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Bismillah Khan gets 91kg cake on 91st b'day

Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan will be presented a 91 kg cake here on his 91st birthday Mar 21 by a young couple who say they want to focus attention on the government's apathy towards the musician who has been conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian honour.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2006 13:36 IST

A 91kg cake is the gift for shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan here on his 91st birthday Mar 21. The unique gift comes from a a young couple who say they want to focus attention on the government's apathy towards the musician who has been conferred the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian honour.

At a reception here on that day, Khan will release a monograph on himself authored by the journalist couple, Neena and Shivnath Jha, who will present the maestro Rs150,000 "to take care of him in the winter of his life".

"Ustadji hails from Bihar and so do we. Till date, neither the Bihar government nor the people of the state have organised any public felicitation to pay their tribute to the living legend for his contribution to Indian classical music," Neena Jha said of the celebrations.

"Bismillah Khan is a one-man army engaged in propagating and popularising the Shehnai globally. He had broken through the musical 'chakravyuh' (maze) through a life of dedication, sacrifice and tenacity.

This is the least we can do to highlight his work," Jha added of the celebrations.

Khan currently lives modestly in a small house on the banks of the Ganges river in Varanasi. Five years ago, the then government released a Rs.500,000 grant for him after a TV news channel revealed his plight but since then he has been forced to fend for himself.

The 200-page monograph is divided into 15 chapters and highlights the well-known and lesser-known facets of Khan's life, career and achievements.

"We have dealt with the subject in all its minutest details and within the broad aspects of Indian culture and tradition," Jha pointed out.

It also contains rare photographs of Khan, his birthplace of Dumraon in Bihar and of the river Ganges at Varanasi sourced from the maestro's personal collection.

An ornamental copy of the monograph had been sent to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Mar 21, 2005, on Khan's 90th birthday.

Jha runs an all-women magazine The Indraprastha, while her husband is a freelancer. The couple, who live in the satellite town of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, also run a school for children whose parents have criminal antecedents and who are thus marginalized from society.

First Published: Jan 18, 2006 13:36 IST