The Week, February 2010
The whole world is aware about the tragedies of the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic as several earthquakes struck in early January. Some reports have placed the official death toll from these earthquakes at over 70,000. People of Capital of Port-Au-Prince and Haitians and other citizens from around the world are working to rescue people trapped below the rubble of collapsed buildings. The death toll rises gradually as this process occurs.

I am very sad to see the sufferings of the people of Haiti. So many people have died and got injured as a result of the earthquake that occurred there recently. The survivors are suffering immensely. It is indeed a very sad tragedy. I pray that God gives all the affected peace and strength to bear the after-effects of this horrific disaster. I had to perform in Ahemadabad at the Saptal Festival on the next day of this tragedy. I played with a very heavy heart.

However, I was also happy to see that many of the children who became orphans in this disaster were warmly welcomed in the United States at orphanages and adoption centers. I pray that these children are able to restart the journey of their live in the new world.

I have experienced earthquakes upto 6.5 on the Richter scale in Dehradun and other part of the world. As a human being I feel proud to see the achievements of a mankind.

The whole world refers to the Earth as Mother Earth, especially in India where the Earth is called DHARTI MAA and BHARAT MAA. But yet very few people have given enough importance to find out why Mother Earth is facing challenges and suffering.

Why are we still not competent enough to store rain water? Why can’t we control the floods and draughts? We have to dedicate and commit ourselves to the environment and the future challenges of Global Warming. In spite of our great scientists and astrologers we are unable to control the natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis.

Since the last 30 years Ahmedabad has music festival from 1st to 13th January every year called Saptak. This year also all the greatest and the most talented young maestros gave their best performances, which included my sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, who performed on the 4th day of the festival. I was the concluding Artist on 13th January. There were people from all over the world (which includes great numbers of NRI’s). By the grace of God this year’s performance of mine became very memorable which went on till 2am. . There were many musicians in the auditorium. I remember going to Ahmedabad with my father in the year 1959.A Big music festival was held at the Town Hall. I hope all the old venues like Tagore Hall, Prema Bhai Hall, Town Hall etc are renovated. I also remember many memorable concerts held in the neighboring city of Baroda. I have been to many other cities of Gujarat including Navsari and Surat.

I left for Mumbai by Air India the following morning where there was a two-day music festival in the memory of Pt. C R Vyas. I rested for most of the day and just before leaving for the concert hall I wanted to change few strings of my Sarod. So I opened the Sarod Box. I was shocked by the sight of my broken musical instrument! I cannot explain in words how painful an experience I had. My heart was bleeding.

I called the organizers and shared the tragedy. It was my duty to share the tragedy with my audience as well who were waiting for my concert since long. I reached the venue. It was a packed hall at the Chembur Fine Arts Society. I showed my damaged Sarod to the audience and assured them a rescheduled concert the next day. They were kind and patient. They gave me standing ovation. I told them that Air India porters mishandled my beloved Sarod. In spite of hundreds of fragile tags all over the box, they did not take proper care!

Soon after I saw my damaged Sarod, I spoke to my wife and requested her to bring my other Sarod. I performed two concerts on other instrument, at the NCPA, and Jamshed Bhabha auditorium on the next two consecutive days. God was kind, my audience was gracious and they gave a standing ovation for both the concerts.

All over the world, the musical instruments and the fragile items are handled by special team of people and also they are delivered at a separate counter which is known as “over size baggage”. Only in our country heavy suitcases and all the fragile items come through the common conveyor belt. It is a criminal offence. I am grateful to the Aviation minister, Mr.Praful Patel for his call and the concern he showed. I also received a call from the Chairman, Air India, Mr.Jadhav.

I did not lodge any complaint or claimed the damages because Air India is our national carrier but in the future I expect that all the airlines, especially Air India’s porters, to have a human touch while handling fragile items, especially musical instruments. I also request them to be concerned and kind to musical instruments.