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'His music broke the barriers of religion'

August 22, 2006 22:00 IST

"One rupee from a journalist is like Rs 1 lakh." That's what musical legend Ustad Bismillah Khan told a group of journalists when they presented him with a cheque for Rs 10,000 in 2003, when the maestro was going through a financial crisis.

Though for his stature the money given was nothing more than a pittance, senior journalist Kanhaiya Pandit says the legend accepted it with grace.

"He accepted the cheque with a broad smile as he sat on his bed," recollects Pandit.

"Ustadji had come to Delhi to participate in a function. We had gone to meet him in a hotel in Paharganj. It seems like ages. But it was a great moment for us as we spent over one hour with the great man. Such occasions come rarely in life," said Sitaram Tewari, another young journalist who was part of the team.

"What impressed us the most was the simplicity of the man and how he found a way to reach out. We never ever felt that he belonged to a different sect. His music had broken the barriers of religion and those who came to meet him bowed their head to the man who had taken the shehnai to great heights," Kanhaiya Pandit.

Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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