A passion for musical craft

My mother-in-law Maya Shahade with her musical troupe and peers. Jamnagar, Gujarat, Circa 1965

IMP Research Intern : Priyanka Balwant Kale, Pune

Image and narrative points contributed by Dr. Arati Shahade, Pune

This photograph of a Hindustani Classical music troupe was taken at a Gurukul (music school) in Jamnagar, Gujarat, sometime in late 1960s. It includes my mother-in-law Maya Shahade at the center, holding a Tanpura (A bass instrument that holds the sounds of other musical instruments together, also known as a form of Tamboura). The other members of her troupe pose with Hindustani classical music instruments like the Sitar, Harmonium, Veena and Tabla. At the back, at the two ends are her gurus. 

My mother-in-law Maya was born in 1934. Her father Deviprasad Joshi owned the well known publication house Joshi-Lokhande Prakshan. Deviprasad used to initially sell stencils and later established the publication house that printed university and school textbooks, government documents, political literature etc.  He was an affluent, influential, politically well-connected person with friends such as Yeshwant Rao Chavan, the first chief minister of Maharashtra. 

Maya’s childhood was spent in luxury. Initially she studied in Ahmednagar, and then moved to Pune to complete her matriculation exam from Ahilya Devi Holkar school and then BA in Marathi from S.P.College. Her friend circle was vibrant with friends and classmates such as the famous actor, Jairam Kulkarni. Life at home was also orthodox and comfortable, with some modern surprises – when her father bought a car and no one knew how to drive it, she was asked to learn driving. It was rare during that time for women to drive cars – but she would drive her father to work and back, and sometimes drive on highways too – it was one of her favourite activities.  

In her formative years, Maya’s father’s support for nationalist movement had an impact on her, and she enrolled at the Hindi Prachar Sabha (an organisation set up by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918, with the intention of uniting non-Hindi speaking Indians with a common language) to learn and graduate in proficient Hindi, while pursuing her Sangeet Visharad in Hindustani classical music. Maya was trained by stalwarts in the field of Hindustani classical music  like Pandit Padmakar Kulkarni and Agashe Buva. As a professionally trained singer – her command over languages and sense of rhythm and poetry was exceptional. 

In 1958, she got married to Dr. Mukund Shahade, a prominent surgeon, in Pune. Although my father-in-law was not as rich as her family, he was well-educated and a man of high reputation. After marriage my parents-in-law moved to Jamnagar, Gujarat where her husband Dr. Shahade was to serve the Gujarat government as a civil surgeon. 

In 1959, they had their first daughter Amala and in 1961 their son Ambrish. And Maya continued to pursue her music career, wherever they were transferred – training, and performing whenever possible. When they moved to Jamnagar during the India Pakistan war, in 1970, she had just performed at a concert at Surat Medical College. Since Jamnagar was situated by the Indo-Pakistan border, the  threat of terrorist activities had them fearing safety of their children and the family returned to Pune. 

Resettling was difficult as the couple didn’t have much of an income, but they began with settling in by living in a one room tenement of Maya’s father’s house and my father-in-law was given a small place to open a clinic. When my father-in-law decided to open a hospital in 1977, Maya didn’t hesitate to sell her gold jewellery and fund the cause. Eventually, the hospital began to do well and they were financially stabilised. Since Maya also had an acumen for business, she began managing the hospital’s financial affairs, along with her household duties. 

My mother-in-law loved the world of music. Their home was known for the best mehfils (evenings of courtly entertainment with music and poetry) and enjoyed conversations with composers and classical singers, and acquaintances in the field of music, such as Dada Chandekar – the famous Marathi music composer who recorded the first song of Lata Mangeshkar and made incredible contributions to the cinema music industry and was invited to perform on his death anniversary. She also passed the All India Radio exam and was invited to record Sugat Sangeet, and Bhajan music (religious music) for them twice . At that time, to sing for All India Radio was a seriously big achievement. 

By the time I married into my husband’s family in 1991, my mother-in-law Maya was diagnosed with arthritis and could barely sit on the cot or play the Tanpura. Since I was also trained in music, I would play the tanpura for her when her fingers couldn’t strum the strings anymore. Nonetheless, despite her physical condition,she would practice music (Riyaz) for half an hour every day, but the inability to play music definitely affected her personal and social life. In 1992, Maya, a foreboding lady, could neither move nor sing, and she passed away in 1994. 

This photograph celebrates my mother-in-law’s quest and passion for great craft, her music and the vibrant life she enjoyed in the world of classical music. She was indeed an extremely wonderful and versatile woman who carved out an artistic space and vision for herself.

The addition of this Photo-Narrative to the archive has been made possible due to the generous consideration towards Research Internships by Nazar Foundation, New Delhi.

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