‘I was like a physician to his sitar’
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Sanjay Sharma, who crafted Shankar's sitar for more than 20 years, is visibly shaken as he talks about his beloved guruji in past tense
Tucked away in a bylane of Bhagat Singh Market, Central Delhi, is Rikhi Ram's Music — the place where Pandit Ravi Shankar's sitars have been crafted since the late '80s. On the day of Shankar's demise, the store's current owner, Sanjay Sharma, looks hassled, yet agrees to share his thoughts on "his guruji's demise".
"He was everything to me — father, guide, god and even buddy. Our association started when he contacted us to redesign his sitar for a concert with Zubin Mehta. Since then, whenever he would visit us, he would insist I play something for him. He was very encouraging," Sharma recalls. "Once, I had to travel to the US to fix Anoushka's sitar before a concert, and while I was at it, he was so impressed with my skills that he insisted I accompany him on a two-month tour across the US," he adds.
It was Sharma who designed a smaller sitar for Shankar, known as the Studio Sitar. "He found it difficult to handle the bigger sitar. I made a special one for him with a stand so that he could play comfortably while sitting. I was like his personal physician. Every nail and corner of his sitars was my responsibility," he says.
"Guruji would just pop in and meet us. He would say 'jahaan phool hote hai, wahaan bhanwara toh aayege hi' (where there are flowers, the bees follow) ," says Sharma. One of the biggest days of his life was when Shankar complimented him on his sitar-making skills. "He told me that my father was a great sitar-maker, but I was a genius. He would joke and tell people that I was the one who kept him in tune," Sharma says.