goonj uthi shehenaai

Just heard on the news that Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahab is no more.
Personally to me it didn’t make much of a dent because to me the shehenaai was the symbol of the sob moment in Hindi films.
But the actual impact hit me when I saw the look on my parents’ faces. They are not of his (Khan Sahab) generation but they have grown up in times when the classical players ruled the music scene of the country and with the number of people playing the shehenaai declining sharply, his death has truly signalled the end of an era.

I remember once my dad had come home from some tour and he was telling us how he’d met Khan Sahab at the airport and how humble he was. Stalwarts and doyen apart, he was the only one of his kind to be playing the shehenaai with that kind of skill anywhere in the world.
There was an article on him many years ago, about how he was living in penury and how patrons were no longer a fad that the country could afford to keep; so Khan Sahab had to fall back on government grants. The kind that the Indian government is famous for being late lateef about.

The only raag that I remember I would willingly listen to played on the shehenaai is malkauns. There is something in the sounds of the shehenaai that can render the raag haunting and with a character that is so enmeshed with Indian traditions and customs.
In a while my mother’ll get the records of Khan Sahab’s and play them, the sounds of the shehenaai wafting up the steps..
It’s kind of weird to see but my parents are in mourning of sorts. 
Maybe it was the power of the man, the music and the talent which made them one…


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