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Five years after his death, shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan seems to have been forgotten in Varanasi. Just a handful of family members, Congress-supported MLA Ajai Rai and mayor Kaushalendra Singh were present to mark the 95th birth anniversary of Khan Sahib near his grave at Karballah-e-Fatimaan graveyard on Monday.
This was quite a contrast to the scene on August 21, 2006, the day Khan Sahib died. That day, a huge crowd, including union and state ministers, politicians and officials of all ilk had descended at the same graveyard to bid adieu to the legend.
On Monday, Khan Sahib's three sons Haji Mehtab Hussain Khan, Ustad Zamin Hussain Khan and Nazim Hussain Khan, besides the shehnai icon's eldest daughter Zarina Khatoon, led the family in observing the birth anniversary of their illustrious father.
Afaq Haidar, the maestro's grandson, said, "Barring Kolasala MLA Ajai Rai and Varanasi mayor Kaushalendra Singh, no other major public figure had the time to attend the 95th birth anniversary of Khan Sahib, who enraptured the entire world with his melody."
Ajai Rai has unfailingly attended both the birth and death anniversaries of Khan Sahib in the past, also at the same graveyard.
While mayor Kaushalendra Singh represented the city at the birth anniversary, neither local MP Dr Murli Manohar Joshi nor City South BJP MLA Shyamdeo Rai Chaudhury were present.
The others present included Dr Daya Shankar Mishra 'Dayalu' (Congress leader), S Javed (Khan Sahib's personal secretary and now a BSP leader), soccer coach Farman Haidar and municipal corporator Shambhunath Batul.
Also, none of the Varanasi officials, spanning from divisional commissioner AK Upadhyaya, DIG/SSP Lalji Shukla, district magistrate Ravindra, additional district magistrate (City) AK Rai or superintendent of police (City) Vijay Bhushan, besides any official from the state culture or tourism department were present at the spot.
The occasion saw the gathering offer rose petals as tributes at the grave of the music icon. Duakhwani and Qurankhwani were also observed to mark the occasion.