Pt Bhimsen Joshi, who passed away in Pune on 24 January 201, was a musician no one could emulate.
For those fortunate ones who heard him sing live, it was an experience that would remain with them forever. He started off a performance jovially and then slowly picked his musical journey through the Khayal or Abhang or Bhajan.
He carried the watchful, attentive audience with him till the listener lost consciousness of himself and became part of the rendition. Panditji himself reached a trance-like state which was so powerful that audiences knew they'd touched the divine.
He exploited the entire potential of each musical note. Bhimsen Joshi took a note and played it, threw it, picked it up, twisted it flew it... One falls short of words to explain what he could do with the seven notes of music.
He has finished his beautiful musical journey on earth and like someone said, he could be regaling the gods now with his incredible performances.
Part of the Kirana gharana, he went far beyond limitations to become the music he sang.
Soma Ghosh, a classical singer herself, speaks of her encounters with the legend.
I first met Panditji in 1955 in Benaras as a young girl of 10. He would attend music conferences in my town, and my family would make it a point to attend.
Even as a child, I realised he was special. His voice transported you into the divine world. We had a record player in those days and we'd keep playing two bhajans of his: Piya Milan in Raag Jogiya and Jo bhaje hari ko sadaa in Bhairaavi over and over. It drove me crazy that his voice could have such power.
After that, I had the good fortune to do some work with Ustad Bismillah Khan and one day, I told him that it was my desire to bring him and Bhimsen Joshi together for a performance.
Ustad Bismillah Khan jumped at the idea. He said: "We'll be meeting after 64 years...We had performed together so many years ago."
I worked out the logistics to bring them together in Mumbai. It was difficult because Bhimsen Joshi was very unwell and not really fit to travel.
But I went to Pune to visit him and requested him. He was enthused. He recalled that he, Bismillah Khan and Begum [Akhtar] had shared a stage decades ago and he went into a nostalgic mood. He was wheelchair-bound but he made it to the 2005 event.
We had a performance at the Leela in Mumbai and had invited about 300 people, but 1900 people turned up.
When the two stalwarts met, they were overjoyed. I recall Bhimsen Saab couldn't sit for more than 45 minutes because of an ailment. But that day, he sat upright for hours, forgetting time and his physical weakness.
Bismillah Khan performed first and held the audience enthralled. He was then taken away because he was tired.
Then Bhimsen Joshi came to sing and within a minute, Ustad Khan Saab returned to sit among the audiences and listen to his friend.
He sat mesmerized, like we all did, through Bhimsen Joshi's performance. It was incredible how a hush spread in that huge hall and nothing remained but the enchanting voice.
After that he remained ill mostly and that was the last time he came to Mumbai.
Image: When Bhimsen Joshi and Bismillah Khan met.