Growing up as a teenager in Bombay and Pune, I attended a number of music recitals, formal and informal, in people’s houses and in auditoriums. It was not unusual to hear from my uncle, Prabhakar Jathar, himself a music critic and musician, that Kumar Gandharva’s student, to give one example, was giving a baithak in a common friend’s living room. The audience would often consist of no more than twenty people, and we sat on the floor and listened to music that was recorded without the benefit of a professional studio. The tapes of the evening’s performance would subsequently circulate in an informal economy among the cognoscenti. In addition to these informal, quickly put together baithaks, there were also the formal performances held in places like the National Center for the Performing Arts or the auditorium of the Dadar Matunga Music Circle. Both types of performances were part of the everyday life of music in modern India.
For middle-class women in Maharashtra, attending one of these performances was the logical extension of having augmented one’s college education with music and dance instruction. Small schools, often named after the instructor (Gokhale Music School, for instance), dotted the urban landscape. Classes (music in particular) were often conducted in rooms no larger than