The Week, May 2014
I was invited by the then Prime Minister Mr. P.V. Narsimha Rao for a dinner at his residence when Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana visited India in 1992. The Prime Ministerhonoured me greatly by not only seating me on the same table as the royal couple, but also ensuring that I was directly facing Princess Diana. During dinner, Prince Charles asked the Prime Minister why Muslims and Hindus are always fighting in India. Everybody looked at Mr.Narsimha Rao to hear the answer. To my utmost surprise the Prime Minister looked at me and said ‘Khan Saheb will answer’. I promptly said to His Highness that ‘it’s not the problem of peace loving Hindus and Muslims. It’s the problem of extremists and militants’. Radicals, extremists and militants exist in every religion and country. Such elements capitalize on extremism for personal gains consequently hindering national unity and development. However, music and other forms of creativity can bridge the faultiness and differences created by such effects, among the people. Infact, while honouring legendary the singer Fareeda Khanum of Pakistan with the Haafiz Ali Khan Award (An award instituted in my father’s name since 1985) in Gwalior, I mentioned ‘Zameen ka batwara hota aaya hai lekin Swar ka batwara naheen hosakta’.

I have great regard for our current Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and his humanistic capabilities. I hear people talking that he gave his best as our Finance Minister. He brought in the economic liberalization that we are enjoying even now. It is important to have a government that comprises of well-meaning and well-qualified politicians to bridge the differences created in the national fabric by the above mentioned trends and really take the country forward. To this effect, people simply just becoming politicians may just not do not because they don’t mean well or dont have the capability. It is simply because effective running a government requires training. For instance, one won’t ask an artist to run a multinational corporation. The artist will fail in this task not because he didn’t want to succeed, but because he is not qualified to do so. There was a time when creative artists were honouredby the Government by making them Members of Rajya Sabha without any political expectation. Now days, every Rajya Sabha member is branded with A B or C political parties. I have been watching Artists as ministers and members of Lok Sabha, some more active and some rarely attending Rajya Sabha. My Guru and father often said Ek Saadhe SabSadhe Sab Sadhe Sab Jai the English counterpart being Jack of All trades, Master of None! I only hope that the people of India choose the right party and Prime Minister to govern our country. We need to honour each person for their creative and professional skill in the area in which they participate. Mixing these up could cause national inefficiency at a time when we need to take our country forward. I hope India votes wisely!

It is also important that political and cultural progress go hand in hand. Our ex-Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi realized this. He established the Zonal Cultural Center and dedicated it to the development of arts and culture. However, gauging by the results of this Center in the last thirty years, it can be said that this establishment hasn’t lived up to its expectations. I would be happy to spear-head this committee to help it achieve its original objectives and to develop it further. My inspiration to this effect would come from my music and many other creative personalities,sportmen, and scientists who have/are contributing immensely to our national growth. I was very honoured to have performed in 1999 in Mumbai for Sankara Nethralaya, the legendary charitable not-for-profit eye hospital in Chennai for the great Dr. SengameduSrinivasa Badrinath. I am very happy to perform this month for the Centenary Celebrations of the Shroff Eye Centre. The Shroffs have been pioneers in the field of professional eye care in northern India for four generations. They laid the foundation for the humane family traditions of eye care. They provide for patients from all walks of life, including the weaker sections of society, with the best possible eye care using the latest technology and equipments. As artists, we feel humbled to come for causes like these.

-Amjad Ali Khan

music@sarod.com