I found immediately the most important key to playing the thing has nothing to do with what frets to push, how to bend the strings, and what the scales are. Sitar is all about the strumming. A special wire wraps around the index finger. You have sit in an awkward cross legged fashion with bare feet so the body of the instrument is cradled in the arch of your foot and will not slip away. This in itself was pretty challenging for me. I guess I have even more reason to do yoga.
I practiced different styles of strumming. The upward strum hits the melody strings while downward motion hits the drone strings. The was the basic up down, the up down up up, the up down down down...
I figured the melody scale out pretty quickly and probably started annoying my teacher by thinking I was rocking out like Ravi Shankar a little too early. My instructor was also a Sitar maker and my impulsive nature had to be harnessed. There were moments I imagined myself wondering around Asia with my pack on my back a Sitar slung over my shoulder - whipping it out at the corner cafe or waiting at train stations. "I could never get a Sitar this cheap anywhere else!". Alas, I wised up, walked out, jumped in the freezing Ganga, and hopped on the bus to Haridwar.