Golden Memories

I learnt the craft of fashioning bamboos into flutes from my father even before I learnt to walk," says the ever-smiling sweet talker Anand Dhotre, who today is one of the few flute makers whose list of clients include flute maestros like Pt. Ronu Majumdar, Arvind Ganjendragadkar, Naresh Kumta and Keshav Ginde among others. In fact till the death of his father Ramchandra Dhotre, the 28-year-old Anand had never thought of making a livelihood out of this craft.

Though 'Baba' always used to scold me for not spending enough time on learning the intricacies of this art, till his last days I was more interested in learning computers and doing some odd jobs here and there," he says, seated in his tiny residence-cum-workshop at Dadar. Of course, he was aware of the finer aspects of flute-making but didn't realise the responsibility involved in turning a two-feet long bamboo into a concert instrument. "Baba to the hi na responsibility lene ke liye (My father was there to shoulder all the responsibilities)," recalls Anand, who lost his father a couple of years ago.

Whenever young Anand, who was more interested in playing cricket with his friends in the neighborhood, made a slight mistake in piercing a hole in the bamboo to get the right notes, the late Ramchandra would correct him, but not before rapping him sharply on his knuckles. Flute-making became their family tradition only when the Late Pannalal Ghosh Committee, initiated to popularize the art of the maestro among the masses, approached Dhotre senior in the early 60s, led by Mohan Nadkarni, a well-known student of the doyen. They needed flutes in large numbers and at an affordable price for the beginner. Back then Ramachandra was already into flute-making but the instrument fell far below the expectations of professionals. It was Mohan Nadkarni's knowledge about the . instrument that helped Ramchandra immensely. "It is a lengthy process and only if you have it in your genes can you become a perfect flute maker," explains Anand dhotre.

Ronu Majumdar, the renowned flautist who has been buying flutes from the Dhotres and recommending them to his many disciples, says, "Anand has learnt all the intricacies required to get the best notes from the flutes and I consider him to be one of the best flute makers today." After Ramachandra's death, Majumdar started goading the young Anand to take up flute-making as a full-time profession. "In the initial days Ronuda visited our home, sat under a tree and instructed me on the techniques of getting the perfect instrument till I was able to get the right touch," explains Anand.

The correct notes are procured by piercing hot iron rods to get the right sized holes at the specified distance on the bamboo. And Anand checks the quality of the pitch by comparing it with the electronic pitch box. "My father used the surpeti," he says. Once the correct pitch is attained, the bamboo is polished gently to get the right sheen. The polishing can stretch over eight hours depending on the length of the bamboo. Anand's shop in Dadar attracts buyers from India and queries from far off places like Mexico, Vienna, Belgium, England etc. The once reluctant flute maker has now started to goad his son to take up the art of flute-making.