The Week, July 2012
I have felt the involvement of the people in selecting the future President of the United States of America, from the moment I arrived in the United States in 1963.

I have heard so many speeches of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on the TV, even before he became the President of the US. I have admired President Obama as an orator and a welcoming person. He genuinely believes in humanitarian service and tries to bring people together. His election in 2009 was a historic change for the country. The time in which he took over the Presidency was a difficult one for the US. The country was already struggling with the recession, war and excesses of the past.

The national problems that Obama took over were grave and require time to be bettered. Obama is a capable leader and with time he could better national problems even more. Thus, he should be given a second chance. It was my honour to meet Presidents Clinton and GW Bush when they visited India, during an official dinner given by the President of India. It’s a pity I could not meet with President Obama when he visited India. I am hoping to meet him in the US at an appropriate occasion.

It is a coincidence that India is also going through the process to elect a new President. I still remember the few months before Pratibha Patil Devi Singh became President and when she was the Governor of Rajasthan. At an open air concert at a park in Jaipur, Governor Pratibha Patil arrived on time to attend my concert. There were about five thousand people in the audience. Vasundhara Raje, the Chief Minister, had some important engagement at the last minute and was slightly late, and the organizers decided to start on time, because the Governor had been waiting for a long time. Time has flown so fast that I can hardly believe that it has almost been five years and her term as President is almost over.

I had the honor of meeting the first President of India, the Late Dr. Rajendra Prasad, in the year 1960, when my Guru and father, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan saheb, received the Padma Bhushan from him. After the President had retired and was living in Patna (Bihar), he requested me to perform for his family and friends. It was a great honor for me to perform for them, with Kishan Maharaj on tabla. I also remember meeting other Indian Presidents, while receiving various Padma awards from them. As a young boy, I remember seeing Dr. Rajendra Prasad honoring my Guru and father with the first Sangeet Natak Academy award and fellowship in the years 1952 and 1953, along with many great creative people, such as Vidwan Semmangudi Srinivas Aiyer, Prithvi Raj Kapur, Kesar Bai Kerkar, etc. Two other wonderful memories come to mind – the late President KR Narayanan visited my birthplace, Gwalior, and presented me with the “Sarod Samrat” award, on behalf of the people of Gwalior. President APJ Abdul Kalam also visited Gwalior and “Sarod Ghar” there. In addition to the Presidents mentioned above, I will always miss Dr. Radha Krishnan, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Mr. VV Giri, Dr. Sanjiva Reddy, Mr. Zail Singh, Mr. Venkataraman. My journey of growth and life is connected with every President or Prime Minister of India. I will remain indebted to them for their love and encouragement.

I have read the names of the contenders doing the rounds for the Indian Presidency. I am sure they are all deserving, especially the name of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. I am sure whoever is deserving, capable and good for our country, will be selected to lead our great nation. These are such historic times that in five thousand years, Egypt is having the first free election for a President. This is a victory for freedom in the world, and I hope it translates into future peace for all of us. I look forward to meeting the future Presidents of India and the USA, as well as the future Prime Ministers of India and future leaders of other countries. I hope they are all committed and dedicated to promoting world peace, which is most precious to each and every person in the world.