11 Jul 2011

Mahim Causeway

Zakir Bhai

Work Space Mumbai: Haridas Vhatkar - Tabla Maker to Ustad Zakir Hussain

When it pours, the accumulated rain water on the crumbling Mahim Causeway that connects the richest pieces of real estate in India is no different from the dark juice that the city leaks and flows under the causeway and into the Arabian Sea.

A feet below the level of the narrow footpath on the Causeway are a row of tightly packed huts mostly inhabited by fisherfolks. Each house with a half-a-foot-high plank at the door to keep the rain water from coming and flooding their homes.

One such plank also keep rain water from coming in and flooding the tablas that are meant for Ustad Zakir Hussain.

This hovel without a signboard is the work-space of Haridas Vhatkar, the Ustad's Ustad when it comes to tabla making. It's not just Zakir Hussain that he supplies his creations to, it's the who's who, who with their magic fingers are beating the star of this century - digital perfection, black and blue.

In the corner of his one-room workshop is a small transistor like electronic machine that is playing a single perfect note as Haridas tunes Zakir Hussain's tabla. His three assistants work on other tablas, most of them with names of someone famous scribbled with a ball point pen on the corner of the skin.

With a client list like his, why would he need a sign board? All he needs is the worldwide web. That's where Haridas nets his other orders from. From all over the world.


Haridas has been working from here for the past 25 years. But he's originally from Sangli, in Southern Maharashtra. He's from a family that has been making tablas for 3 generations.

And he says that he does not know how to play the tabla well, but he can tune it to perfection.

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