Dance like Maharaj


He dregs memories of early 20th century Lucknow. Dancing was in the family. His father, Achhan Maharaj belonged to the Kalka Bindadin gharana and Maharaj became the torchbearer, naturally. A small house in a narrow Lucknow lane used to reverberate with the tinkle of ghungroos. "My father used to be happy and would tell my amma 'Ladka bohot leyadaar hai (The boy is extremely rhythmic).' I just kept dancing," says Maharaj, who became a guru at nine after his father passed away. He also trained, under his uncles, Shambhu Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj.

While still in school, Maharaj would write the bols of Kathak in his notebooks, instead of class notes. He moved to Delhi to teach young girls at Sangeet Bharti, Mandi House. "After that, dance was life," says Maharaj.

For his students he is an exacting purist, to his grandchildren he is a doting grandfather, to fellow musicians he is the master of rhythm, and to the rest of the world, he is a dance icon, but Maharaj laments that even at this stage, he does not have a proper place to teach. He teaches at a municipality school in Jor Bagh every day but yearns for a place where he can establish a proper school. "I have got everything I have ever wanted. But, I am tired of make-shift arrangements for teaching my students," he says. Watching him right a particular piece is an experience in itself, he even makes correction an art. This is his world then — of kathas, postures, Radha-Krishna and thumris, and we leave with that memory.

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