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Soumik Kar
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Soul Stirring
Vishwarupe Narain, country head, Texas Pacific Group Growth, on what the sitar’s strings mean to him
COMMENTS PRINT

The pear-shaped wooden body of the sitar is positioned at a 45-degree angle to his body, with his slender fingers poised over the five metallic strings. As he strikes a pose for the camera, Vishwarupe Narain, country head, TPG Growth, can’t help but play a raag that complements the serenity of the view from his Nepean Sea Road flat in south Mumbai. “I was initiated into classical music at the age of eight by my father, who played the sitar as well. After training for six years at the Doon School, I trained for seven years in Delhi under the tutelage of Shujaat Khan, son of the great sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan,” says Narain, who joined TPG in 2007 from Bessemer Venture Partners, New York.

Forty-year-old Narain has been fortunate to accompany and learn from some of the stalwarts of Indian classical music. As a teenager, he won a Gurukul scholarship under which he spent a month with Pandit Balaram Pathak in Delhi. As the national coordinator for the Society For The Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth (Spicmacay), he organised concerts across educational institutes in Delhi, where he interacted with Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Ustad Zakir Hussain. While Narain no longer organises events at Spicmacay, he contributes to funds and attends a few concerts held in the city.

The PE veteran has presided over nearly seven deals at TPG, with the most recent one being the Rs 150-crore investment in Bengaluru-based Sutures India last September.

While evaluating the potential of an investment, Narain finds that sometimes the answers lie not in the excel sheets but in the melody of the sitar. “At times, the solution comes to me while playing the sitar, even though I’m not thinking about it,” he says.

Making time for his hobby is not that simple, though, Narain admits. “I make it a point to practise twice during the week for a couple of hours in the morning. When I retreat into my classical music pursuits, I realise that there is life beyond climbing the corporate ladder.”

Talking about his routine, he says, “I always start by playing raag Yaman, a foundational raag that has all the seven notes and can be quite complex. Ideally, one should practise daily because if you skip it, your fingers will not be hardened enough and you have to apply dead wax on your fingers before playing.”

When he’s not tuning his sitar, Narain listens to the performances of his role model — Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia — a legend whose style of music he describes as evocative.

While searching for a picture of his most memorable performance, Narain reminisces about his first performance at age 12 at the Doon School. “It was my first solo performance and I had to face a crowd of 3,000 people on Founder’s Day in a magnificent open air auditorium.”

As Narain and his wife discuss their plans for the Harwallabh music festival in Jalandhar, he lets me in on his secret New Year’s resolution. “I wish to re-start my training. I met Niladri Kumar a couple of weeks ago and I intend to find out if he will take me under his wing.”

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