s systematic training in music began with his basic lessons in sitar-playing under the guidance of a local teacher. His meeting the sitar wizard, Ustad Vilayat Khan, in Bombay, in 1943, marked the beginning of an eventful career for the 16-year-old boy.

But his absorption in music did not deflect him from his scholastic studies in the least. His brilliant academic career testifies his ability to strike a difficult balance between his professional commitments on artistic pursuits even today. As the business world knows, he is at the helm of affairs of a line-up of national and international firms doing business ranging from clearing and shipping to travel and printing.

Arvindbhai has extensively toured abroad over the last two decades. He made his debut as a sitarist of great promise at the All India Music Conference in 1955 and has never looked back since. It is pretty difficult to keep a count of the concerts I have heard from him. One thing, however, stands out prominently from his performances. He simply does not embroil himself into a welter of technicalities. What then emerges is a charming blend of technical ability and practical skill. He invests his slow playing with a tranquil quality, marked by graceful curves, in preference to broad sweeps. His faster work is live, sprightly and racy, but free from any purposeless pursuit of speed which, in most other cases, only degenerates into unregulated noise.

Yet, with all this, music to Arvindbhai remains a serious pursuit, which is its own reward. An old-time broadcaster and tele-caster he also finds place in major musical events that are held in different parts of the country. And he undertakes these assignments without any obligation to their sponsors.

Come to think of it, the Parikhs must be described as a musical family. Arvindbhai’s wife, Kishori, is a busy housewife, who has undergone a long period of studentship, first with Yeshwant Rai Purohit and then with the popular singing brothers, Fiyaz Ahmed and Niyaz Ahmed Khan, all exponents of the Kirana gharana. But she gravitated to music after a spell of training in the Manipuri dance. As in the case of Arvindbhai, it was Kishori’s mother who nurtured her interest in music and encouraged her to play the dilruba. Painting was also yet another branch of art which had fascinated her in her early years.

Kishori’s interest in painting and music also happens to be shared by the gifted daughter, Poorvi. But the youngster later forsook painting for music under the spell of melody and rhythm. She has undergone strenuous talim from her mother’s Ustads and h as now already made it to the concert platform. Not to be left behind is the son, Snehal, who, while sharing his father’s onerous responsibilities in his profession, still finds time to devote to sitar playing. But he seems to have preferred to shun the limelight.

It is music, music all the way in the Parikh home. It is always a rendezvous of performing artistes, young and old. There is an air of austere dignity about the environment. Not for the Parikhs to show off their affluence or the eminence they have come to enjoy in the field of music! They are friendly and courteous, and have steered clear of musico-politics.


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