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'India at 60 a cherished moment'

He is one of the gems on the Indian cultural scene. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan gives his perspective on independent India.

art and culture Updated: Aug 16, 2007 16:57 IST

Stating that India's 60th independence anniversary was a cherished moment, Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan said that while the country was advancing in all fields, Indians seemed to be losing their identity.

"It is of great pride that we as a nation are growing economically, and Insha Allah will soon be a superpower. But amid all this, we are losing our identity. India is probably the only country where we greet our elders by touching their feet.

"We are a land where tradition and culture is respected. But somehow, while trying to ape the West blindly, we are forgetting ourselves and what we stand for," the Ustad told IANS, with a tinge of sadness in his voice.

Calling himself a humble representative of India's long legacy of culture and tradition, the Ustad praised his two sons, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, and said they had managed to strike a balance between tradition and a modern way of living.

Both Amaan and Ayaan are well known Sarod players like their father.

While talking about the honour bestowed upon him by asking him and his sons to perform at the 60th Independence Day celebrations at the Central Hall of Parliament, the Ustad said that the occasion would occupy a special place in his heart, forever.

"I am honoured to be a part of Independence Day celebrations. It is even more special to me because both my sons, Amaan and Ayaan, are a part of the performance on the historic occasion," the Ustad said.

Among the various songs the maestro and his sons play on their sarods is "Vaishnava Janato", Mahatma Gandhi's favourite bhajan.

"I am the first sarod player to have sung Gandhiji's favourite bhajan through my strings. About two years back, Ustad Bismillah Khan and I had a jugalbandi on the Shehnai and the Sarod on this very song. I have very special memories of that concert."

He described his recital in parliament as "cherished memory".

The Independence Day celebrations in parliament include lyricist Javed Akhtar and his wife and acclaimed actor Shabana Azmi reciting poetry and rendering of Hindustani classical music by the famed Pandit Jasraj.

In his message to the nation, Khan said it was very important that right values be inculcated in children in school. "And parents have a very important role to play in making their child who he or she becomes in the future.

"When I see so much hatred being spread by people who are well educated, I sometimes wonder that what is the purpose of education?"

Speaking in smooth and flowing Hindi, with a generous sprinkling of Urdu, the Ustad admitted that he didn't enjoy speaking in English.

"I can't express myself too well in English but have to speak to reach across to a wider audience. I prefer talking in Hindi," the Ustad smiled.

"Be proud to be an Indian and never shy away from your tradition and culture, be it in the way you speak, dress or think. Jai Hind!" he signed off.