When santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma talked about his relationship with his son Rahul Sharma who is also an accomplished musician in his own right, it was a symphony of another kind.
Parenting is perhaps one of the world’s toughest jobs. All parents no matter who they may be walk that tightrope walk to ensure that their children grow up to be balanced individuals who are able to achieve their goals in life. However, this balance is difficult to achieve for most parents. They are constantly plagued with questions of how much indulgence is too much, whether you should convince the profession of your choosing or let the child find his own path. Hence when Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma talked about his relationship with his son Rahul Sharma who is also an accomplished musician in his own right, at India Music Summit 2019, it was a symphony of another kind, the one, parents wish that some one could have helped them listen to. Here are some excepts:
On choosing a path in life
I think music or any talent is inherited from past life. More than the practice or hard work, it is the flair the child is born with which parents must recognise. When I embarked on this path, I had encountered a lot of difficulties because people were not very aware of Santoor at the time and I had to struggle to make a mark. So my wife said that we will not teach our children music or make them face these challenges. My elder son Rohit is not into music. But one day when I heard Rahul composing a Casio that I had bought for him from Japan, I knew he had the flair for music and I decided to teach him. So, if a child has the flair, the parents must recognize it and encourage the child.
On father-son relationship vs guru-shishya relationship
When I had started teaching Rahul, our father-son relationship had already been established. In a father-son relationship, the son can place a hand on the father’s shoulder but in a guru-shishya relationship, the formality and the sanctity of the relationship has to be observed. He would sometimes ask me why should I do this in this way only. This was in the beginning and I had to sort out the dynamics of the relationship and ensure that I play different roles at different times. Now it is well established that when I am teaching him, I am his guru and after than I am his father and he is my son. I think that is very important that we don’t mix up these roles in life. Only then the teaching-learning can happen.
On experimenting with new options in life
I believe one should not stop children from trying out new things in life. Many years ago, a saxophone player from Norway had contacted me. He wanted me to create a combination of Santoor and Saxophone which I did not think was a good idea at the time. However, when Rahul wanted to create the same combination with Kenny G, who is considered one of the world’s greatest saxophone players today, I never stopped him.
On the constant learning from others
My father always encouraged me to learn new aspects, new styles from people around me. I have seen gurus who tell their shishyas to not look at anything except what they are being taught by the guru. However, my father had a different perspective on this. He never stopped me from listening to music made by other people. He encouraged me to listen to all kinds of music. There is a saying in Panjabi ‘Sikhiya, Dekhiya, Parkhiya’ which means to learn the music from your guru, hear other people’s music and compare whatever you’ve learnt from others and your own learning. Then you must constantly keep innovating and improving your craft. When I was living in Jammu, I used to listen to the western classical music on the radio every night. So, I have not stopped my son from listening to any instrument or any kind of music because that I believe creates limits. A free musician can get ideas from anywhere and that is how Rahul has been able to grow as a musician.
On the pressures faced by parents
Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma: The most important thing is the value system that you must establish as a parent in the first few years of life. If your values are right, then the children will learn the right thing. Moreover, you must have the confidence in your child that he will be able to perform whether on stage or life.
Published Author, Poet and Youtuber
This article appeared in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit section on 6 October 2019.