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Strings attached

india Updated: Oct 18, 2007 22:47 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Inspired by renowned singer Adnan Sami's dramatic weight loss, Election Commissioner Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi, too, shed a kilo in just two days. He has given his staff incentive to cook oil-free meals: the money saved due to low oil consumption would be added to their salaries. Consequently, they happily serve him steamed vegetables everyday, letting up on the desserts, cereals and pulses. While Quraishi is smug about his 'food formula', his friends are grumbling: no more mutton korma, sheermal or shahi tukra. Until Sami 'struck', Quraishi had been known for organising musical evenings with elaborate dinners.

In his youth, Quraishi had formed his own rock group, with a woman performer. She was later to become the rage called Sharon Prabhakar. Between reading detective novels and tuning instruments, Quraishi used to spend nights playing the harmonium when his father thought he was studying. He had the advantage of a room in a remote corner of the sprawling house. Hence, each morning when he descended for breakfast, he was pampered on the grounds that he was working "so very hard" for his exams.

Exam time was also when he actually strung together guitars. By the time his academic tenure ended, he had completed making five guitars from 'parts' bought from the kabadi bazaar in Delhi's walled city. Once, he even used a hookah pipe as the steel rod to avoid the guitar from warping. Of the five guitars, three are still with him. Of the other two, his brother broke one and a friend lost another.

As a teenager, he also 'made' radios, a skill he'd picked up during his lessons at Bal Bhawan. When he started teaching himself, he was not taken seriously until he bought a pair of what he calls "dummy glasses" (read: no power) to look "stern and strict". He took his role so seriously that he spent five days discussing the Battle of Panipat alone. When colleagues told him that it was more important to complete the course, he concluded that teaching was not worth it. "To me it was not a job but a passion," Quraishi says.

Once he qualified for the IAS and switched to a "job", he discovered that life could be fun. At the Academy, he was declared the entertainer, and also officially sanctioned Rs 1,500 to buy musical instruments. Had it not been for the fact that he grew up with the notion that music was un-Islamic, Quraishi would have perhaps become a singer. Since instrumental music was more acceptable, he took to it fervently. As for his religion, he does not fast during Ramzan since he is "medically forbidden" to remain hungry for long hours.