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Pohe at the remotest place in India !

Pohe at the remotest place in India !

I have travelled to many, many places. Mainly for my performances. I get to see lots of different food in front of me. And still I am not a foodie at all. I eat anything that comes in front of me - As far as it is vegetarian and absolutely not spicy.

Since last 7-8 years, every year I have lived in Himalayas for months and months. And thankfully I always have managed to find a good restaurant which will give me good food. This time it was quite different. I was travelling in North and that means all I would get for breakfast was Paratha ! The most boring thing in the universe of food!

The north has no idea what Pohe or Upama or Sabudana Kichadi is. Only a few places you might find such exotic things. In South we have 10 types of Dossas, and 5 types of Idlees, dozens of different Wadaas and Upama and what not! By the time I reached back home, I was completely fed up with the Paratha! [They have samosa and some puri bhaji, but either it's too oily or too heavy for me.]

In any case when I reached Kaza in Spiti Valley, it was the most lonely road I had travelled. For miles and miles I wouldn’t see a single car or for that matter not even a human. Barring a couple of police check posts, there was absolutely nothing on the road. Lots of road construction is going on around Nako, but I didn't see any workers anywhere. May be it was a Sunday. I had lost track of days and dates long ago! Miles and miles of road, and i was alone there! In Kaza, I decided to give a try to some hostel there. I didn't have any good opinion about hostels I had seen in Rishikesh. And had never stayed in any. This hostel was all it promised. Noisy, careless and expensive. Basically hostels are not for me. I was and won't ever be looking for a 'Like Minded' person to travel with, nor I was and ever am going to look for a hook up.

But…. Next day morning the hostel offered me a thing that really made my day!

Pohe!!!!! Breakfast at Kaza ! After about 4 months of hardship of eating Parathas every day, finally I found Pohe! Obviously the most expensive - More than inflight priced Pohe, but they were Pohe!!!

I never realised how much Pohe would mean to me. Because I have stayed away- outside India [ Korea being the worst for vegetarians] for months and months and yet have never missed Pohe. But then no one fed me with only one type of food for several months there!!

Sandstuck car and bus passengers

Sandstuck car and bus passengers

I left Rishikesh early in the morning and was on my way to BheemTaal in Uttarakhand. After Hridwar there is a long patch of highway undwer construction. Only god [ And probably ome government officials] can tell why they don’t make the road completely on one side first, and then make the other side. So now every 500 metres or so you have to change the side.

At one point I crossed the road and my judgement went completely wrong and my car got stuck in sand what was in the middle of the two tracks of the road. I tried to reverse the car, only to realise that the car is actually getting sucked more in the sand.

I got out and stood looking at the stuck car. Didn't think of anything to do, so clicked a couple of pictures of the stuck car. Suddenly a public bus [private], stopped. There were some 5-7 passengers travelling in that bus, including a couple of ladies. The conductor [ The ticket master] got down, and said to me " Aha You got stuck!"

"Yes, I didn't realise it was fine sand there"

" Don’t wory sir, We shall take it out." he assured me.

Then he ordered - not requested but ordered everyone from his bus to get down and help me. Within next 30 seconds they all except the ladies got down and assessed the situation. The conductor then told me to start the car and give a jab on the accelerator while everyone stood behind the car and start pushing.

Most unfortunately the car instead of moving ahead went in deeper. But even more unfortunately the entire group of pushers got showered with sand from fast rotating tyres. Still they tried it again. With the same result. I was quite embarassed now. Because of me they all had got sand in their face and hair. But then suddenly one guy spotted a tow truck at a distance. They all shouted and called him. He saw the situation and assured everyone.

" Ahaaa, Don’t worry, This is my job." the tow truck driver said with a big smile on his face. He was quite happy to see me stuck actually.

The bus conductor said " Chalo sir, your job will be done now, we shall leave."

I thanked him and they left.

Now the tow truck needed to go in front of my car. So he went slightly ahead and he too got stuck! His truck being much more powerful than my car, put in lots of energy to go ahead or back, it only sank further down.

He and his assitant got down and we all stood thinking about what to do. Then he spotted a tractor. The tractor came and pushed the tow truck from behind and he got clear. Then he reversed and rescued my car. " Saab, thank you very much." I expressed my feelings to him "How much should I give you?"
"Whatever you feel like." I got the reply.

I gave him the first note that my fingers touched in my pocket. He was quite happy and left with a smile on his face.

I left remembering the bus conductor and the passengers and the lost humanity as we perceive sitting in big cities.

Pondicherry - for what it is!

Pondicherry - for what it is!

Pondicherry, honestly, was quite a disappointment.

Compared with Goa. Where you find Goan things all around you, here it is entirely different. Pondicherry is basically is nothing but just another Tamil town - with a tiny little French Quarter in it. French Quarter in Pondicherry There is a small beach there and a road runs parallel to it. Then there are another 3 roads parallel to that road. The entire Frenchness of Pondicherry ends there. The entire French part of Pondicherry must be around 1 km by 300 metre. Rest all is Tamil.

All that is there, are some nice bungalows that are painted with flamboyant colours. Yellow, Purple and such Probably they have taken inspiration from Goa I wouldn't know..

It took some 40 minutes for me to find parking and then I took a stroll in these French Quarters. I found these two absolutely stunning churches. Then there was famous Arabindo Ashram. Walked around looking at several lovely and expensive looking cafes. And returned to where I was staying. Well, that's about it all to Pondicherry....

I might have missed some attractions, but somehow I was totally disappointed with the place.

The only saving grace was the place where I stayed. It was simply beautiful. it was in a jungle just outside Auroville. Many villagers from the villages on the outskirts of Auroville have now started excellent Homestays, Hotels and Hostels. All in all Pondicherry is just another Tamil town with a tiny little beautiful French segment in it. And the only French thing in it seems to be the names of the streets like Ru De Ronald and police wearing funny looking French hats.

Nevertheless, it had its own charm.

A School for Monks at Likir

A School for Monks at Likir

One of the important monasteries in Ladakh is Likir. Likir heads a few other monasteries like Alchi. Today, Likir is famous for the big Buddha statue there. Such big statues undoubtedly look impressive against the barren land, mountains and snow peaks around them. There are several now in Ladakh. The Tall Buddha Statue at Likir Monastery Likir, like most monasteries, is quite old; although the buildings have been rebuilt and extended over the years. Likir has a good collection of old manuscripts and religious texts. Some very, very old too. When I went a floor above, there was a lama painting the traditional paintings - you can say Thangka style. He informed me that such traditional painting is sacred art, and not many people are good in it. He had already scrubbed off the old paint from the walls and now was painting some beautifully coloured Buddhist paintings. Likir also has a school for small children too. This is like an elementary school. So when these children grow up, they go to Leh or their Buddhist Monastery school in Karnataka. Karnataka has the second biggest settlement of Tibetans. Going ahead these children will become Lamas. When I visited there, like almost everywhere else, I was the only visitor. I could walk up to the class and talk to the teachers there and click some pictures too. There were several children busy doing things that the teacher had assigned them to. The teacher wasn't too happy about the disturbance, but then somehow I convinced her to let me intrude for a short while. The children all were dressed up in the monks' dresses; Maroon robes with sweaters or jackets. They looked like they were liking what they were doing. In this school they teach there not just Buddhism, but western languages and mathematics and science etc too. So the Buddhist monks are not just religious advanced people, but they are very well versed with today's life. Today's technology and knowledge. I was quite fascinated with the idea. The teachers there were quite gracious to let me click some pictures, but eventually threw me out as I started taking too much time!

Alchi And the 1000 years old Paintings

Alchi And the 1000 years old Paintings

I had been quite unlucky with Alchi Monastery till now. Every time I went there, it used to be closed! This time too, it was closed due to covid, but thankfully I could go in and get bedazzled with the magnificent art there! Alchi is near Likir monastery and is on the way to Lamayuru. You just have to take a little detour from the highway. Lamayuru became popular because of the moonscapes there, But it was Alchi, that hypnotized me completely. Alchi is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. Probably the oldest. Unlike many other monasteries, this one has Not been renovated in quite some time. Perhaps a thousand years now it is as it is. At least some of the buildings for sure, are very old.

As I went there, I walked into some temples and there were some amazing paintings on the walls inside. Now, most monasteries' main temple buildings do have frescos on the walls. But the paintings in Alchi are precious as they are around 1000 years old!! And the fascinating part is that, most of these paintings are quite intact. One can't imagine what kind of colours they must have used back then !! One doesn't find many such 1000 year old paintings everywhere. With all the wars and invasions and demolising of temples and monasteries by invadors, it is a miracles that these paintings are still intact!

As I was wandering around wondering about the paintings, a pleasant monk came up to me. He seemed to be quite enthusiastic about talking. He took me everywhere and gave me some interesting information about the paintings. There are 3 main buildings there and out of that 2 buildings have quite intact paintings. Other has paintings but some of those have slightly damaged, mainly because the wall has got damaged.

For several years he was at Likir. Now he is at Alchi. Alchi is under Likir. He lives upstairs in a cozy building and has a pet cat. Sonam he has named her. He asked me to wait for a minute, went upstairs and got a plate of milk for her. I followed him inside. Actually we both followed the cattess - Sonam. She took us to her usual place and there were 4 kittens of hers. Two were sleeping and two were playing with each other. Sonam immediately started drinking the milk. I tried to click pictures of them, but the monk told me she doesn't like it!

I smiled. The Buddhist monk, who has invested his life in detachment, finally was defeated by a cattess and her four lovely kittens - In the most loving way !!!

I told him the story of my novel. The main theme of my novel is Buddhist Paintings and at some point the hero and heroine spend some time in Alchi in search of something. The monk was quite interested in the story. He heard it with great attention and at the end he told me, "I haven't heard anything like this in our history. Some parts of your story are correct, but I haven't heard the story as such." I said to him, "Obviously as it is a fiction!"

I then went around some other smaller temples. The paintings mainly depict different episodes from the life of Buddha. In one temple there are very tall - about 14-15 feet tall idols of different deities. Surrounding those also are magnificent paintings.

Now, you are not allowed to photograph inside the temples, but they sell a book of photographs with lots of excellent photographs of the paintings.

Pashmina and the Road to Pang

Pashmina and the Road to Pang

One of the most exotic word in the world of traditional fashion is Pashmina. Kashmir is famous for its Pashminas.

But is Pashmina really Kashmiri? Or is it?

Actually Pashmina comes from Ladakh. Pashmina goats are found only in altitudes higher than 3500 or 4000 Mt. [ Kashmir is about 2000 mt] Century ago when the Jammu kingdom won a war with Ladakh kingdom, they put a clause that all Pashmina wool should be compulsorily sold to them. Kashmiri artisans being exceptionally fabulous in this work, the industry grew in Kashmir. Pashmina mufflers and stoles in a shop Apparently, in recent past this clause was thrown away and now Ladakhi people can make their own Pashmina products and do whatever they want with the wool. [ Actually it is undercoat, not the wool.]

"Each Pashmina goat produces around 250 grams of wool every year. Now you know why it is expensive!" Nawang Phuntsog told me with a smile on his face "We have to feed the goats all year and take their care for these 250 grams!!".

I met Nawang at his magnificent shop - 'Nomadic Woollen Mills' at the Main market of Leh. Its on the first floor of a T Junction. He is from the nomadic tribe that rears Pashmina Goats. He told me that sometime ago, Indian government sent him to China to study the latest techniques of weaving and producing Pashmina. Once he returned, he imported some excellent and advanced machinery from New Zealand and Germany. This machinery is computer controlled. So now he has his own production of Pashminas.

He also produces a certain amount of Pashmina material by hand. This procedure, obviously is slow and usually can happen only in winters when the ladies are not busy with farming. So there is a limit to how much Pashmina cloth can be weaved by hand. Nawang employs many Self Help groups of women. This way he creates local jobs too.

Pashminas come quite expensive. A small stole will cost you around 2,500 to 4,000 Rs and the shawls start from 4,000 and can go up to several lakhs if there is intricate hand woven designs on it. All these shawls and stoles are so thin that each one can pass through a small finger ring. Asked Nawang if this was true. He smiled and said "Every pashmina can pass through a tiny ring. It is very thin and yet very warm."

I looked around the shop. He had some exquisite - simple and complex alike, designs. There were shawls, stoles, pullovers and mittens, all around me stacked elegantly in racks. I bought a dozen stoles or so, as I was sure I won't get pure Pashminas easily. He also had lot other things made from Yak wool.

There are many shops that sell pashmina in Leh. Most are owned by the Kashmiris. Many shopkeepers will tell you that their Pashmina is the Pure Pashmina. Generally pure Pashmina doesn't come in many colours. It is mainly White, Yellowish or Grey. They have to introduce different fabric for making it colourful. The moment you touch a pure Pashmina, you can feel the softness of it. Best is A to B Comparison.

Nawang's comes from the Chungthang region in Ladakh. It is quite away from Leh. This is the region, where you see Pashmina goats and goatsmen. The region near and around Tso Moriri lake is the Chungthan area. Basically it’s a totally brown area. It's quite difficult to see a green patch there. Nawang Phuntsog in front of his shop I drove up to Pang. It is a lovely drive. Initially you pass through lovely mountains and then there comes Tanglang La pass. Tanglang La, thankfully, has good roads. Except a couple of no road situations at the top, the entire road is just lovely. Tanglang La leads you to Chungthang region.

As the road passes through the Changthang, the landscape changes. Now you are trtavelling through completely flat lands for acres and acres. On both sides of the road, now you can see several goat herders and their hundreds of goats. They are in no hurry, Silently walking with them is usualy just one person. A boy alone can take care of that entire herd of hundreds of goats. Generally not in the day time, but at nights and especially in winters they have the danger of snow tiger,

These people are nomads.

Traditionally these nomads don’t have a home in a place. They live in tents. They have trucks and cars, but not homes. Goats, Mules, at times Yaks, and a few dogs is their entire wealth. [I am sure they will have places in Leh and otherwise. I was told that when demonatisation happened these nomads, who literally live in tents and such, got tons and tons of kilos of currency notes for exchange! ] Now with Ladakh becoming independent from Jammu and Kashmir, I am quite sure that in the due course Ladakhis will get good benefit and it will reflect in their production of Pashminas.

Here are some pictures -

Tyakshi and Turtuk

Tyakshi and Turtuk

"Seven and half decades ago we got our own country - India. In no time we became a part of Pakistan, and its exactly 50 years now, India invaded our villages and now we are in India. Mohmmad Asif told me. Asif is a local Balti guy. I was somewhere up in the mountains in a village called Tyakshi. Located in the Shyok Valley, Tykshi and more known village of Turtuk are geographically in Baltistan. Although the approach road for us is from Nubra valley. Kids at Tyakshi village. "Where do you like Pakistan or Hindusthan?" I asked Asif. "We are here with Hindusthan now. What choice we have anyway?" Mohmad Asif replied. I was not too sure of his alliance. Asif pointed towards a group of oldies sitting nearby chatting and drinking tea, "You know, Some of them have served in Paksitan Army." My assurance of the local's alliance became even more doubtful. Tyakshi, Turtuk and 4-5 other smaller villages were occupied by Pakistan till the 1971 war - The war that created Bangladesh. In 1971 Indian Army rescued some villages were from Pakistani occupation. " In 197. like there was a war going on in Bengal, we also had a war going on here in Ladakh. The war ended in mid-December of 1971." Stenzing told me in a general discussion about Turtuk and Tyakshi. Stenzing is from a small village in Chumathang valley. Famous Tso Moriri is quite near to his village. He now works as a tour operator in Leh. He is educated in Delhi. Many Ladakhis do the same. "Had the war gone any longer, it could have changed the entire demography of Ladakh permanently." Stenzing continued. He feels giving authentic information to visitors is an important part of being in tourism industry. "Just a few kilometers ahead of Turtuk, there is a much bigger town of Skardu." Had we won Skardu back, because of its size, complete equation would have changed in Ladakh!." [To put things In perspective, Skardu has a population around 3,00,000. the population of Kargil is around 1.6 lakhs and that of Leh it is 2.5 lakhs.] [2020 approximate Numbers] The local population of Turtuk and Tyakshi etc, is Baltistani. This is the only region in India where you can see Balti people. They look quite different than Ladakhi clan. "Few years ago Indian government opened the villages of Tkyashi and Turtuk for tourism." Asif told me. "Since then we get lots of visitors. It helps us financially too." "That must be only for a few months, Wont it? I asked him. [ Due to harsh winter] "Yes. still, it adds to our income. It helps." Asif admitted. "You can't tell anything about these people" Stanzin exclaimed. "They will take all advantaged from Indian government, but you never know whether they will support Pakistan or India in case of a war." Stanzin clearly was not a great fan of the Balti population. "When Kargil war started Indian Army arrested many Balti people from these villages as the army suspected their alliance to Pakistan" Stanzin took a mini pause, and then added "Like our Ladakhi people helped our army in Kargil war." After all we are Ladakhee. He said with a tone a pride in his voice. "Some of our families got separated due to this episode." Asif told me. "Some people got stuck Pakistan and now can't come back to their village." War is tough thing on individuals. As of today, there is proper electricity, mobile network and roads and several health centres in these villages. The army doesn't let tourists go beyond Turtuk, but the locals can travel across. Army has kept a close watch and control over all the villages now. Asif showed me around the village' took me to the other end of the village, and then showed me what part of mountains is still occupied by Pakistan. One section of the Takshi village is below at the river level. Although Ladakh is a desert, lots of farming has been happening there lately. Apricot and Apples are quite commonly grown there. Asif showed me a building that was a school when Tyakshi was occupied by Pakistan. Now Indian government has built much bigger building for the school. As of today after 50 years of the short 1971 war, here in Tyakshi and Turtuk the life goes on. But, let me tell you a specialty of this region not many people may know. And that is, that you might find the authentic Shilajit here. Not easy to find the pure, but you can. According to Aurved, Shilajit has many medicinal properties . Here are some pictures from Tyakshi and the region around.

Masked Dances

Masked Dances

In Ladakh, amongst the few monasteries that hold the Masked Dances - Cham Dances - those at Hemis Monastery are the most famous ones. Also popular ones too. These dances are performed by monks wearing exotic looking dresses and masks. Famous Masked Dance at Hemis Monastery After lunch time the preparation for the Masked Dances begin in the same main prayer hall of the monastery, where the prayers were being recited since morning. The hall becomes their green room. The dances take place in the large courtyard of the monastery. Typically there are practically thousands of people gathered to watch these famed and exotic looking dances. This time in 2021 due to Covid, there were no spectators. And thus almost no camera people, except those from the monastery itself. During the day several dance sequences are presented. All with different themes and thus different masks. I believe these keep changing slightly every year. The Masked Dance Festival started with a young monk alone walked in and performed his dance. He had a flag on his tall pointy hat. Soon few more monks entered the courtyard. They all were wearing different coloured flags on their tall pointy hats. The next performance was that of several monks dressed In exotic colourful dresses; flamboyant reds, greens, yellow and blue practically exploded on the courtyard. I was told all these dresses have great symbolic meaning. Following to this, different groups of dancers kept walking in. They were wearing bright festive dresses and masks . This went on for a while. Each new group was with a differently themed dress and dance. In some of the groups were probably warriors as they were carrying bow and arrows, swords and shields. Basically this entire festival is about the win of good over bad. The festival ended with the dance of the senior monks. They were draped in old looking yet magnificent dresses entered the courtyard. Each one of them was holding a preserved but now blackened real human hand. It looked like just the remaining bones, but it still had the shape of a palm. In the same hand they also carried a silver chalice. In the other hand they carried a beautiful Tibetan Bell. Then some younger monks dressed in the festival dresses walked in with beautiful silver carafes [ Surai]. They poured something in the monks' chalices and the monks drank some of it and threw the rest away. From the smell I assume it was local alcohol. An actual real human palm held by a monk. At the end of the Cham Dance, the kids with masks escorted the Senior Monk with mask back to the Prayer hall. Every movement in this entire festival has deep significance in Buddhist Tradition. The entire festival ended with covering the gigantic Thangka - Ladakhi Painting with another huge cloth cover. This Thankga is unfurled on the huge wall of the monastery at the beginning of the entire festival. This Thangka is said to be painted with paints created with powder of precious stones. After the festival was over, a couple of kids that had participated in the Cham dances, walked up to the tourists or devotees and caught them with a white scarf, by putting it in victim's neck. They only released the victims when they were given them some money. The standard escape route of 'Already Given' didn't really work on them. But then the kids were quite cute. All in all I was quite lucky to be there - especially with no overwhelming crowds there! PS : Every 12 years there is another important festival held at Hemis. - Naropa festival. I hope I should be able to attend that in coming few years.

Cham Festival - Hemis

Cham Festival - Hemis

One fine morning at my homestay in Leh, I found a beautiful Venezuelan girl telling me that she was planning to go to the Hemis Festival. After an hour we set off for a colourful journey that proved to be full of dances, music and excitement. [ A tip - Don’t ask a Venezuelan girl if she was Miss Universe. Probably she is, and will get annoyed, and will ask you 'Why everyone in India asks me this?' ] Musicians performing on the roof top of the monastery This year the festival was banned for everyone - tourists and locals alike - except for the monks who were going to perform. We were told this by the owner of the homestay, but we decided to take our chances. For the start, we were stopped by a group of police at the exit of Leh itself. The policeman was quite stern and clever. I tried to tell him that we won't go to Hemis but will go to Shey Palace. Then he took a picture of my number plate and told me that he is sending it on their WhatsApp group and if this car is seen near Hemis they will catch it. Thankfully we had another guy with us with his car. So we simply turned back, took his car and proceeded taking an inner route. Even on that tiny road there were at least 5 check posts and we were stopped at each one of those. I with my training of gatecrashing the concerts, [ and the knowledge and information acquired from so many heist and crime TV serials watched during lockdown ] sailed through smoothly and landed up to witness the magnificent Masked Dance Festival !! My both co-travellers were completely floored by my skills of telling cock and bull stories and excuses !! Although every monastery in Ladakh holds an annual festival, there are only 4-5 monasteries where these spectacular Masked Dances take place. Hemis being an important monastery, has the famous festival. It's one of the two, where even the government has a holiday. Masked Dance This is a two day festival. In the morning there are many prayers and chants in the Main Prayer Hall of the monastery. The monks chant their scripts, then the musicians play some music for a very short duration in between, then again the chants begin. This goes on all the morning. While all this is going on, hot Ladakhi tea is served to all . Typically it's for the younger monks to offer the tea. At some point the musicians walk up the roof and go to the top-most point of the building and perform their traditional music. No loudspeakers etc are used on the roof. Typically while this is going on thousands of spectators will gather outside in the large courtyard, waiting for the Masked Dances to begin. There is a lovely museum in the basement of the building opposite the main hall. In the same building there are galleries where important people and guests sit to watch the dances. That looks like a good vantage place, but I found out its better to be on the grounds if you want good pictures. As this year no one from outside was allowed, there were hardly any people there; may be a hundred or so. The only outsiders were some family of army chaps and some local officials. This allowed me to move freely anywhere I would want and click photographs. I was simply lucky this way. Normally it would be simply impossible to even move an inch because of the tremendous crowd. After lunch time the famous Masked Dances start in the courtyard of the monastery.

Hemis Monastery - Ladakh

Hemis Monastery - Ladakh

Hemis monastery has a special place in my life. Somehow I feel connected with that place. So much so, that one entire chapter in my forthcoming fiction novel takes place there. Hemis Monastery Not too far from Leh, Hemis is located in the Shang valley. I have visited it many a times over the last few decades. This trip I went there 5-6 times. Enroute to it you pass Shey palace, Stok palace, Stakna Monastery and the famous Thiksey monastery. Also there are a couple of lesser known monasteries, as well as Buddhist nunneries nearby too. All these places are beautiful and if you have time, you could visit there too. This time due to the fear of corona there were less tourists and it was honestly much, much more enjoyable. I have been lucky to visit many places internationally where it was just one or two other tourists besides me. Lots of information can be found about Hemis online. But to tell you some points that interested me - Hemis is the most important monastery in Ladakh. It is said and probably documented, that Jesus lived here when he visited India. And they have a fabulous museum in the basement. The monks here are quite welcoming and their annual festival is an exotic sight! Especially the Masked Dances. Here are some pictures from 2021June.

पुण्यातील काही सैनिकी प्रभाग

पुण्यातील काही सैनिकी प्रभाग

एअरफोर्स बेस - पुण्यामध्ये सैनिकी प्रभाग म्हणजे मिलिटरी एरिया प्रचंड मोठा आहे. पुण्याच्या चारही दिशांनी आहे. आयुष्य पेठेत गेल्यामुळे याच्याशी कधीच संपर्क आला नव्हता. इतकच काय तर असा काही भाग आहे हे सुद्धा माहित नव्हतं. पुण्याच्या लोहगाव विमानतळावरून आजतागायत शेकडो वेळेला मी फ्लाइट्स पकडून जगभर वेगवेगळ्या ठिकाणी कार्यक्रमासाठी गेलो आहे. दोन-तीन वर्षापूर्वी मला तिथल्या एअरफोर्सच्या मुख्य कमांडंट कडून कार्यक्रमासाठी बोलावणं आलं. नंतर त्यांनी आम्हाला सांगितलं, की तुम्ही सकाळी लवकर या आम्ही तुम्हाला एयरफोर्स बेस दाखवतो. मग आम्ही अर्थातच गेलो. एअरफोर्स बेस हा विमानतळा पेक्षा खूपच मोठा आहे. आपल्याला जो दिसतो, तो विमानतळ हा त्याचा एक छोटासा भाग आहे. सकाळी त्यांनी आम्हाला आधी खास एअरफॉर्स स्टाइल् चा ब्रेकफास्ट दिला, आणि आम्हाला त्यांच्या गाड्यांमधून बेस मध्ये घेऊन गेले. आधी आमचं रजिस्ट्रेशन केलं आणि आमचे फोन ताब्यात घेतले, कारण आत मध्ये कोणालाही फोन न्यायला परवानगी नाही. तिथले अधिकारी आतमध्ये अश्मयुगातला नोकिया 3310 इत्यादी वापरतात कारण त्याला कॅमेरा नसतो. ( खरं कारण म्हणजे कदाचित वरून विमानातून पडला तरी तो फुटत नाही हे असावं !!) पुण्यातला एयरफोर्स बेस हा अत्यंत महत्त्वाचा आहे. भारतात अनेक ठिकाणी एअर फोर्स चे असे बेस आहेत आणि त्यांचं आपापसात कम्यूनिकेशन कायमच असतं. आपली रडार सुद्धा सर्वोच्च श्रेणीची आहेत. त्यामुळे पाकिस्तान मधून विमानं निघाली, तर त्याच्या पुढच्या काही सेकंदात ते भारताच्या सर्व एअरफोर्स आणि इतर सैनिकी जागांना समजलेलं असतं. त्या विमानांना हवेतच अडवण्यासाठी, पुणे आणि इतर अनेक ठिकाणच्या विमानतळावरून सैन्याची विमानं आकाशात झेप घेतात. काही महिन्यांपूर्वीच आपण त्याचं प्रात्यक्षिक बघितलं. भारताकडे जगातील काही अत्याधुनिक विमानं आहेत. सुखोई हे रशियन बनावटीचे अत्याधुनिक विमान भारतात तयार पण होते. सुखोई हे आवाजाच्या वेगापेक्षा दुप्पट वेगाने म्हणजे सुमारे ताशी अडीच हजार किलोमीटर वेगाने जाऊ शकते. म्हणजे पुण्याहून विमान उडाल्यानंतर सुमारे अर्ध्या तासात ते पाकिस्तान हद्दी पर्यंत पोचू शकते. अर्थात, अर्धा तास खूप जास्त वाटतो पण भारतीय एअर फोर्स चे विमानतळ हे सीमेलगत पण आहेत त्यामुळे ते साधारण दोन मिनिटात तिथे पोहोचू शकतात. आधी ते आम्हाला एअर ट्राफिक कंट्रोल दाखवायला घेऊन गेले. सिनेमात दाखवतात त्याप्रमाणे एका उंच टावर मध्ये सगळ्यात वरती काही अधिकारी बसलेले असतात, आणि कुठल्या विमानाने लँड व्हायचं किंवा कुठल्या विमानाने टेक ऑफ करायचा या सर्व सूचनांचा अधिकार त्यांच्याकडे असतो. पुण्याच्या अवतीभवती दहा का बारा विमानतळ आहेत. त्या सर्वांचा अधिकार या लोकांकडे असतो. त्यांना त्यांच्या रेंज मधली सर्व विमानं कुठे आहेत, त्यांची गती किती आहे, ती किती उंचीवर आहेत, आणि ती कुठे चालली आहे याची इत्थंभूत माहिती असते. ह्यानंतर ते आम्हाला युद्धाची विमानं दाखवायला घेऊन गेले. युद्धाची विमानं ही तशी छोटी असतात. प्रथम काही छोटी विमाने दाखवून मग आम्हाला खास असं सुखोई विमान दाखवायला घेऊन गेले. सुखोई मात्र खूपच मोठं विमान आहे. त्या विमानामधून अत्याधुनिक क्षेपणास्त्र सोडायची पण क्षमता आहे. ही विमानं रोज दैनंदिन सरावासाठी भारतभर हिंडत असतात. अर्थातच प्रत्येक विमानतळावरची विमानांची रोजची संख्या वेगळी असते. त्यामुळे भारतात नक्की किती सुखोई विमानं आहेत हे सर्वोच्च अधिकारी सोडले तर कुणालाही माहीत नाही असं म्हणतात. ही विमाने चालवण्यासाठी विशेष ट्रेनिंग लागतं. आधी हे ट्रेनिंग कॉम्प्युटरवर देतात. आम्हा सगळ्यांना त्यांनी त्या ट्रेनिंग च्या जागेवर नेले आणि ते विमान simulation मध्ये उडवून दाखवले. नंतर आम्हाला विचारलं की तुमच्यापैकी कोणाला सिमुलेशन करायच आहे का? सुभाष देशपांडे आमच्याबरोबर कीबोर्ड वाजवतो, तो म्हणाला मला करायचंय. त्याला खुर्चीत बसवून त्यांनी बेसिक माहिती त्याला दिली आणि उडव म्हणून सांगितलं. त्याने तर चक्क पैकी छान उडवलं तर खरं, पण खाली येताना लँडिंग च्या वेळेला तो विमनासाकट पडला. पण पुढच्या प्रयत्नात त्याने ते बरोबर लँड करून दाखवलं !! एअरफोर्सच्या माणसांना याच्याविषयी खूपच आश्चर्य आणि अप्रूप वाटलं, आणि संध्याकाळी कार्यक्रमामध्ये मी जेव्हा जमलेल्या अधिकाऱ्यांना सांगितलं, की सुभाषने सुखोईचं लँडिंग केलं, तर लोकांनी उभे राहून टाळ्या वाजून त्याचं अभिनंदन केलं. नंतर त्यांनी आम्हाला सांगितलं की सुखोई लँडिंग करणं हे प्रचंड अवघड काम आहे आणि त्यासाठी खूप शिकावं लागतं. आम्ही सुखोई समोर खरं म्हणजे आम्हाला त्यांनी बरेच काही दाखवलं, परंतु मी ते इथे लिहू शकत नाही, कारण त्यांनी आम्हाला मुद्दामहून सांगितलं की कुठल्याही सोशल मीडियावर फोटो टाकायचे नाहीत. परंतु दरवर्षी एअरफॉर्स स्टेशनचा एक समारंभ असतो; त्या समारंभात कोणालाही प्रवेश असतो. तिथे आपण जाऊन बघू शकाल. AFMC - AFMC आणि NDA शी आमचं नातं मात्र इतकं गंभीर, म्हणजे सीरियस नव्हतं. शेवटी ती दोन्ही कॉलेजे आहेत ना!! पुण्याच्या दक्षिण-पूर्व दिशेला एएफएमसी आहे. हे त्यांचं वैद्यकीय महाविद्यालय म्हणजे मेडिकल कॉलेज. एएफएमसी चा आणि आमचा संपर्क तसा पूर्वीचाच. कॉलेजमध्ये असल्यापासूनच आमचा एएफएमसी आणि एनडीए इथल्या कॅडेटची ओळख आणि संपर्क थोडाफार होता. काही शनिवारी इथली मुलं आमच्या कॉलेजला यायची, परंतु त्यांच्याबरोबर डॉक्टर होऊ घातलेल्या मुली पण असायच्या. त्या सर्व मुली अतिशय हुशार होत्या, त्यामुळे त्यांना एनडीए अथवा एएफएमसी मधल्या मुलांमध्ये काहीही रस नसून, सर्व उत्तम, उत्कृष्ट, अद्वितीय मुलं ही फर्ग्युसन कॉलेजमध्येच आहेत, हे पटलेलं होतं. आता दुर्दैवाने त्यातल्या कुठल्याच मुलीनी आमच्याकडे फारसं बघितलं नाही, कारण आम्हाला मुलींकडे लक्ष देण्यापेक्षा टवाळक्या करण्यात जास्त रस होता हा भाग वेगळा. पण तेवढ्यात आमच्या एका मित्राने त्यातल्या एका मुलीला पटवण्याचा जोरदार प्रयत्न केल्यामुळे, त्याच्याबरोबर अनेक वेळेला सायकलवर एएफएमसी पर्यंत उगाचच चकरा नंतरच्या काळात झाल्या. परंतु अर्थातच त्याचा त्याला आणि मला कोणालाच, काहीच उपयोग झाला नाही. 20, 25 किलोमीटर सायकल चालवायचा फालतू व्यायाम मात्र व्हायचा. NDA - सगळ्यात पहिल्यांदा मिलिटरीची तोंड ओळख झाली ती फर्गसन कॉलेजमध्ये. कॉलेजला आमच्या आसपास खूपशा अत्यंत सौंदर्यवान ललना, म्हणजे मुली, म्हणजे पोरी असायच्या. त्यांच्यावरती इम्प्रेशन मारायचा आणि त्यांना पटवायचा आम्ही जमेल तेवढा प्रयत्न करायचो. परंतु लवकरच आम्हाला असं लक्षात आलं की, निळा गणवेश घातलेली आणि न्हाव्याशी भांडण झालेले असावे, अशी दिसणारी बरीचशी मुलं मधेच केव्हा तरी एखाद्या शनिवारी-रविवारी आसपास दिसायला लागतात आणि या दुष्ट स्त्रियांपैकी बऱ्याच तरूणी ह्या त्यांच्याबरोबर हिंडताना दिसतात. तेव्हा कळलं की हे नमुने NDA मधले आहेत. अर्थातच एनडीए विषयी मनःपूर्वक तिरस्कार निर्माण होण्यासाठी एवढं कारण पुरेसं होतं. त्यांची एक बस असायची आणि ते सगळे संध्याकाळी पाच का सहा पर्यंत इकडेतिकडे भटकायचे आणि बसमध्ये बसून निघून जायचे. दिसायला एकदम खप्पड असायचे; आमच्या तुलनेत तर एकदमच फडतूस असायचे. त्यांची हेअर स्टाईल गवत कापायच्या यंत्राने केलेली असावी अशीच असायची, आणि इतकंच काय वैशालीतलं सगळ्यात चांगलं टेबल कुठलं आहे, हे पण त्या येड्याना माहिती नसायचं. आम्ही इतके जबरदस्त फॅशनेबल कपडे घालून सायकल वरून इकडे तिकडे फिरायचो आणि हे त्यांचा रटाळ गणवेश घालून चालत चालत जायचे. एकुणातच काय, फारच बावळट बंडू असायचे. पण ह्या मुली आमच्या.... त्यांच्याबरोबर भटकायच्या. आमच्याकडे बघायच्या पण नाहीत. आता आमच्या आसपास राहून थोडी तरी अक्कल यायला पाहिजे ना!! पण नाही असो. पुढे अनेक वर्षांनंतर एक दिवस मला एक फोन आला 'क्या मेरी बात मिलिंद दातेजी से हो रही है क्या?" असं अस्खलित हिंदीत मला कुणीतरी विचारलं आणि मी जमेल तशा हिंदीत उत्तर दिलं. तो फोन एनडीए मधून आला होता, आणि ते मला कार्यक्रमासाठी बोलवत होते. मधल्या काळात माझं लग्न झालं होतं आणि कर्मधर्मसंयोगाने माझे सासरेबुवा हे ब्रिगेडिअर होते. म्हणून मी एनडीएतल्या लोकांना सांगितलं की माझे सासरे ब्रिग. आर. एल. राव हे एनडीए चे पास आऊट आहेत. मला असं वाटतं की त्यांना त्यांचं कॉलेज, म्हणजे एनडीए बघायला आवडेल. त्यांना पण घेऊन आलो तर चालेल का? ती मंडळी खूश झाली. आणि कार्यक्रमाच्या दिवशी माझ्या सासरेबुवा आणि सासुबाईं साठी त्यांनी खास गाडी पाठवली. माझ्या सासरेबुवांसाठी त्यांनी खास 'हाय टी', म्हणजे विशेष चहापानाची सोय केली होती. तिथले दोन तीन उच्च अधिकारी आणि त्यांच्या पत्नी त्यांना भेटायला आले होते. माझ्या सासूबाई त्या स्त्रीयांबरोबर गप्पा मारू लागल्या आणि ते अधिकारी आणि माझे सासरेबुवा ह्यांची बराच वेळ, 'सैन्य आणि त्यात झालेले बदल' इत्यादी विषयांवर चर्चा चालू होती. नंतर त्यांना बरच एनडीए त्यांनी फिरून दाखवल. 'गाड्याबरोबर नळ्याची यात्रा' असं म्हणून मलाही त्यांच्याबरोबर एनडीए आतून बघायला मिळालं. निवृत्त सैन्याधिकारीं विषयी त्यांना किती आदर असतो याची थोडीशी चुणूक मला बघायला मिळाली. एनडीए तसं खूप मोठं आहे. म्हणजे सुमारे 7000 एकर. ( आत 32 फुटबॉल ग्राउंड आहेत म्हणे !! ) तिथे त्यांचा स्वतःचा.एक विमानतळ पण आहे. विद्यार्थ्यांची हॉस्टेल्स, अधिकाऱ्यांचे निवास, ह्याव्यतिरिक्त कॉलेजमध्ये असतात तशा अनेक प्रयोग शाळा आणि वर्ग पण आहेत. एनडीएची मुख्य इमारत सुदान ब्लॉक ही एक विशेष इमारत आहे. मुख्य इमारतीचा आकार हा आर्मीच्या तोफेसारखा आहे तर बाजूची नेव्हीची बिल्डिंग ही बोटीच्या अँकर (लंगर) सारखी आहे, आणि एअर फोर्स ची त्याच्या बाजूस बाजूची बिल्डिंग ही विमाना सारखी आहे. अनेक ठिकाणी रणगाडे, तोफा वगैरे युद्धात जुन्या झालेल्या गोष्टी ठेवलेल्या आहेत. आम्ही जात असताना माझे सासरे बुवा त्या सर्व आयुधांविषयी आम्हाला माहिती देत होते. माझ्या सासरेबुवांचे याविषयीचे ज्ञान बघून जो कॅडेट आमच्या बरोबर होता तो खूपच इम्प्रेस झाल्यासारखा वाटला. माझे सासू सासरे त्या दिवशी खूपच खूष होते. एनडीएच्या कॅम्पस वरती प्रचंड झाडी आहे आणि त्यामुळे हरणं, मोर, ससे, आणि इतर अनेक प्राणी तिथे राहतात. आम्ही इकडून तिकडे जात असताना एकदा तर आमच्या समोरून दोन मोर उडत उडत गेले. जो अधिकारी आम्हाला दाखवत होता त्याने सांगितले की इथे खरं तर खूप हरणं आणि मोर आहेत. परंतु आता मोकाट कुत्री मारायला परवानगी नसल्यामुळे, इथली अनेक कुत्री टोळी करून हरीण आणि इतर प्राण्यांना मारतात. आम्ही काहीच करू शकत नाही. एनडीएमध्ये मी खूप कार्यक्रम वाजवले आहेत. तिथल्या विद्यार्थ्यांची, म्हणजे कॅडेट्स ची टाळ्या वाजवण्याची एक विशेष पद्धत आहे. एक-दोन-तीन, एक-दोन-तीन, एक---दोन---तीन-- अशा मीटरमध्येच ते टाळ्या वाजवतात. एक रचना संपली की प्रचंड जोरात पण अत्यंत शिस्तबद्ध अशा टाळ्या ऐकू येतात. पहिल्या वेळेला तर मी दचकूनच गेलो. मग हसू यायला लागलं. पण हसायची सोय नाही!! समोर सगळ्यांकडे बंदुकांच लायसन्स. !!! मग हळूहळू सवय झाली. तरीपण एका कार्यक्रमात तर मी इतका फ्रस्ट्रेट झालो की, शेवटी मी स्टेजवरून त्यांचे सगळ्यात प्रमुख कमांडंट असतात त्यांना विनंती केली की, यांना कमीत कमी एकदा तरी नॉर्मल टाळ्या वाजवायला परवानगी द्या !! जशी त्या कमांडंटने परवानगी दिली, तशी माझ्या पुढच्या रचना नंतर इतक्या कडाडून टाळ्या वाजल्या की आजसुद्धा त्या सुद्धा माझ्या कानात आहेत. आजतागायत मी खूप खूप कार्यक्रम सैन्यासाठी वाजवले आहेत. त्यात मी माझी स्वतःची बिदागी कधीच घेत नाही. जेंव्हा जेंव्हा माझा सैन्याशी संपर्क आलेला आहे, तेव्हा तेव्हा माझ्या मनात फक्त 'सर्वोच्च आदर' ही एकच भावना येते. आमच्या NDA च्या कार्यक्रमानंतर सांगण्यासारख खूप काही आहे पण लेख आधीच खूप लांबला आहे. म्हणून एका खास कार्यक्रमाविषयी ची गोष्ट सांगून लेख संपवतो. एकदा आमचा कार्यक्रम चार वाजता होता आणि थिएटरमध्ये बरेचसे कॅडेट्स गणवेशात बसलेले होते. कार्यक्रम सुरू झाल्यानंतर दहा पंधरा मिनिटांमध्ये माझ्या लक्षात असं आलं की त्यातले बरेचसे कॅडेट्स हे झोपून जायच्या मार्गावर आहेत. मग मी माझ्या तबला वाजवणाऱ्या मित्राकडे बघितलं, आणि त्याला खूण करून आम्ही स्टेजवरून खूप जोर जोरात आवाज केले. जे कोण थोडेफार झोपायला लागले होते त्या प्रण्यांची झोपमोड झाली, आणि ते पुन्हा आमच्या कडे लक्ष देऊ लागले. परत थोड्यावेळाने असंच झालं. मग संपूर्ण कार्यक्रम भर आणि हेच करत होतो !! कुणीतरी झोपताना दिसलं की जोरात काहीतरी वाजवायचो, की त्यांची झोपमोड व्हायची आणि पुढील दहा-पंधरा मिनिटात ते आमच्याकडे लक्ष द्यायचे.
कार्यक्रम झाल्यानंतर जेव्हा त्यांचे अधिकारी मला भेटायला आले तेव्हा मला अतिशय नर्व्हस वाटत होतं. सामान्यता माझ्या कार्यक्रमात लोकं झोपत नाहीत. मी झोपेन एक वेळ, पण प्रेक्षक कधी झोपल्याचे मी बघितलं नाही. (आजतागायत मी तीन कार्यक्रम निम्म्या झोपेत वाजवले आहेत. आणि ते कार्यक्रम अतिशय उत्कृष्ट झाले असे पण नंतर लोकांकडून ऐकले आहे) पण आजची गोष्ट जरा विशेष होती. परंतु आश्चर्याची गोष्ट अशी, की अधिकारी अत्यंत खूश होते!! ते मला म्हणाले की इतका सुंदर कार्यक्रम आम्ही कधीच ऐकला नाही. या सर्व कॅडेट्स जागं ठेवणारा कलाकार आणि कार्यक्रम आम्ही पहिल्यांदाच बघितला !! नंतर त्यांनी मला हळूच सांगितलं की हे कॅडेट सगळे सकाळी साडे पाच वाजल्यापासून, 40 किलो वजन घेऊन, कुठलातरी एक्सरसाइज करून दिवसभर पर्वत चढून आले होते. त्यामुळे त्यांना जागं ठेवणं, हे एक अशक्य काम तुम्ही करून दाखवलेलं आहे!!! - मिलिंद दाते

पुण्यातील सांगीतिक वारसा आणि समृद्धी

पुण्यातील सांगीतिक वारसा आणि समृद्धी

माझं लहानपण नारायण पेठेत गेलं. भटांच्या बोळाच्या शेवटी आमचा वाडा होता. ( जागा अजूनही आहेच, वाडा जाऊन बिल्डिंगा आल्या.) वाड्याच्या दुसऱ्या टोकाला हमाल वाडा होता . तिथे आता पार्किंग झालंय.
आमचा पुण्यातला खूप मोठा मांडवाचा व्यवसाय माझ्या आजोबांनी 1925 साली सुरू केला. आता माझे चुलत भाऊ वगैरे बघतात. दाते मांडववाले ते आम्हीच. लहानपणी मला तसं संगीताचं काही प्रेम नव्हतं. प्रेम असलं तर ते कधी कुणाला कळलं नाही. सुरुवातीला संघाच्या घोषात आणि नंतर Fergusson ला गेल्यावर खऱ्या अर्थाने संगीतात ओढला गेलो. तेव्हा लक्षात नाही आलं, पण आता लक्षात येतं, की पुण्यातल्या त्या जागेवर जन्म घेतल्यामुळे माझ्यावर संगीताचे संस्कार लहानपणापासूनच नकळतच होत होते. आमचा वाडा ज्या रस्त्यावर आहे त्या पत्र्या मारुती ते लोखंडे तालीम या रस्त्यावरून, कमीत कमी आठ ते दहा आंतरराष्ट्रीय कीर्तीचे संगीतकार बाहेर पडले आहेत!!! आमच्या वाड्याच्या डावीकडे गोडसे व्हायोलिन विद्यालय आणि उजवीकडे पंडित चंद्रकांत कामत राहायचे. गल्लीत थोडे पुढे गेलो की पंडित V G जोग यांची बहीण राहायची, आणि तिला भेटण्यासाठी जोग काका नेहमी यायचे. त्याच रस्त्यावर खाली मोदी गणपतीच्या इथे रवींद्र साठे राहायचे, पण मी बासरी शिकायला लागलो तेंव्हा ते मुंबईला गेले होते. तिकडे क्वचित कधीतरी भेट व्हायची. चार गल्ल्या खाली आणि वर, शनिवारात आणि सदाशिवात, आणखीन पन्नास आंतरराष्ट्रीय कीर्तीचे संगीतकार राहायचे. किती कलाकारांची नाव घेऊ!! 1 ते 2 किलोमीटर परिघात गांधर्व महाविद्यालय, भारत गायन समाज, गोपाळ गायन समाज, अशा जुन्या आणि उत्कृष्ट संस्था आणि त्यांची उत्कृष्ट पुस्तकालये. बेबीताई म्हणजे पंडिता रोहिणी भाटे, पंडिता प्रभा मराठे, पंडिता सुचेता भिडे चापेकर, पंडिता शमाताई भाटे, अशा दिग्गज कलाकारांचे नृत्याचे वर्ग सुद्धा चालत जायचा अंतरात. थोडं आणखीन दूर, म्हणजे नदी पलीकडे सुधीर मोघे, पु ल देशपांडे, आणि नदीच्या अलीकडे बाळासाहेब म्हणजे पंडित हृदयनाथ मंगेशकर, अण्णा म्हणजे भीमसेनजी राहायचे. (इतरही अनेक महान कलाकार राहायचे / राहतात, पण त्या सगळ्यांशी माझा इतका उल्लेखनीय असा संपर्क आला नाही)
टिळक स्मारक मंदिर, भरत नाट्य मंदिर, बालगंधर्व रंगमंदिर, ही तिन्ही मंदिरं चालत जायचा अंतरात. लक्ष्मी क्रीडा मंदिर, नूमवि, स्नेहसदन, कन्या शाळा हाकेच्या अंतरावर. रेणुका स्वरूप, रमणबाग, आणि दगडूशेठ हेसुद्धा जवळच. या सर्व ठिकाणी शास्त्रीय संगीताचे आणि इतर असे खूप सारे कार्यक्रम चालायचे. तिकीट काढल्याचं कधी आठवत नाही. संगीताचा विद्यार्थी म्हणून कार्यक्रमाचे आयोजक तिकीट विचारण्या कडे दुर्लक्ष करायचे बहुतेक. सुमारे 5000 कार्यक्रमांमध्ये फुकट गेलो असेन. भिंतीवरून उड्या मारून वगैरे सुद्धा घुसलो आहे. ( ह्या कलेचा आयुष्यात पुढे खूप ठिकाणी, खूप उपयोग झाला ) कार्यक्रम ऐकणे हा संगीत शिक्षणातला प्रचंड महत्त्वाचा भाग आहे. ज्या लोकांनी माझ्याकडे, आणि माझ्यासारख्या इतर घुसखोर विद्यार्थ्यांकडे दुर्लक्ष केलं त्यांना शतशः धन्यवाद कुठल्यातरी कार्यक्रमानंतर त्या कार्यक्रमात काय गायलं गेलं किंवा वाजवल गेलं हे नीटसं कळलं नाही, तर त्या कलाकाराकडे किंवा त्यांच्यासोबतच्या कलाकाराकडे कधीही केव्हाही, आधी न सांगता जायचो. कधीच कोणी पिटाळून दिल नाही. उलट चहा पाजून सर्व शंकांचं निरसन करायचे. कधी पंडित आप्पा जळगावकर असतील तर कधी पंडित रमाकांत परांजपे असतील तर कधी आमच्या पेक्षा थोडेसे मोठे पंडित रामदास पळसुले असतील, तर कधी सारंगी वादक पंडित मधुकर खाडिलकर असतील, सर्व कलाकारांनी भरभरून वरदहस्त दिला. नंतर उस्ताद सईदउद्दिन डागर आणि शाहीद भाई (उस्ताद शाहीद परवेझ) ह्यांच्याकडे पण अनंत वेळा गेलो, पण दोघेही तसे दूर राहायचे. हे सगळं सायकल ताणत व्हायचं. त्या वेळी चेतक, प्रिया इत्यादी गाड्या होत्या. 1989 पासून मी पंडित हरिप्रसाद चौरसिया ह्यांच्या कडे शिकत आहे. ते मुंबईला राहतात त्यामुळे रोज जाणं शक्यच नव्हतं. परंतु अशा वातावरणात असल्यामुळे आणि अशा अत्यंत महान आणि दिग्गज कलाकार यांनी कायमच स्वागत करून आशीर्वाद दिल्यामुळे माझं संगीताचं ज्ञान वाढत गेलं. 1990 नंतर बऱ्याच महान कलाकारांबरोबर काम करायची संधी मला मिळाली. त्याबरोबर पंडित शिवकुमार शर्मा, उस्ताद झाकीर हुसेन, पंडित जसराजजी, पंडित हृदयनाथ मंगेशकर, सुधीर मोघे, जगजीत सिंह, अशा कलाकारांकडे मुंबईत आणि पुण्यात जाणं-येणं खूपच वाढलं. अशा देवतुल्य कलाकारांचे आशीर्वाद मिळाले. कोणाकडेही कधीही फोन करून गेलो नाही. कुणीही, कधीही, एकदाही, चुकून सुद्धा, मला आत्ता वेळ नाही, नंतर ये म्हणून सांगितलं नाही. सुधीरजींकडे तर मी आठवड्यातून चार वेळा जायचो. त्यावेळी कविताही केल्या होत्या. आंतर कॉलेज कविता स्पर्धा पण जिंकलेल्या आहेत. सुधीरजींनीच मला माझे पहिले गुरू पंडित अजित सोमण यांच्या कडे पाठवलं. अजितंकाकांनी माझी संगीताची बैठक उत्कृष्ठ तयार करून घेतली. त्यावेळचं पुणं, त्यावेळचा काळ, फारच वेगळा होता. आज फोन केल्याशिवाय कोणीच कोणाकडे जात नाही. मी संगीत शिकण्यासाठी कुणालाच कधी पैसे दिले नाहीत. त्यामुळे मी सुद्धा भारतीय विद्यार्थ्यांकडून पैसे घेत नाही. परदेशी विद्यार्थी एखाद-दोनच असतील, ते पण कधीच पैसे देतात- नाही देत, मी कधी बघत नाही. सांगण्या सारखं खूप आहे, पण एक विशेष किस्सा सांगून हे लेखन संपवतो. मी पुलं कडे खूप जायचो. रूपाली 777 शिवाजीनगर वर. त्यांच्याकडे जायला लागल्यानंतर बऱ्याच काळाने कधीतरी माझा अतिशय जिवलग मित्र शैलेश दोरे, (शैलेश हा बा भ बोरकर यांचा नातू आहे), त्याने पुलंना सांगितलं, की मी दाते मांडववाले यांच्या घराण्यातला आहे. एकही क्षण मधे जाऊ न देता पु ल म्हणाले "अरे वा बांबूचा उपयोग चांगला केलास की"!!! आज गेली तीन दशकं 3500 पेक्षा जास्त कार्यक्रम जगभर वाजवल्यानंतर, जसं पंडित हरिप्रसाद चौरसियांकडे शिकल्यामुळे मला सर्वोत्कृष्ट ज्ञान प्राप्तीची संधी मिळाली, तसंच ह्या पुण्याच्या जुन्या वातावरणात राहिल्यामुळे आणि वाढल्यामुळे आणि अशा अनेक दिग्गज कलाकारांनी कडे जाऊन ज्ञानप्राप्ती करता आल्यामुळे माझ्यावर उत्कृष्ट सांगीतिक संस्कार घडले. मी ऋणी आहे PS: खूप कलाकारांचा उल्लेख नाही केला. कुणाकुणाचा करू इतके आहेत!! ज्यांच्याशी माझा संपर्क आला त्यातील काहीजणांचा फक्त करू शकलो. नाहीतर लेख फारच लांबला असता.