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Ravi's Magic Carpet of Passion

Pandit Ravi Shankar 2011
The familiar, high pitched voice welcomed the audience in his clipped Indian English dialect with self-effacing humility how we may not recognize him now with his long white beard.  At 91, he is thin and walks with a cane and assistance but once seated in the familiar cross legged posture and his hands wrap around the sitar, he exudes passion and energy with skill that is undiminished by time.  Weaving his spell around seemingly familiar but unknown to this listener, ragas and classical music of India, the crowd instantly becomes still and silent.   A combination of concert, spiritual pilgrimage, and coming together of the tribe, the concert at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, seemed to be a miracle.   Twice postponed, it stretched the mind that this unlikely avatar of our youth was actually here and was going to play.  And play he did.  He and his ensemble sat on carpets that became magical, that we rode to a place that peeked into the timeless, the eternal, the unity of life.  In the Sixties he opened a door to his world and with the support of his since passed friend, George Harrison, led a generation to discover world music.  Never compromising in his fealty for the authentic, classical Indian music, he enthralled us with his devotion and humor.  I recall on the Concert for Bangladesh album, the crowd applauds early on and he says “I hope you enjoy the concert as much as you did the tuning.”  During this concert I kept having flashbacks to 1967 and his concert at the Hollywood Bowl that I attended as a teenager.  At that concert patchouli incense and cannabis sweetened the air.   At the new hall in downtown L.A. (minus the fragrance and supported by an ensemble half his age) Raviji was just as vital in this show as then.

Twice postponed, once redeemed
Ravi Shankar has become more than a musician, his performance is more analogous to a saint or guru but with no schtick (no hugs, no workshops, no obtuse philosophy), just his music.  His depth of commitment to his passion transcends the music.  It exudes and exemplifies the message of gurus; peace, harmony, and presence.  Attracting an eclectic crowd with ample measures of old and young yogis in Indian prints, tradition philharmonic suits and heels, and traditional multi-generational Indian families dressed in saris and kurtas.  Ravi’s music attracts individuals who step beyond the mainstream and into one of the rich tributaries of our global culture.   What transcends the music is Ravi’s powerful passion for his work.  His passion is undimmed by age and now seasoned by a lifetime of 75 years of performing.  It is a passion fueled by exploration of the divine, the eternal, and the timeless in his music.  At the concert, his joy was infectious and egged his musicians and the audience to new heights.  
He clearly lives to share his music and that passion teaches much about a life well lived.  His unique gift is his purpose.

On the scene a fan for 44 years
Seeing, hearing, and experiencing Ravi Shankar reminded me of sharing one’s gift.  It behooves all of us (especially us who are in the last third of life) to discover that uniqueness and then pursue it until it becomes a passion.  That passion can become one’s purpose and as in the case of Raviji, his passion is a benediction for the world.  Overtly, Shankar shares his music but the covert gift is the experience of harmony, self-expression, peace, and unity.   A career counselor, Richard Leider surveyed older adults to find out what makes them happy.  He discovered that the prime factor is a sense of purpose and service in their lives.  Often we don’t know how to contribute to others or to the world.  Uncovering and pursuing our gifts and passions can be the legacy we give to future generations.  The gift not pursued deprives others of our life’s journey.  But even more disturbing, we deprive ourselves of the fulfillment that comes from pursuing your passion at 91 or 81 or 61.  Drill down, discover, practice, and give away your passion.  Then like Ravi Shankar, share and receive the boon of a life well lived.


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