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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Readers Write Index


In Memory of Ustad Bismillah Khan

by Madani Mohiuddin Ahmad
Riyadh, KSA

Aug 21, 2006

Readers Write


Inna Lilah-e wa Inna alaih-e Raje-oon (Allah has sent us here and we all shall return to Thee).

We all will be taken away by the cold hand of death. It's an absolute truth. Still, someone's death is unbelievable. And it is Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan. I still remember his interview with a foreign TV journalist. An excerpt of the conversation is as follows:

TV Journalist: Khan Saheb, the US government will be happy to settle you, anywhere in the State... with all luxary of your choice... what you wish will be brought to you.

Bismillah Khan: Can your government bring the Ganges from Banaras? (Bismillah Saheb used the word "Banaras" as a metaphor meaning readymade natural juice/divine one).

THIS was the insight of Ustad's Indian-ness; a devout follower of Indian culture and civilisation, a semblance of binding force of Hindu-Muslim unity. His service to the nation through Indian classical music will always remind of the countrymen, his immortal ragas infused with rhythmical intuition will always echo in the minds and hearts of millions. His is all that will never end. He is a living gem/Ratna of Bharat.


Dear Mr. Madani Mohiuddin Ahmad, let God take what He has given us and let us in all circumstances praise His great name. Imagine the torture that birth would be if there were no deaths! The true value and greatness of a man is recognized after his departure from this wicked world of ours. - Omar Luther King - Aug. 21, 2006

Generations of sweetness that flowed through his Shehnai suddenly seems lost. I feel left alone and lost in a dark room with no sound at all, not even the sound of my own breathing.

His last words to me some months ago "Aap fikr na keren Janab, Inshallah agar tabyat nein saath diya toh hum aap ke liye Bambai mein zaroor bajayeinge".

For years I've been listening to him religiously every night before sleeping or else I could never sleep. Be it Raag Madhuvanti, Tilak Kamod or any of his Kajri's, every note he ever played was magical. His music touched the chords of the deepest part of one's heart and one would instantly feel a sense of peace.

Khan Sahab's departure leaves a hole in my heart and a vacuum in my life. I so needed him to play here in Mumbai for my wedding next year. I believe some wishes left unfulfilled last a lifetime and chase you till heaven, maybe mine will.

The whole nation mourns the absence of its finest legend. No sound can ever replace his sweet music. - Fahad Khalil Pathan, Mumbai - Aug. 22, 2006

He came into this world in a less than a well to do family, just like an average child born in Bihar. He was not particularly beautiful, but to his parents he was a gift from God and they named him accordingly - Bismillah!

Bismillah Khan grew up and learnt to play the one instrument whose beautiful sounds could easily evoke both the pathos of grieving and the momentous joy of weddings - The Shahnai.

The Persians found the Shahnai in Hindustan and honored it by calling it the King of their own instrument the 'ney', a flute like instrument that is played in Persia till this day. So the Shah-ney over the centuries came to be known as the Shahnai.

After reaching great heights, the great maestro Bismillah Khan bowed out of the mehfil of life. While I pay this tribute to him, it pains me to say that of late the Indian youths have become so mesmerized by the galactic tones of the Synthesizers and the discordant music of the composers who promote their insipid fare by propping it by things like hair braids or their whacky appearances.

Bismillah Khan has moved on. He had lost his patrons. The plaintive notes of his Shahnai had ardent fans who were ageing. Many young people did not even know him. In fact, many Indians today can not tell the difference between a Santoor and a Sarod. It can not be denied that we, as a society, did not compensate him adequately for what he gave us.

Today Hindustan mourns a man who came into this world empty handed and left empty handed. He picked up the Shahnai while he lived and left his legacy like few do... in his melodious music and this mastery of a complex art form that many of us will hopefully begin to appreciate - now that this maestro of Hindustani Classical music has taken the bow, and left the stage. - Aarcee - Aug. 22, 2006

Good things always remain and the receptive minds preserve them for generation to come. Perhaps, every thinking person keeps a notion of this sort and moves forward towards a singular purpose. What wakes up to realize is: live in the unity of pathos.

I find Omar Luther King Saheb's comment and others very enlightening. It shows that good works don't die because we remember them in one sense or the other. A very long or short gap between life and death decides the meaning of human life.

Let Bismillah Saheb live in our heart. It means 'begin in the name of Allah' where life gets its meaning. - Madani Mohiuddin Ahmad, Riyadh , KSA - Aug. 22, 2006

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