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Bismillah Khan's last wish was unfulfilled
Sharat Pradhan in Varanasi | August 21, 2006 19:26 IST
Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan might have had a very peaceful end, yet he was unhappy with some things which he shared only with a few.
The 91-year-old musical wizard had the rare distinction of being honoured with every prestigious national award in the country -- the Padma Shree, the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan as well as the highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. However, his last wish -- to play at the India Gate in New Delhi -- remained unfulfilled.
"Sadly, the green signal from the Union government came barely 18 hours before he met his end at the local Heritage Hospital in Varanasi," disclosed Syed Javed Ahmed, the maestro's personal secretary.
It was Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh who assured him on Sunday morning that he was free to play at the Indian Gate whenever he chose to. Arjun Singh had flown in from New Delhi to call on the hospitalised maestro.
Even though was semi�conscious, he made it a point to vent his cherished desire to Singh. "The HRD minister promptly told him that India Gate would be thrown open for his performance whenever he desired," Ahmed told rediff.com.
Yet another anguish that continued to haunt him was the indifference of successive governments to his request for allotment of a LPG agency. Bismillah Khan had in the past urged not only then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee but also then President K R Narayanan to get him a gas distributorship -- that could serve as a source of livelihood for his large joint family. He was surviving on the meagre royalty received from His Masters Voice, one of India's leading music companies.
Ahmed recalls how Bismillah Khan would often say, "Isn't it ironical that a gas agency can be released to any Tom, Dick or Harry on one recommendation from a Member of Parliament or even a legislator; but a similar request from an artist like me for none other than my own grandson carries no value."
The maestro, to whom music was so divine that he regarded it as another form of 'ibaadat' (prayer), was also sore with HMV. "For the past few years, HMV has been really lax about payment of my royalty," he had complained in an interview to this scribe sometime ago.
"I am old and in no position to run after them. My sons and grandsons have been running from pillar to post, but HMV management have shown utter disregard and indifference," moaned the master musician.