This is an unauthorized excerpt from a book on the music genius, I was asked to translate a sample chapter and then told that the book was already published... in any event, here it is-- in case this is of use to someone somewhere...
Here, take this tanpura
Ma Annapurnadevi was born in Maihar on *Chaitra Sud Poonam*, Hanuman Jayanti (by the Indian almanac), or April 23, 1929. Ma’s mother’s name was Madina begum. Those days, Baba was touring Europe with Pandit Uday Shankar’s dance troupe. (Pandit Uday Shankar was Pandit Ravi Shankar’s elder brother). Baba was the guru of the King of Maihar, Raja Brijnathsinh; and a musician at his court. As was customary in those days, Rajaji was informed about this auspicious child birth. He promptly named the child Annapurna.
When Baba returned from his tour, *Maulviji*, the priest, advised that regardless of the name that Rajaji had given the child, they’d have to give her a name in accordance with Islam as well. Baby Annapurna was thus also named Roshanara.
When Annapurna was about seven years old, one evening she was playing a game of hopscotch with her friends. Her elder brother, Ali Akbar Khan, was being taught the sarod by Baba. As usual, Baba taught Ali Akbar a sequence of notes, and asked him to play it repeatedly so as to perfect the sequence till such time that he returned from the bazaar. Ali Akbar attempted to play the piece he’d just been taught. Annapurna rushed in and interrupted, saying, “Baba didn’t teach it this way.” Then the seven year-old sang out the sequence of notes perfectly. Ali Akbar was stunned, and Annapurna continued to repeat the notes, waiting for a reaction from her brother.
Baba had left for the bazaar, that’s true, but he’d returned mid-way because he’d forgotten his purse. Just about the time when Annapurna was correcting Ali Akbar’s rendition of the notes by singing them out, Baba had stepped into the house.
At Baba’s home, an unwritten rule prohibited teaching girls from the family to sing. The reason was emotional—not that the music devotee Baba believed in social restrictions, or that he believed that women ought to be kept away from this knowledge. But a sad event in Baba’s past was responsible for this decision.
Baba had an elder daughter, Jahanara, and he’d taught her to sing; she had a melodious voice. While seeing her away to her in-laws after her wedding, Baba had gifted her a tanpura so that she could continue with her music training. However, the family that she’d been married into was quite orthodox and traditional, with no respect for music or the arts, and it was unacceptable for women of their household to pursue music. They burnt the tanpura that Baba had presented her. Jahanara died a few years later, of JALODAR (technical term).
This emotional trauma affected Baba deeply. He decided that he’d give Annapurna everything-- but music. Under no circumstances must she meet the same fate as her sister when she grew up and got married. Everyone in the household knew this decision.
Envision this scene—Ali Akbar, intently trying to play the notes that his father had taught him, the child Annapurna repeating quite casually the notes that she’d overheard, and a grim Baba standing behind her, watching. Ali Akbar, distressed at the memory of his late elder sister, and knowing how strict and angry his father could be, sat quietly. But Annapurna didn’t know any of this. When Baba stepped forth, Annapurna stopped singing and realized the gravity of her trespass.
Baba was quiet. Ma says, “He took hold of my braid, and led me to the next room. Then Baba placed a tanpura in my hands and asked lovingly, ‘Will you learn music?’ What could I say? He said, ‘Here, take this tanpura.’” Thus, Annapurna’s music pilgrimage began.
Baba was distressed at the emotional trauma that his elder daughter had to bear, but how long would it have taken the music virtuoso to recognize the pure genius that this child had displayed? She’d sung perfectly a difficult section of music, that too, something she’d overheard casually while she was engrossed in playing.
For genius, it is said, the Gods themselves render favorable circumstances and intervene to shape their fates. If it were not so, would this soul have found its way to the musical genius’s home? Baba fathomed the deep grasping power that Annapurna held. He thought a while and he broke the rule he’d made, of not teaching music to women from his household.
This handing over of the tanpura was Annapurna’s *vrat-diksha*, her solemn initiation to a lifetime of music. That game of hopscotch,too, was destiny. Baba did not have to search far for his successor, his custodian of his knowledge. The Gods had taken care of this.