“Even though I have lost more than 90 percent of my eyesight, no can stop me from pursuing my passion of playing the flute,” says 75-year-old Ashok Sangle, who belongs to the Ichalkaranji town in Kolhapur district, plays the flute and mouth organ, and is an artist as well.
Ashok has faced a lot of hardship during the course of his life, but his relentless passion for playing the flute has kept him going.
Ashok quit studies after Class 10, because of weak eyesight. To make ends meet, he decided to set up a small electronics shop. However, he also realised that he wanted to continue playing the flute. He worked it into his schedule and began to practice for at least 7 hours on a daily basis. The strenuous work hours didn’t bother Ashok because that was something he wanted to do.’
His passion for playing the flute started in school. “I used to play the bugle in the school band,” recalls Ashok. However, he never imagined the hardships he would face on this path. In 1990, he underwent a cataract operation, and in 1994, his right eye was damaged owing to a nerve choke-up.
Slowly, Ashok’s vision started diminishing, and post-2012, he began losing his eyesight at a rapid rate which eventually made him 90 percent visually impaired.
However, Ashok refused to give up and eventually went on to perform at the local level. He credits his father, Gajanan Sutar, for helping him pursue his passion. “My father was a harmonium player, and the weekly Bhajans in the house opened up the world of music for me. Later, Rajendra Kulkarni—a well-known flute player from Belgaum came to Ichalkaranji in 1995. That was when I met him first, and he decided to teach me how to play the flute. I am proud of the fact that I was his first student here in Ichalkaranji,” he adds.
Apart from the flute, Ashok also plays the mouth organ player, and when he was in his 20s, Dilroop Swami taught him how to play the Sitar. Ashok can even sketch—some of his sketches date back to 1960s.
“I am passionate about the Arts, and hence, you will find me doing many things like playing flute or sketching,” he says.
The flute remains his first love. “Based on the calibration and a few other parameters, flutes can be classified into various types. I prefer the large flute which is known as Pandhari 3 in Marathi,” he says.
While his journey has had several disastrous moments and transitions, Ashok never gave up. “I never felt like quitting in the middle of such disasters. I will play the flute forever and encourage everyone to do what they feel strongly about because nothing fuels the spirit like the passion,” advises Ashok as he resumes playing the flute.
(Written by Sanket Jain)