Esraj Story part 6

When Harkara picked up the phone, there was our friend calling from Frankfurt Airport: "Oh boys, I am so sorry. I was wrong, my flight is already in one hour." Puhh! We kept on driving, but it was clear that this time we were not gonna make it.

Amazingly, it still took us around one week to really finish the esraj. Then both of us went to our parents' to celebrate Christmas. We still had to make a case for the instrument, but we had one more week's time - so no problem. When we met together after Christmas, we found out that somehow the skin had folds in it and was very loose. It became clear to us that we had to spring into action again. By that time, we had already gotten two extra skins. We again asked our Californian professional for help and started to do the whole skin procedure again. That means to take off all the 27 strings, to cut off the skin, to soak the new skin and prepare it - then to set up the skin tensioning apparatus for gluing. We hoped that this time it would work out well.

At that time, our last hope to have a trouble-free and relaxed week before our trip faded away very nicely. Even the last night was occupied by building the case for the instrument.

The next day, I flew with the instrument to Australia. Harkara had a different flight and joined me one day later. He also took some of the tools and an extra skin - just in case we would have trouble again.

After five weeks of hard work, finally we were very happy and satisfied with the instrument. It was loud, light and had a beautiful sound. The flight was very long, but I was so tired that I slept almost the whole time. After exiting the airplane I had to go through the custom control. But alas! they asked me to open the case and found fault with our freshly glued goatskin. I could not believe it! Because of their strict quarantine regulations they did not allow me to bring the esraj into Australia. They gave me just two options: either to let it be sent to Sydney for a radiation treatment which would take five to six weeks, or to take it back home when we returned to Germany. I did not like either of the two options, so I came to the hotel without the instrument.

The next day I walked into the lobby just as Sri Chinmoy was going around the corner. He had just arrived. Noticing me, he immediately asked about the esraj. I related the whole story with the skin to him. Sri Chinmoy was silent for a few seconds. Then he said, "Give them the skin!" and went out of the hotel. A few seconds later our dear trip organizer Saraswati rushed into the lobby and told me: "Sri Chinmoy said: Do it today!"

So I went back to my room, got a cutting blade, and went straightaway to the airport were the esraj was stored at the custom section. Harkara arrived on that very day, and I met him when I entered the airport. I told him about what happened, still hoping that he had the extra skin in his suitcase. But alas, he had to give it away also. After his long flight he went with a few other students directly to the hotel. And I went with the bad news to the custom office.