Ragini Trivedi was born in a family where routine revolved around study and practice of music. Father, Sangeetendu Dr. Lalmani Misra, had visited 150 towns and cities around the globe, started a music college and had accepted to head the Instrumental department of B.H.U. before Ragini was born. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Performing Arts at Banaras Hindu University, where he worked as a teacher and administrator, until his death in 1979.
Youngest in the family, Ragini got more than her share of father’s affection. Several mornings, on being woken up by her mother, she would seek shelter in her father’s lap as he sat cross-legged playing on Vichitra Veena. She well may be the first person, if not only one, to have grown up listening to Veena with her head between the two Tumba-s. Yet, the thought of playing this Veena would never occur to her for several next decades. It was her grandmother’s interest in music that was passed on to her father, Lalmani. But nearing her seventies, she was moved less by music, and more by piety and meditation. Known throughout the household as Badi Amma, her secular demeanor of a disciplinarian was recognized by one and all. She would ensure that children treated each other and elders, with due respect.
Another strong formative influence on Ragini and brother Gopal Shankar was of Pt. Omkarnath Thakur. It was Pt. Omkarnath Thakur who had coaxed Pt. Lalmani in taking up reader-ship at B.H.U. The music faculty had been allotted Rewa Kothi for scholar’s residence. Dr. Misra’s family occupied the upper floor while Pt. Thakur was on ground floor. A few students too were accommodated in this building. Situated on bank of the sacred river, Rewa Kothi was boon to Badi Amma, who would rise early to take a dip in Ganges. As the great maestro began to sing with the rays of rising or setting sun, activity in adjoining Ghat-s would gradually cease. Few had strength to tear away from binding web of his strong smooth voice. Though as children Gopal and Ragini could not comprehend the excellence of his singing, but the purity of sound lay buried in their memories.
Third influence, again as scattered memories, is that of busy act of learning. Gurukul or household of teacher, is still a reality to some extent, despite the changes brought about by twentieth century and especially, the last two decades. In the sixties, even though transfer of knowledge was being carried out in modern institutions, in spirit the teacher was still a Guru — giving and demanding in extreme. He would give all his tangible assets and intangible knowledge but exact devotion for learning from the student. So, students flocked to teachers; and in Dr. Misra’s household three to four disciples would be staying as family-members at any given time. It was how their father taught these elder brothers or sisters — Dada, Bhai Sahib or Didi — that seeped into Gopal and Ragini’s subconscious. The continuous repetition of same phrase, the same mistake over and over again, the same sense of exasperation, despair and determination; and after all this, the wholesome joy of a breakthrough!
As the children matured they too got involved with learning and studying music. They could now better appreciate different people learning different things from their father who appeared adept in all. With each passing year they could better understand what their father stood for and meant to others.
He was also a visiting Professor at department of South Asian Music Studies in Penn University, Philadelphia from 1969. He kept coming here for a semester every alternate year. Some of the students who learned with him at Philadelphia came to B.H.U. for further studies. These visiting scholars too were accepted as members of family in his household.
Ragini and brother Gopal Shankar Misra accompanied their parents to Philadelphia and enrolled in school for a year. It was here that Ragini’s skill at Basketball and other games was recognized. She began learning piano and was soon able to play with ease. The appreciation she received from class-mates, teachers and students from other classes made her realize the social prestige given to music in western society. She returned to her Alma mater, Central Hindu Girls School in Varanasi more confident and committed a student.
Once again, her talents in different areas were recognized by teachers here and soon she found herself participating in sports activities, dramatics besides music. Her music teacher, Shobha Parvatkar encouraged Ragini to play Jaltarang. Pleased by Ragini’s performance Ms. Parvatkar confided in her parents and returning home from school one afternoon, Ragini found a Jaltarang set laid out for her.
As father Dr. Lalmani Misra, had to leave the children for long periods while he taught at Penn, he would record lessons so that they could keep practicing Raga-s in their syllabus the right way. In these lesson recording sessions, Chhotelal Misra disciple of Pandit Anokhelal Mishra, accompanied Gopal and Ragini. During his stay in India he would teach music to students both at university and at home. Some of the students who stayed with the family, included dance maestro Pt. Uday Shankar’s son, Ananda Shankar, who learnt Sitar and Composition, Omprakash Chourasiya who learnt Santoor and orchestration and Laxmi Ganesh Tiwari, who trained as vocalist and currently teaches at Sonoma State university. Patrick Moutal teaches Indian Classical Music in Paris, writes books on ICM and maintains a website, precious to lovers of Indian music.
The children were still young when they lost their grand-mother. Before they could completely come to terms with this loss, their mother Padma fell ill. After protracted illness mother Padma died in April 1977. Sensitive to core, their father never allowed his grief reach the children. Much later did they realize that he had poured his pain into lyrics of a Raga he consecrated -- Sameshwari. During the summer of '77, Dr. Lalmani Misra took the children around the country, performing and meeting academics and musicians. After his death in July 1979, Ragini continued her pursuit of music, getting B.H.U. gold medal in M.Mus. (1980) and completing D. Mus. under her guide, Dr. K. C. Gangrade in 1983. For some time she taught at Banaras Hindu University and after her marriage, joined Higher Education services in Madhya Pradesh, teaching in various colleges at Hoshangabad, Rewa and Indore.
Gopal Shankar served in the same faculty as his father at B.H.U. and was instrumental in carrying on the tradition of Vichitra Veena performance, Misrabani technique and academic pursuits. Losing both parents within two years, Ragini and brother Gopal drew strength from their inheritance of music practice and scholarship. Over the years, Ragini would visit Varanasi to learn with brother Gopal Shankar Misra. Through motivated self-learning, punctuated with these valuable inputs, she mastered the Misrabani technique.
Even though she played Jal Tarang in Yuva Vani on radio, the instrument Ragini first played on stage was Sitar. She was invited to present recital at Suprabha, an event organized under leadership of Pt. Kishan Maharaj. In 1982, she played at Arambh festival in Bhopal. Oriented by belief in sublimation of artiste in the Art, she spaced her recitals, performing selectively on stage, radio and television. Ragini played Sitar at Arambh in 1982, at Madhukali in 1986, 1994 and still five years later in 1999. December 2006 saw her perform Jal tarang at Prathama Festival hosted by Manav Sangrahalaya. Bharat Bhawan in collaboration with Madhukali, invited her in January 2013 to present Vichitra Veena recital. She played at Dr. Mallikarjun Mansur Memorial Festival in September 2013 enchanting Dharwad audience where Ghoshvati (Vichitra Veena) had never been heard before.