From Bihar to Punjab
I have been very fortunate to have received love in abundance from the people of Punjab and Bihar. Even though today their profile has become quite ‘Non Classical’, there was a time when both these states had a very musical profile. Back in the sixties, all the performing musicians and dancers of India use to be in Patna during the Durga Puja celebrations. I also have traveled to perform concerts all over Bihar including cities like Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Samastipur, Motihari, Chhapra, Aara, Katihar, Hajipur, Buxer, Darbhanga, Leheria Sarai, Munger, Ranchi (now Jharkhand) etc. I remember that once I was in Patna for a concert and a messenger came from Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the former first President of India. After his retirement Dr. Rajendra Prasad used to live in Patna at Hardinge Road. He invited me to perform in his house. Meeting him made me walk back memory lane when I first met the President in 1960 my father received the Padma Bhushan from Dr. Rajendra Prasad. I requested Pt. Kishan Maharaj to play tabla with me. When we reached at the residence of Rajendra Babu, he welcomed us most warmly and when we sat to perform, he said, ‘Beta Ab ham Rastrapati naheen rahe’ (Son, I am no more the President of India), I replied, ‘Asli Rashtrapati aap hi hain aur hamesh aap hi rahenge’ (You are the first and the real President of India). He along with his guests was very happy. He blessed and thanked us.

In those days we use to stay in a humble hotel of Patna called ‘Amar Hotel’. Many a times we heard speeches of Jai Prakash Narainji in the Patna maidan. I even found rickshaw cyclists so polite and often heard them say ‘Huzoor, Kahan Jaya Jayee?’(where would you like to go sir?) In Patna itself, every area had a puja pandal (what is this, explain as the common reader wont understand it). I still remember a few names. The most popular one was in the Patna junction organized by Bipin Bihari Sinha. These were in Govind Mitra Road, Gardari Baagh, Langar Toli, Danapur, Machua Toli, Patna Maidan and the last day in Bankipur club.

Once in the seventies, I was requested to coordinate a dance recital in Muzaffarpur by Smt. Hema Malini (who is a family friend today). It was the peak of her career. I am indebted to her mother and Hemaji that they had agreed and come. I still remember that evening, all of Bihar came to Muzaffarpur to see Hema Malini. Vilayat Khan Saheb, who also was performing there, and I got worried with the kind of crowd that gathered and we decided to stay back enjoy the hospitality our hosts.

Punjab too had its own glory. The Baba Harballabh Sangeet Samaroh was the oldest music festival held at Devi Talao every year in the last week of December in Jallundar. From my younger days, I had heard the popularity of this festival and would look forward for the invitation to perform there. The main person behind the music festival at that time was Mr. Ashwini Kumar, who was the SP Police at that time and later on achieved all the highest decorations. From being the DIG-IG, he went to finally becoming the President of Hockey Federation for the Olympics etc. I was finally invited by a great classical singer of Punjab Dilip Chandra Vedi, my father’s friend and colleague, to perform in Jalandhar. It was 1964; when I reached Jalandhar all the artists would stay at Hotel Raj Mahal. That was my first appearance in Punjab. I had two concerts at the festival, one at night and the other in the day time. I never saw the kind of musicians scheduled to perform that year ever again. I was the youngest artist. Others were Pt. Omkarnath Thakur, Narayan Rao Vyas, V.R.Patwardhan, Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saheb, Amir Khan Saheb, Salamat Ali, Nazakat Ali and Amanat Ali, Fateh Ali of Pakistan, Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Bismillah Khan, Kishan Maharaj, Shamta Prasad and Allah Rakha Khan. Prominent artists had to perform twice. I became the permanent musician to visit every year till the time terrorism started in Punjab.

After the Indo-Pak war in 1965, I was performing at night in Jalandhar and my concert was being broadcast live on All India Radio. An army General, who became very famous during the war walked in my concert and seeing him people started shouting ‘General Dhillon Zindabad’. It began softly and gradually became very loud. The General walked up to my stage and took the mike and addressed the audience in Punjabi, ‘Bhaion Beheno! ye ranchetra da maidan naheen hai, main itthe khan saheb da Sarod sunan aya see so please keep quite’ (This is not a war front, I am here to listen to Khan Saheb). I had stopped at this point but the General sat with me on the stage through the concert as I commenced. Amritsar also at the time had a Holi festival at Durgyana Mandir every year though not well. Today Chandigarh has of course become a very mainstream city. I have such beautiful memories of Chandigarh of my concerts held at Rock garden, PGI Hospital Hall and Tagore hall.From the list of all the musicians mentioned above, very few are alive today. I miss their presence at music festivals. I grew up listening to all of them. I spent such beautiful moments with all of them. I hope and pray for the long, healthy and peaceful life of the remaining few in this world.