The Week, November 2010
It was a great honour and pleasure for our entire family to recently meet the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr.Ban Ki Moon . We were pleasantly surprised to hear a line of Hindi language addressed towards my wife Subhalakshmi, ‘Namaste ji, Kya Haal Chal Hai (How are you?). I am told that Mr.Ban Ki Moon’s son-in-law is an Indian and also his advisor is our honoured Indian Diplomat, Mr.Nambiar.

Indeed it was a great honour to perform for the United Nations and its distinguished audience which included a large number of Ambassadors, top UN officials and Indians in the highest echelons of business and academia in New York. The Ambassador of Pakistan along with those of several neighboring countries attended the concert.

The iconic United Nations building in New York is the centre of much activity. It is used every day by the representatives of the 192 nations that are members of the United Nations. Diplomats from around the world meet here to carry on the business of international relations. They mediate between conflicting nations; they try and prevent conflicts and they attempt to create rules that will give people of the world their fundamental and human rights. Very occasionally, this building is also the venue of cultural functions. Some famous concerts have been held here in the past to promote noble causes and to further worthy objectives. Famous musicians from around the world have on these occasions been given the honour of performing in front of an audience that truly represents the world and the diversity of mankind.

Humanity has many races, many colours, many cultures, many beliefs and many ways of life. It is, however, united in its common desire to live in peace and harmony; in its common aspiration to strive for prosperity and knowledge; and in its common appreciation for beauty.

The United Nations is an institution that represents this endless striving of man for a better world. It is an institution born of the horrible suffering of the World Wars of the past century and the determination of those who lived through these terrible wars to ensure a better tomorrow. The blue flag of the United Nations carries these hopes and aspirations. It is a heavy burden, but it is burden that this institution and the sentiments that it represents has carried with remarkable success during the past six decades.

I was, therefore, very pleased when Hardeep Singh Puri, currently our Ambassador to the UN, and his wife Laxmi Puri, also a former Ambassador of India, during one of my recent trips to New York, developed the idea of a concert that would project India’s classical culture to a UN audience. I felt that this would be an excellent opportunity for us to pay homage to the victims of terrorism across the world and to draw the attention of the world to the unique Indian ethos of secularism and tolerance that has so many lessons for a world that is so divided. I along with Amaan and Ayaan accordingly played at the United Nations on September 9, 2010. The concert was entitled “An Ode to Peace.” Significantly, the concert, was held scheduled 2 days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Our concert was very well received and conveyed the message of love, peace and harmony in the world. The theme of the concert and its timing, in the prelude to the 9/11 anniversary, found particular resonance in the UN. The music that we chose to play were the favourite songs of our Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi – Vaishnav Janato and Ram Dhun followed by Tagore’s Ekla Cholore follwed bt a traditional night Raga.

By god’s grace, I was told by Mr.Anupam Ray, of the Indian Mission to the UN and his wife, Amit Goldberg Ray, that our music transcended time and space and projected India’s classical civilization and its many facets to this distinguished audience. Both the UN Secretary General and the Indian Ambassador spoke of the power of music to bring people together. Music is a part of the common heritage of mankind and is the only language that is understood by all.

Amjad Ali Khan