Fairytale Princess - January 2008
An artiste appreciates and values nothing more than recognition by ones fellow citizens. I feel a sense of great pride when my music is appreciated and have occasionally been surprised by an unexpected honour.

One such occasion happened during the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It must be said that Prince Charles is a keen listener of music and I have had the opportunity to play by my self and also with my sons, Amaan and Ayaan on numerous occasions both St. James Palace as well as at High Grove, his country home, where he has constructed a special concert hall for small, intimate gatherings. I must mention here that I feel amused when we have to mention in India itself to organisers that round tables at a concert is not very respectful, whereas, overseas it is always a theatre style seating even at private events as a respect to art and the artist.

During their visit to India in 1992, there were numerous functions all over the country in their honour but the dinner at the then Prime Minister Shri Narasimha Rao’s residence was very special because the number of invitees was only twenty. My wife, Subhalakshmi and I felt very honoured to be invited to this exclusive dinner with the royal couple.

The dinner was in the lawns, very beautifully arranged. I found that I had been seated at the main oval table with the guests of honour, in fact, directly opposite Princess Diana.

It was the month of February for there was a chill in the air. At a certain point, I realised that people were looking worried. I asked what the matter was and I was told that the princess was feeling cold and that they were looking for a shawl! Now, as we were leaving home, my wife had suggested that I carry a very antique Jamevar. For a moment I felt hesitant to offer the shawl, which was lying on my lap, to the Princess, But seeing her shivering, I got up and put it around her much to her relief.

During the dinner, the Prince Charles brought up the point of communal tension since at that time there were a few incidents reported from various parts of the country. “Why are Hindus and Muslims always fighting?” he asked, directing his question at the PM. Hearing the question I happened to turn towards Rao Saheb. Catching my eye, he deftly transferred the question to me saying, “Khan Saheb will answer your question.” I suddenly felt the attention of the table directed towards me. I turned to Prince Charles and said, “Your Highness, this is not a problem of Hindus and Muslims but a problem of militants and destructive terrorists which exist in every religion and in every country.”

Then I turned my face from the political discussion and carried on the conversation with Princess Diana. She was looking so beautiful and graceful in the shawl, which though was a men’s piece, seemed to complement her tall, elegant figure.

When the royal couple was getting ready to leave, the Princess was looking for me to return the shawl. I told her, “Please keep it as a gift from us.” While she was hesitating, I added “Please do accept it”. Meanwhile, another gentleman stepped forward offering his jacket instead. At that the Princess said that she preferred the shawl and wrapped it around herself again.

The next day, Lady Fenn (the British High Commissioner’s wife) called up to find out whether we wanted the shawl back. Subhalakshmi declined saying, “We Indians mean every word especially when we present a gift. It is a humble token of our love and admiration to the Princess”

My wife and I will always the memory of having met Princess Diana in her prime and who was in every way a fairy tale princess, and despite the controversies that followed, received the affection and attention of the whole world.