Photo by Nira Veer Singh

A luncheon meeting with a doctor friend at the Italian Cultural Center turned out be an interesting date. Well, first it was a pleasant surprise to meet up with Nira –in all white– who wed Veer a couple years back – she looked beautiful and her earring, sported solo on port-side, was fabulous.
Then, Nira came up to me as I was half-done with my plate, ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach (was too cheesy for my liking), and wondered how Vikram Seth’s brother was named. I got up, which seemed to have initially embarrassed Nira, and walked up to Vikram Seth and (after brief intro) asked him his brother’s name.
Once Vikram was done with the drinks he had ordered, he walked up – he was shorter than I would ever have imagined but walked broad with aplomb – and joined me at my table – as our musical discussion began.
It began with us sharing notes regarding various genres (including how Sufi sangeet was in medieval times) and poetic structures and similes, the advent from chantt to the refrain bearing pade singing. Our discussion then meandered towards various kinds of chantt anchoring especially on the kundaliya chantt, one of which I sang as an illustration. To my surprise, he began to sing along – quite well for a novelist as I originally thought he merely was – amazed at the introduction of a uniquely placed note after another for I sang a chantt in raga tukhari. At one time he did a marwa scale very ably and identified ragas sri, marwa, todi and multani – interestingly, these (his favorites) were all komal rikhab (flat second) clad. The way he spoke of raga todi prompted me to sing a 15th-century masterpiece of Bhagat Namdev. He said – “teach me along” – and what a joy it was to have him sing along.
Some encounter with a novelist..!