More fragrant than jasmine
By Amjad Ali khan
Every human being’s first teacher is his mother. In fact, the first ‘music’ that a child hears is the mother’s voice. Have we ever thought about the great ladies who raised great artistes? The lives of these brave and timeless women are often a tale of struggle and evolution.
When I look back, I cannot remember a day when my mother was not there for me, watching me practise, play, eat. In whatever financial condition we were back then, life looked beautiful because of her unconditional love. I grew up and moved on, but she remained in the background with her blessings. My mother suffered a lot because of the big joint family of Abba Saheb in Gwalior. She had no say in most family matters and was not treated with love and respect by other members who lived with us.
Recently, I was saddened to hear that Ustad Alla Rakha Khan’s wife, Bawi Begum, who was affectionately called Ammaji, passed away in Mumbai. She was, perhaps, the last of the artistes’ wives who kept the house open for family and friends without, in today’s language, an appointment. With the erratic timings of the profession, such warmth and welcoming can be expected only from a person with unsurpassed love, affection and understanding.
I have had some of the most memorable evenings at Alla Rakha Khan saheb’s residence in Mumbai. It was always great interaction and great food. I pray to the Almighty that her soul rests in peace and the legacy of love and affection that she has left behind stays forever in their home. She blessed the music world with her jewels, Zakir Hussain, Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi.
I recall similar stories of the wives of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Enayet Khan. These ladies gave birth to the finest artistes who represented Indian classical music.
I hope all artistes and their wives give quality time to their children. Artistes need to travel constantly, but it is very important to strike the right balance between professional and family lives.
My wife, Subhalakshmi Khan, deserves the highest praise for handling my life the way she is doing it. She has been the best daughter to her parents, the best wife to me, the best daughter-in-law to my parents and the best mother to my sons, Ayaan and Amaan.
She is in charge of the museum Sarod Ghar and the Haafiz Ali Khan Awards. She has been dealing with art and artistes for years, and has completely dedicated herself to my family. She makes immense effort in maintaining the Ustad Haafiz Ali Memorial Trust.
Subhalakshmi began coordinating and managing my concerts soon after our marriage. Now this includes the management of Amaan’s and Ayaan’s concerts as well. She did not know how to cook at the time of our marriage, but today we all look forward to her cooking, as she has an exclusive touch in everything she cooks. She could not meet my father but has heard all the old stories of our family from my mother.
Only a mother can multi-task at all levels and still have the time to devote to and the love to share with the family. I don’t know how mothers do this, but they do! I have watched my mother and wife perform these roles with utmost devotion. I have forever felt blessed and remain grateful to be in the midst of such divine love. I remember a quotation by Sathya Sai Baba:
Sathya Sai Baba: More fragrant than the sweet-smelling flowers like the Jasmine and the Champak, Softer than the cheese and the butter, More beautiful than eye of the peacock, More pleasant than the moonlight, Is the love of the mother.
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