New Delhi, Oct 5 Sitting on the edge of his seat to reach the microphone, seven-year-old tabla prodigy Keshav looked at his mother each time a question was shot at him on Monday. "Excited" and "happy" is how the little maestro described his day out at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony where he was a star attraction.
Facing the media at a press conference, the boy from Puducherry giggled, laughed and goofed around even as reporters tried their best to make him speak in full sentences.
Asked if he was nervous before going on stage at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on October 3, the boy, who has never had any formal training, said: "I was excited."
According to his mother Gopika, a singer and a photographer, the aim was to keep the whole act very "spontaneous".
"He didn't have any strict schedule of practising for so many hours a day. He played as and when he liked. I tried to keep the whole act very spontaneous. So right upto the time he went up the stage I was telling him his favourite stories. All that I told him was there was a big light show and he will be playing with many more drummers," Gopika said.
How long had he practiced for the opening ceremony? Keshav: "A month!"
Born into a family of musicians, Keshav started playing the tabla at the tender age of two. Gopika said he is so natural that he simply watches the fingers of tabla players when they rehearse at home and then imitates it to perfection.
"Keshav has not had any formal training. I am a singer and often practice at home. So he has grown in that atmosphere. We don't even have a TV at home. So when people said they would watch his performance on television, he was a little confused," she said.
Is there any other instrument he likes to play? "The guitar. I have a blue guitar," Keshav said.
"I also like cycling and cycle to school every day," he added, with some prompting from his mom.
A student of Deeparam school in Auroville, Keshav studies in Class 2. However, since all the classes in his school have their own names, when you ask him, which class is he in, he says "Rainbow Horses!"
Was he overwhelmed with all the response after his performance?
Gopika said: "The first thing he said after coming down the stage was 'Did I play well mama?' We left soon after and went to our hotel. The first thing he did was to clean the room — he is finicky about cleanliness — took a bath and asked me to tell him his bedtime story. He was not interested in watching the TV highlights or anything. But later he drew pictures of the stadium."
Keshav's elder sister Kamakshi, who is just a few years older than him, plays the piano.
Even as comparisons were drawn between Keshav and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, especially as both have curly locks and a similar dressing style, Keshav smiled for photographers, with his sister hugging him.
At one point a volunteer tried to make him sit on a cushion to help him reach the microphone, which he promptly refused.
Bharatbala, the creative director of the opening ceremony of the Games, said: "I discovered Keshav in Auroville in May and decided instinctively that he should be included in the ceremony. By July it was confirmed.
"I knew that along with hundreds of drummers, if there is one child prodigy, it would leave a mark. And he performed brilliantly. He totally enjoyed performing."