Bharat Ratna creates disharmony
between Ravi Shankar, Jasraj
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Bombay
"Pandit Ravi Shankar is a great musician and I respect him," said classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj. "But he should not have threatened to quit India because our country had not offered him anything."
Jasraj was referring to the statement made by Ravi Shankar some years ago that he was planning to settle abroad since he was not being given enough respect for his achievements in his home country.
Jasraj clarified that he has no personal enmity with Ravi Shankar; he only doubts the manner in which the sitar maestro got the Bharat Ratna.
"There were many contenders for the Bharat Ratna and they could have been given the award. I don't know why the Union government hit upon his name."
Asked whether he was unhappy that Ravi Shankar had got the award, Jasraj reiterated, "I have nothing against him. He is a great musician and bought fame to the country. But I feel the Union government should have seen his previous record when he made a statement against our country. After all, you can't give the Bharat Ratna to a man who has threatened to give up our country's citizenship, isn't it?"
He laughed off the accusation that he has raised the ruckus because he is jealous of Shankar's success, and said he had never been jealous of any musician, nor had he ever desired any laurels from the government.
"When M S Subbalakshmi, Carnatic vocalist, won the Bharat Ratna, I was overjoyed and went to meet her at 11pm. So why should I be jealous about anybody getting a Bharat Ratna?" he retorted.
Asked whether he had spoken to Ravi Shankar after making his controversial statement, Jasraj said, "I have not spoken to him, but I have nothing against him. I will speak to him when I meet him."
He also asserted that he sees no need to apologise to Ravi Shankar. "I have stated what I had to say. Now I can't go back on my words. I love my country. My country is like my mother and anyone who states that he will quit my country because he was not given due respect, I cannot tolerate such statements."
Asked when he first got the feeling that intense lobbying takes place in the selections of government awards, Jasraj retorted: "Tell me, where does lobbying not take place? Today, the posts of prime minister and top bureaucrats are decided by heavy lobbying. So how can anybody say lobbying does not take place in giving such awards?"
Meanwhile, Ravi Shankar expressed surprise at Jasraj's statement. He told Rediff On The NeT on telephone from his residence in New Delhi that he knew Jasraj since his boyhood in Calcutta. "In fact, I invited him to Benares to perform. So also at Los Angeles. So I am quite shocked," he said.
He denied having ever threatened to leave India because the government was not giving him due respect. "I love my country and have always look forward to staying in India even when I was abroad," he said.
His wife Sukanya clarified, "Panditji stays away from India because of his ill-health. He has had multiple heart surgery. So we have no option but to stay abroad. But we are building a place here for bringing up young musicians."
"Raviji is a true Indian and he is proud to be Indian," she added. "In fact, when he received the award he was so shocked he came to the puja room and cried."
Sukanya said Ravi Shankar was not one to bother about awards. "When I got married to him, I found that all his awards were lying with his friend. It was I who got these awards to our place."
Ravi Shankar refused to say whether he was contemplating legal action against Jasraj. Sukanya, however, said, "We believe and pray in God and we have nothing against anybody. So, there is no need for us to go to court."
EXTERNAL LINK: A brief biography of Ravi Shankar
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