Sarod exponent Ustad Amjad Ali Khan has released his first book titled "My Father, Our Fraternity" where he talks about memories of his father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan. TWF correspondent Sreya Basu in conversation with the maestro in Mumbai
Can you tell us more about the book - My Father, Our Fraternity?
The book is an intensely personal memoir which brings alive the rich classical music tradition from the early twentieth century to the present. This is not entirely an autobiography. It centers on my father and guru Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan and of course my journey as well. It does talk about the man, the music and the father he was. It also speaks about that entire musical era and covers many parts of my musical journey along with my reminiscences and interactions with my contemporaries. Personal and professional experiences that have been an integral part of my journey are intertwined in this book.
What inspired you to come up with this book?
This year marks the 40th death anniversary of my father. It took me three years to write the book. Ten years ago (in 2002) my sons Amaan and Ayaan wrote a book on me (Abba - God´s Greatest Gift to Us). It gave me a lot of inspiration and I could complete this book because I got the support of my entire family - my wife Subhalakshmi, Amaan, Ayaan and everybody - especially my younger son Ayaan has contributed a lot towards completion of this book.
Tell us something about your childhood days.
As I was growing up, I could see a shadow of sadness on my father's face. I had elder brothers who used to play sarod and also did concerts with my father. But my father was upset that his elder sons did not take the responsibility to carry forward our musical legacy. I guess he was waiting for that unexpected child and since childhood everyone used to pressurize me ke aab tumhei karna hai, tumhei dekhna hai, tumhi zimmedar ho. So everybody made me a buzurg (mature adult) since I was a child and hence I could not enjoy my childhood. I could never taste the freedom of being a child.
Can you remember one memory of your father where he astounded you?
When my father was being conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1960, he took me to the Rashtrapati Bhavan (in New Delhi) with him. It was the first time I got to see so many prominent personalities like Nehruji(Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India), Dr Rajendra Prasad (first President of India) and Dr Radhakrishnan (Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, first Vice President of India). Nehruji had a great sense of humour and when my father was introducing me to him, he said: 'Khansaab hope you are not hiding any guru mantra from him.' To which, my father said: 'No, I am giving everything to him.' After sometime Dr Rajendra Prasad came and asked him: 'Khansaab, what can I do for you? Are you all right?' My father said: By grace of God, I am alright but please save Raag Darbari Kanada. Iski purity khatam ho rahi hai. People are taking too much liberty with it.'
What was Rajendra Prasad's reaction?
Rajendra Prasad was taken aback and I was feeling very embarrassed that what he is talking about and that he should have asked for house, car or something else. Rajendra Prasad told my father that he did not get what he was talking about. My father said: 'Raag Darbari Kanada was created by Mia Tansen (prominent Hindustani classical music composer and musician). But now-a-days singers and musicians take too much liberty which is polluting it and killing its sanctity. So since you are the President of India, you must do something about it.'
What exactly did he want Rajendra Prasad to do?
He wanted assurances that next day a resolution should be passed in the Parliament where people will be asked to follow a set of rules for singing or playing the Raag. Rajendra Prasad said he will do that and asked if he could do anything else for him. My father said it was time for his namaaz and he walked away. He didn't even know that as per the protocol one should not leave before the President. When he returned home, like a child, he told my mother (Rahat Jahan): 'Rajendra has assured that Darbari theek rahegi.'
Did you speak to your father about his interaction with Rajendra Pradsad?
Yes, I wanted to ask him why he was speaking like that, but didn't have the courage to do so.
What was your relationship with your father like?
My relationship with him was that of guru-shishya (teacher-disciple). If he felt like, he could show his love for me, but I could not do the same because of lihaaz (respect) , tehzeeb (humbleness) and adab(etiquette).
Is your equation with your sons like that of you and your father?
Amaan and Ayaan are the gifts of God in my life. Whatever I am today, I am able to face the world because of Amaan, Ayaan and Subhalakshmi.
What is classical music to you?
Classical music to us is like the sun and all the genres present in the world are like the rays of the sun which keep coming and going. In our kind of life, that of traditional musicians, we always want the eternal shadow of the guru and the father. Our wealth is music and culture.