Mission Delhi – Madhumita Ray, CR Park
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Her eyes close slowly, suggesting that she’s immersed in deep thoughts. Her still arm suddenly stirs, rising up, and now she finally opens her lips–the robust voice filling the south Delhi drawing room with a soothing feeling.
This is just another noon in the life of vocalist Madhumita Ray. Every day, from 11am to 1 pm, she negotiates her way through Hindustani classical music. Her tabla partner, Utpal Ghoshal, who also plays with the great Birju Maharaj, usually joins her. Today, he isn’t present, and his absence is being felt.
Twice a week, Ms Ray also teaches music to a few young women. Right now she is giving lessons in Raag Bhairav to Shruti, a homemaker, and Diksha, a college student. Her dog, Elsa, is snoozing under the dining table.
Wearing an emerald green Gadwal sari rimmed with golden zari work, Ms Ray, 62, is sitting on a straight-backed arm chair. “But sometimes I do riyaz sitting down on the carpet… sometimes I might be in the study where the window looks out onto a champa tree…”
Perhaps because her voice is so powerful, Ms Ray instinctively commands awe. Rather than the sweet hostess of the house, you’d imagine her to be a stern performer on the stage, under whose gaze it is impossible to leave the hall mid-way through recital.
She stares down hard towards her students as they begun a rendition. Suddenly, she shakes her head. Something is amiss. A feeling of disapproval hangs in the drawing room air. Ms Ray advices a slightly altered approach to one of her students, who nods her head gratefully.
Very soon the singer is to leave for London for a few weeks of performances and workshops. But no worries, there will still be music in the house. Ms Ray’s daughter, Shreya, is a professional jazz crooner.
[This is the 156th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Madhumita’s afternoon raga