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Bismillah Khan to perform in Delhi

Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan will perform for the first time at India Gate.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 14:00 IST

Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan will perform for the first time at India Gate in July to pay tribute to the unsung war heroes and maintain peace and communal harmony in the country.

This was announced by "Bismillah: The Beginning," a movement lunched by New Delhi-based couple Neena Jha and Shivnath Jha to protect musicians, academicians and artists who have brought pride and laurels to the nation.

"It is my heartiest desire to render shehnai at the India Gate," a World War I monument in the heart of the Indian capital, Bismillah Khan said. The maestro played shehnai from the rampart of the Red Fort Aug 15, 1947.

Central Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal said of the event: "It's virtually a movement launched by a couple through a book for a noble cause."

The Jhas have brought a monograph on Bismillah Khan to extend financial support to the ailing maestro.

Conferred with all the four national awards - Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna - Bismillah Khan, who lives in a narrow lane of Sarai Harha in the temple town of Varanasi, had expressed his "last wish" to perform shehnai at Darbhanga in Bihar and India Gate in New Delhi on his 91st birthday.

Khan has spent a considerable period of his struggle in Darbhanga.

Neena Jha, who runs an all women magazine "The Indraprastha NCR", is a teacher in St. Thomas School at Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh), while her husband works with Sahara Time.

Expressing concern over the physical and financial condition of the maestro, Sibal said: "The entire world of the maestro is limited to a small room of 8x10 on the second floor of the house as his physical condition and old age don't allow him to move around without the support of the others.

"It is our responsibility to spread the message though out the world and popularize the monograph and the movement launched by the couple," Sibal said.

Around 30 percent of the earnings of the monograph would go to the Ustad for rest of the life, the Jhas said, adding they have also instituted two monthly scholarships of Rs.2,500 to promote shehnai in the country.

Bismillah Khan was born March 21, 1916 in a family of a professional shehnai players of a princely state Dumraon in Bihar.

He later shifted to his maternal uncle Ustad Ali Bux, an eminent shehnai player in Varanasi to learn shehnai. He started "riyaz" (practice) at the tender age of six.

The couple said: "Bismillah Khan failed to get him and his shehnai marketed like other musicians in the country. Simplicity in his demeanor could take him nowhere in rumbling of marketplace, throbbing with hundreds of thousands of auction and mega deal with each passing day, but not a pence for the genuine player of historical gallery. If an artist has suffered on account of his simple living and simple considerations, it has been none but Bismillah."