Pandit Ravi Shankar : The Sitar Silenced

English: Master of Sitar, Ravi Shankar. Deutsc...

Pandit Ravi Shankar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           DECEMBER 14 , 2012           11.55 P.M.

Pandit Ravi Shankar , the Sitar maestro and the unofficial ambassador of Indian Classical music , died on December 11 , 2012 in San Diego , California , United States of America at the age of 92 .

I am fortunate that I could attend one of his concerts in Allahabad . My Allahabad days are very important for me because they shaped my life and personality immensely . I could meet literary figures like Firaq Gorakhpuri , Sumitra Nandan Pant , Vijay Dev Narayan Sahi and Amrit Rai . I could interact with politicians like Murli Manihar Joshi , who was a professor in the university in those days . I could attend the concerts of various musicians like ; Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad  Alla Rakha Khan and some others .

The year was 1971 / 72 . One evening I was sitting in my room in Sir Ganga Nath Jha Hostel and was studying . My friend Pramod Vajpayee came running and informed me that Pandit Ravi Shankar along with Ustad Allarakha Khan is going to perform in Lakshmi Talkies . Lakshmi Talkies in Katara area of Allahabad was stones throw away from Sir Ganga Nath Jha Hostel . In those days it was our favourite hang out . I don’t know whether it still exists or not . But in those days it was almost a part of our lives .

I refused to believe that a musician of the stature of Pandit Ravi Shankar would be performing live in a small cinema hall like Lakshmi Talkies . But my friend’s excitement forced me to believe that it is really going to happen .

I rushed , almost sprinting , to the talkies along with my friend , bought the ticket and entered into the hall panting for breath and took my seat . I waited with bated breath . After some time hall was reverberating with deafening sound of claps and whistles . Pandit Ravi Shankar along with Ustad Allarakha Khan appeared on stage . He gently took his seat and started playing Sitar . Ustad Allarakha Khan was accompanying him on Tabla .

Ah ! I remember only this much . I am just a connoisseur and not an authority of Indian classical music . So I can’t write about the ragas or other nuances of that concert . But I can still remember the moment when time froze . My body became numb and nothing seemed to exist . There were two magical figures on the stage and the hall was full of etherial sound . I am unable to explain that moment .

I cherished that moment till now . That experience has become a part of my being . On December 11th , when I read about his death , it dawned on me that I won’t be able to see him ever . That fateful evening in Allahabad’s Lakshmi Talkies was my first and now the last occasion when I was so close to the colossus legend .

God ! I can live with pride that I could see the Tansen of my generation performing live in front of my eyes . Pandit Ravi Shankar is gone but my experience of attending his concert will live with me till my last breath .

All the news papers are full of the minutest details of his life . So there are no need to reproduce them . Today I just remembered the early days of Pandit Ravi Shankar . I was telling my acting students how Pandit ji was vehemently criticized by his peers and competitors . A puritan like Ustad Vilayat Khan , a life – long bete noir of Pandit Ravi Shankar , left no stone unturned to decry Pandit ji . According to him , Pandit Ravi Shankar was a fake wannabe Sitar player .Ustad Vilayat Khan’s rivalry turned into open animosity with the passage of time . He refused to accept Padma Shri in 1964 , Padma Bhushan in 1968 and Padma Vibhushan in 2000 because Pandit Ravi Shankar was conferred Padma Bhushan in 1967 , Padma Vibhushan in 1981 and finally Bharat Ratna in 1999 , and according to Ustad Vilayat Khan he would not accept any award that other Sitar players , his juniors and in his opinion less deserving , had been given before him . He even said , ” if there is any award for Sitar in India , I must get it first . ” He also refused Sangeet Natak Akademy Award and even boycotted All India Radio for a while . It is alleged that it all happened because of his jealousy and animosity for Pandit Ravi Shankar . And the end result was that Pandit Ravi Shankar got international fame and ultimately the Bharat Ratna . While Ustad Vilayat Khan had some decrepit awards called ; Bharat Sitar Samrat and Aftab – E – Sitar .

I told acting students of my acting institute , Vidur’s Kreating Charakters , that in the beginning of one’s life’s journey one can be called a fake , a wannabe , a cheat or a person of lesser knowledge by his jealous and less successful competitors . One should not get disheartened or affected . Time settles everything . Time has given a final and decisive verdict in the case of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan . It will and it can happen to any one . Only time can tell . Only time will decide .


I bow my head in reverence and pay my respect to the Tansen of my generation . With the demise of Pandit Ravi Shankar , Sitar will never be the same again . The world of music is orphaned .



Al – Vidaa Shahryar Saheb !

Shahryar Taking Jnanpith Award from Amitabh Bachchan

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           FEBRUARY 18 , 2012           01.45 A.M.

A renowned poet of Urdu language , Shahryar a.k.a. Akhlaq Mohammad Khan , who also won Jnanpith Award in 2008 for his contribution to Urdu literature , died on February 13 , 2012 in Aligarh , Uttar Pradesh . He was suffering from lung cancer . He was the 4th Urdu writer to win prestigious Jnanpith Award .

Born in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh on June 16 , 1936 , he went to Aligarh Muslim University for higher education and later on became a lecturer of Urdu Literature in the same university and retired as Head of Department of Urdu Literature . He was co – editor of  ” Sher O Hikmat ” , a literary magazine .

Bab-e-syed, the gateway to AMU

Gate of Aligarh Muslim University

He , apart from writing ghazals and nazms , also wrote lyrics for highly successful films like ;  ” Gaman ” [ 1978 ] , ” Umrrao Jaan ” [ 1981 ] and ” Anjuman ” [ 1986 ] , all directed by Muzaffar Ali .

Who can forget ghazal of  ” Gaman “  ” Seene me jalan , saanson men toofan sa kyon hai ; Is shaher me har shakhs pareshan sa kyon hai ……

Or these immortal ghazals of ” Umrao Jaan ”  :

In aankhon ki masti ke mastane hazaron hain …… or

Dil cheez kya hai aap meri jaan leejiye ; bas ek baar mera kaha …….. …or

Jab bhi milti hai mujhe ajnabi lagti kyon hai ……… or

Ye kya jagah hai dosto ; ye kaun sa dayar hai …….. or

Zindagi jab bhi teri bazm me laati hai hamen ……..

Lyrics of ” Umrao Jaan “ are immortal and they are still popular among the connoisseurs of Hindi film music and ghazal lovers of this country and Urdu speaking diaspora .

He got Sahitya Akademy Award in Urdu for his poetry in 1987 . Later on in 2008 , he got prestigious Jnanpith Award . As stated earlier , he was the 4th Urdu writer to get Jnanpith Award . Firaq Gorakhpuri was the 1st to get this award in 1969 . Qurratulain Hyder was the 2nd and got the award in 1989  . Ali Sardar Jafri was the 3rd , who got Jnanpith in 1997 .

Firaq Gorakhpuri

Firaq Gorakhpuri


Qurratulain Hyder

Ali Sardar Jafri (1913-2000)

Ali Sardar Jafri

Some famous books of Urdu poetry written by Akhlaq Mohammed Khan alias Shahryar :

1 – Ism – E – Azam [ 1965 ]

2 – Satvan Dar [ 1969 ]

3 – Hijr Ke Mausam [ 1978 ]

4 – Khwab Ke Dar Band Hain [ 1987 ]

He got Sahitya Akademy Award in 1987 for his book ” Khwab Ke Dar Band Hain ” .

With his death the last doyen of Urdu literature , the last titan of modern Urdu ghazal is gone . World of Urdu poetry will never be the same again .





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