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Monograph on Bismillah Khan hits stands

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Sep 17 (UNI) The first-ever autographed monograph on Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan hit the stands in the country and abroad today, coinciding with his 'chaliswan' -- the 40th and final day of funerary rites.

The Variety Book Depot, a Delhi-based distributor, has been authorised to make available the monograph available to music lovers in the country and abroad.

The proceeds of the sale will go towards renovating the ancestral house of Bismillah Khan in Dumraon, Bihar, providing education to his grandchildren and extending financial support to other artists in need.

Two scholarships worth Rs 2500 per month will also be instituted to promote shehnai all over the country.

The foreword to the monograph has been written by Hindustani vocalist Rita Ganguli, who has made news for her debut in Pradip Sarkar's much-acclaimed Bollywood film 'Parineeta'.

''It is quite an inspiring and amazing tale filled with strife, struggle and success. I am pleased by his spirit, passion and honesty. I am really proud to be a part of this book,'' she writes in her forweword.

''He has inspired me a lot as a musician, and I believe that his journey from obscurity to becoming an enduring icon wil continue to inspire generations to come,'' Prof. Ganguly writes.

The book has been dedicated to Sanjeev Sinha (Indian Express), Anju Sharma (Hindustan Times) and Ranjan Jha (Aaj Tak), who perished in a plane crash with Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia on September 30, 2001.

The Ustad was not only thrilled to see the monograph brought out by a Delhi-based journalist couple but also readily appended his signature after writing the first few words with which the Koran begins: ''Alham-Do-Lillah'' (God be praised) -- Bismillah Khan.

The monograph contains rare photographs on Bismillah Khan's life by Patna-based photo-journalist Alok Jain.

The Ustad had released this monograph on his 91st birthday in March this year.

Three years ago, Neena and Shivnath Jha got a shock of their life when their hunt for the house of Ustad Bismillah Khan in Benaras led them to a filth-strewn, stinking alley of Sarai Harha, off Benia Bagh.

''The house of Ustadji was equally non-descript, overcrowded and dilapidated. Though a stone slab at the entrance of the narrow alley boasted it as 'Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan Marg', it seemed to be braving neglect of ages.

''An ailing Bismillah Khan lived inside one of the many houses lining it on both sides, cursing his fate since the good old days that many a connoisseur of his art had suddenly flown leaving him and his large family to fend for themselves,'' points out the couple, who has brought out the monograph.

A few months before their visit, the Ustad had made a public appeal for help after he had fallen on bad days because of his failing health and old age. ''He used to say that kings, princes and nawabs of yore that supported art and artistes had all vanished at a time when he needed help to meet the cost of his treatment and other needs.'' Aware of his plight, the government invited him for a rendition before MPs and some select invitees at the Parliament Annexe. After this, Khan Sahib never made any appeal for help.

It was quite shocking in a sense as the maestro had to virtually give a charity show for his own benefits.

It was this appalling condition of Bismillah Khan that made the couple do something for him. They visited his place in Benaras where the Ustad spoke to them at length.

A winner of all the top civilian awards in the country, including Bharat Ratna, the maestro gave his mellifluous renditions in Afganistan, Iran, Iraq, the US, former USSR, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and almost every capital city across the world.

In Khan Sahib's words, music was an ocean and he had barely reached its shores even after 91 years.

UNI/SKS PK HT1207

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