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Thadhiginathom - Part 18
- Zakir Hussain
English translation: Dushy Gnanapragasam

July 28, 2020

(Reproduced with permission)

Gather the clouds to soothe the face

Travels are the educators that teach you of life. They are the keys to opening sublime secrets that no others can comprehend. An individual's travels are the continuous gathering of experiences seen through innumerous perspectives. Some travels may bring unwanted and unsavory experiences. When you reminisce over them, they make you wonder if that really did happen. Those who are blessed with the experiences of travelling without their life being anchored in one place, are the romantics who are enamored with this earth. No matter how many angles you can shoot a photograph from, it will never match the excitement of experiencing it in person. The modes of transportation may vary as in by foot, by car, by bus, by train, or by flight. But the experiences do not diminish. I can produce an entire book if I were to gather in writing my experiences of travelling to Europe and North America by myself. Those experiences had so many surprises and twists. Though some of them scared me and others bored me at the time, they still make me long for them today. Some spend the entire journey sleeping or playing on their cell phone. Instead, look intently at those around you. A deep trove of experiences will be awaiting you.

"Zakir, we're going to North India for programs. You do know, don't you?" Chitra akka asked me. I nodded.
"You're coming along this time."

I was smitten by excitement as soon as she said it. That trip was to include six separate shows. I reserved seats for the orchestra as well as myself. As there was no other preparation to be made, I packed the things I needed in the small suitcase Visweswaran athimber gave me. We reached Mumbai by train and Pune by car from there. They organized a grand festival for Vinayagar Chaturthi every year. Many world-renowned artists would perform there for ten days. Hundreds of thousands of people would gather. Chitra akka's dance was also included in the program that year.

Ustad Alla Rakha Khan & Ustad Zakir Hussain

Fazal Qureshi & Ustad Zakir Hussain

They had arranged high end hotels for our stay. The day before Chitra akka's event, Bharat Ratna recipient Lata Mangeshkar's event took place. We heard there were more than a hundred thousand people at that event. They organized for Chitra akka's solo event for an hour and a half followed by the tabla recital of Ustad Alla Rakha Khan and his sons Ustad Zakir Hussain, Taufiq Qureshi, and Fazal Qureshi. I was excited at the thought that I was going to see Ustad Zakir Hussain in person. He was the 'star' of dreams for many young artistes. From young girls and older people, many were his ardent fans. Those who came to see him outnumbered those who came to listen to him play. No other male artist would ever again be blessed with his flowing curly hair, his ever-smiling face, and his kind and cultured talk. An immense sense of rhythm was an additional qualification for him. Once when he performed at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall, all 2,630 of its seats were sold out. I was lucky to get a seat from a cancellation and was able to go see him. Many foreigners who are well versed in music are devoted fans of his tabla. To put it succinctly, Ustad Zakir Hussain is the Hrithik Roshan of the music world. Of the three brothers, Fazal Qureshi had travelled to Madras in 1993 to attend my arangetram.

When Chitra akka and Visweswaran athimber prepare for a show, they will need assistance. They had taken me along for that purpose. They had become alarmed when I went missing from the auditorium before the show and had searched for me thinking I got lost in the crowd. Without any knowledge of or consideration for it, I entered the make-up room a little while later with delight written all over my face.

"Where did you go?" Chitra akka demanded immediately.
"Akka, to see Zakir."

Her one hand landed on my face. My eyes flashed with bright fireflies. Wow! Even my long-dead grandmother appeared before me and waved at me…
(July 27, 2020)

To be continued...

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