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'Pt Ravi Shankar India's gift to the world'

December 12, 2012 15:47 IST

Admirers in California reacted in shock to the demise of sitar master Pandit Ravi Shankar who introduced Indian music to the Western world. 92-year-old Shankar died on Tuesday in San Diego, California.

"Varanasi has produced legends and Pandit Ravi Shankar is one of them. He is the greatest gift of modern times. People in America call Vivekananda as India's spiritual ambassador, he was a great philosopher. I call the greatest musician a gift to the world. He was the greatest gift that India sent to America," Vish Mishra, president, The Indus Entrepreneurs, a global nonprofit dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship told Rediff.com.

Mishra, who is from Varanasi, said he first saw Shankar at the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi when he was 18.

Mishra, who is now 67, said Shankar was a genius figure. He could not meet him personally at the BHU. Finally, he met him 10 years ago at the Stanford University in California.

"It was the most memorable moment when Panditji performed at the university."It was awesome," said Mishra.

Sharing his memories with Shankar, Mishra said he met Shankar and his daughter Anoushka backstage and had conversation about the BHU and Varanasi. "We had a private reception with him," Mishra said.

Last year, Mishra attended his performance with his son and daughter-in-law at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. This was to be the maestro's performances he would attend.

"I don't know why, I told my son, 'we should go, might be this could be his last concert'," Mishra said, "I was in the sixth row and watched him play. The way his hands moved over the strings at this age was just amazing," Mishra said over phone.

"I would say today India has lost its global ambassador. He brought India on the world's map in a very positive way. This is such sad news," said Mishra.

He added, "I have all his music collections and I absolutely admire this genius. I still can't believe he passed away."

Jeevan Zutshi, another admirer and founder of a non-profit Indo American Community Federation said he could not believe Shankar died.

"Oh god. This international treasure is gone!" said Zutshi. He said he has known him since 1972 when he first came to Berkeley, California.

"India was not known at all except for snake charmers and starving people then. There were very few Indians in this part of the world. But those who knew the sitar maestro, knew India for the right reasons," Zutshi told Rediff.com.

"I have regularly attended his public performances since 1972, and never missed a concert. It is so amazing to reminisce how much influence Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan (the late Indian classical musician) have had on the landscape of California. They were true Ambassadors of India!" noted Zutshi.

Recollecting his memories about Shankar he said he still remembers in 1992 when Shankar played with Zakir Hussein. "It was mesmerising," said Zutshi.

Ritu Jha in San Fansisco