Kunga Guest House is on the road which goes to Bhagsu Nag temple. By all means it’s actually a small alley. On one side of the road there are buildings with shops and on the other side of the road there are many roadside stalls selling various things like T-shirts with exotic prints, some brass artifacts and some Tibetan things. One day when I returned to Kunga for my siesta, I was really surprised to see a big stall selling flutes!! And it was bang opposite Kunga too !!
Flutes at McLeodgunj[/caption]
Good flutes is always a trouble to find. Thankfully since last few years there have been some really good flute makers emerged out, but previously it was really a tough job to find a flute which is good in tone and also is good in pitching! I assume by now I know all the good and well known bansuri makers in the world. And thus was really surprise to see almost professional quality flutes of all the world in McLeodgunj !!!
No one was there looking after the stall. The owner must have gone for his siesta too. A couple of neighbouring shop keepers were lazily looking at their mobiles and a few dogs were in deep meditation not paying any attention to anything around them. I went near the flute stall and had a closer look. And WOW !! To my astonishment the flutes I saw were good!! Honestly I never thought, neither I ever found even OK quality flutes in Pune, so imagine serious shock I must have got when I saw some good flutes in a small Himalayan settlement ! It was like meeting an old friend totally unexpectedly in a space shuttle!
I approached the stall and picked up a couple and played 2-3 notes to realise the flutes are good as I had thought. I was hungry, so went inside Kunga had a nice but hurried lunch.
Returned to find a guy now sitting near the shop. I strolled around at the shop. He didn’t even pay slightest attention to me. I observed that his main customers are either children or foreigners. Then I picked up one flute and started playing it. Within No time he rushed to the shop and started listening to me with a little surprised face. I played some melodies for 3-4 minutes and there gathered some crowd to listen to me. I stopped and waited. Some of the spectators suddenly generated interest in buying the flutes and I said I shall return, and just strolled away in the market. I am sure he must have sold at least 3-4 flutes. The flutes weren’t exactly cheap as such!
I returned in the evening, this guy welcomed me with a big smile and his neighbours too were looking at me with a certain curious look on their face. Ramkrishna the flute seller is from Nepal. A very sweet guy, plays flute quite good too. He comes to McLeodgunj every season and rest of the year goes back to Nepal. I I started looking at more and more flutes and I was quite happy about the general quality of those. I chose several – perhaps 10-12 flutes and asked him Can I take these to my room? If I like some, I will buy, rest I shall return. He hesitated a bit. Then I told him I am going to be here for a week or so. He was ok with the idea then.
I eventually found some 15-20 good flutes and bought them all. Asked him “How much is this flute ? ” It was a concert flute sized ‘E Flute’? He said “What should I tell you Sir? You are a master, give me anything you feel”
“How much do you sell these to others?”
Clearly in Indian tourist places there are 3 set of prices. 1] Highest for the foreigners 2] Little lesser for Indians, 3] For locals !
” For Foreigners, how much you charge?”
He told me some price.
“Ok; Let me return tomorrow.”
” I will reduce it.”
“Don’t worry, we will see.”
I went to the ATM machine got all the money it was coming to and gave it to him. He was very, very happy.
I also saw some beautifully carved flutes in his shop. Then one day I saw him carving on one flute! Wow ! He was carving all that intricate design on the flutes himself. I asked him to carve him some design on one of my concert flutes. He did a beautiful job! He even drew my face on that flute 🙂
My flute carved by Ramkrishna
Then it became a routine for me to wake up come down for the breakfast. He would join me in the lovely terrace of Kunga. Then we would go our ways. In the evening when I used to return from my excursions, we would have another tea with him and then both used to pick up some flute and kept playing alternatively sitting on the road side step of Kunga. Some small people used to gather around, some would buy some flutes and then I would retire upstairs to my room.
In all my next visits this routine rarely changed. I always bought plenty flutes from him. And we would sit playing around the corner!