More fragrant than jasmine

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.

The Week Reference

Spiritual Inspiration: God and I by Sapna Mukherjee

Sapna Mukherjee

Sapna Mukherjee


Spiritual Inspiration: God and I by Sapna Mukherjee
By Sapna Mukherjee

I am a staunch devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. Ever since I was a small girl, I remember I would sing bhajan s in front of him in Delhi. I feel I was born to sing for him and that’s why sometimes the people who I work with, my family and friends, tease me about my devotion for him. They think I am completely mad. They even call me “Kalyug ki Meera”.

I personally believe that whatever has happened in my life is largely because of God and destiny. Main do kadam bhi unke bina chal nahin sakti. That’s why there is a little mandir which goes with me everywhere I go. I constantly feel His presence in my life. Everything that happens in my life, in my career is all because He wants it to be that way.

I remember there was a phase some time in 1995 when songs were written that had double meaning. I couldn’t bring myself to sing such songs. In fact, all through my career I have never compromised on anything.

Ever since I came to Mumbai to be part of Kalyanji-Anandji’s group, who were instrumental in me getting my first break – an opportunity to sing for Feroz Khan’s Jaanbaaz , I have always lived one dream. My mother wanted to be a singer but she could not because in those days, it was not considered right to be a professional singer. She wanted me to fulfill her dream and I have single-mindedly focused on that.

You know how difficult it can be for a young, single girl to survive in this industry, what with everybody expecting you to compromise on something or the other, but I’m glad I stuck to my principles and moved on.

I may have lost out on many films but whatever I have got is Baba’s blessings or every song I sang would not have been a hit in its own right. I feel that it’s Baba who has charted the course of my career and of course Kalyanji- Anandji and Feroz Khan who consider me as part of their family.

I was going through depression when I couldn’t see myself singing double meaning songs and that’s when I decided to give up my career. I had almost decided to give up playback singing totally and concentrate on bhajans.

But again I think it was Sathya Sai Baba’s wish that I met Sir or Sahara Shri Subroto Roy. I had sung a jingle for the Sahara group, which Sir had liked and it was him who said that I shouldn’t leave the industry, which had given me everything I have today. That’s when he asked me to be part of the Sahara Parivaar. He told me to sing for any producer, for any channel, for anything as long as I was happy doing it and committed to doing it.

Sometimes, I feel it is Sathya Sai Baba who has come into my life in the form of Sir. He’s my guide, my friend and my mentor. Today I feel grateful to God for everything he’s given me. Money has never driven me. My work has. Soon, I will be releasing an album which is produced by Sahara and has music by Raju Singh. It was Sir’s idea that I break away from my image of singing only racy numbers and sing some sensitive songs. It’s shaping up well but ultimately it will be Baba who will decide its fate and I will have to accept it.

Experience Festival Reference