Khan Sahib while teaching his students Words fall short to pen down the deep wounds and unimaginable tragedies Indian Partition caused to millions of families on both sides of the hastily drawn border but one particular angst that will stand unpardonable in history is that it built walls between the artists and singers in the name of a religio-political ideology. The human impact of Partition was huge and its ripples could still be felt. Families were torn apart, friendships permanently severed, villages and towns where people lived side by side for generations sharing a common culture and heritage had to be abandoned and the memories buried forever. It is said that art and music like air and water has no religion-no boundaries but in the case of India and Pakistan, even they are not spared of being politicised and in the case of Pakistan-religionised. Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan, a maestro of Indian classical sangeet (music) is one among millions of victims who were forced to make a choice of either or. Shaukat Hussain Khan, known to us as Khan Sahib was born on October 22, 1954 in Lahore to famous classical singer Ustad Baqir Hussain Khan of Patiala Gharana. Baqir Hussain Khan Sahib moved to Lahore after Partition but within few years he realised that India being a multi-cultural society would offer more opportunities and respect to his profession as compared to the newly created Pakistan. I asked Khan Sahib if his family living in East Punjab experienced violence at the time of partition, he said that majority of the residents in his village were Pashtuns by origin so they made sure that the harmony among different belief groups is not disturbed. Not a single incident of violence reported in our town, he added. Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan lost his mother when he was just four. Raised by his stepmother and elder sister in Maler Kotla, Ludhiana, Khan Sahib showed interest in music at an early age. “I would listen to music on radio for hours and one day when I was listening to music, my mother told my father that I take keen interest in music and he should buy me a radio set. My father loved me very much and the next day he bought me a radio set of Bush brand? “Khan Sahib said reminiscing his childhood. Rarely someone gets a melodious voice that Khan Sahib is blessed with and very rarely would someone get the opportunity to sing at a tender age of eight in front of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, then prime minister of India at his residence in New Delhi. Khan Sahib with his schoolmate Sarla Devi sang a patriotic song “Chalo Jhoomte Sar Se Baandhe Kafan, Lahu Maangti Hai Zameen-e-Watan” during the Indo-China war in 1962. Khan Sahib said that later legendary playback singer Lata Mangeshkar sang this song for a movie ‘Kabli Khan’. “Dressed up in school uniform wearing Gandhi topi (hat) we were singing in the garden of Pandit Ji’s residence. Everyone in the audience kept standing including Nehru Ji and as we completed the Astai (first stanza), Pandit Ji was so deeply moved that he came up, stood behind and held us both in his arms until we completed the song. I still remember like it happened yesterday when Indira Gandhi Ji took our photo with Nehru Ji. Indira Ji was young then and looked very beautiful that day” Khan Sahib said with his signature smile. My father whom I called Abba was a true humanist who taught me to respect all religions and that’s why he took me to the famous Kumbh Mela for Ashnan (bath) at Harki Pauriin the River Ganges. “A Hindu woman gave me Ashnan” Khan Sahib said recalling the time he spent with his great father. My father never got angry with me even if I made a mistake. Abba would tell me “Tum Badshah ho, wahi karoge jo tum chahte ho” (You are a king, you will do whatever you feel like). His passion for music and voice quality convinced his father to send him to Pandit Satyapal Ji, a maestro of Indian classical music based in Apra village around 8km from Ludhiana. Khan Sahib would ride to Pandit Ji’s house on his bicycle after his school hours and sometimes would stay at his house for days. As for formal education, Khan Sahib completed his high school certification. “I was very good at learning music that’s why I was Pandit Ji’s favourite and would say that only I would learn among the group. This would make other students jealous. But a source of enjoyment for all of us was Mechi, a tabla player with Pandit Ji who would complain all the time that Pandit Ji was not teaching him as hard as he taught us” Khan Sahib recalled strolling down memory lane. When I asked Khan Sahib that why his father who himself was a maestro of Indian Classical sangeet took him to Pandit Ji instead of teaching him himself, he said that his father believed it would be better for him to learn from Pandit Ji. Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan, a maestro of Indian classical sangeet, is one among millions who were forced to make a choice. Shaukat Hussain Khan, known to us as Khan Sahib, was born on October 22, 1954, in Lahore to famous classical singer Ustad Baqir Hussain Khan of Patiala Gharana. Baqir Hussain Khan Sahib had moved to Lahore after Partition but within few years he realised that India, being a multi-cultural society, would have offered more opportunities and respect to his profession as compared to the newly created Pakistan Khan Sahib learned music from Pandit Satyapal Ji for 12 long years getting grasp on all genres of Indian classical sangeet like Durpat, Dhamaar, Hori, Tappa and Khayal. For the interest of the readers I should mention here that the famous Pakistani tabla player Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan learned tabla from Pandit Heera Lal, cousin of Pandit Satyapal and whenever Shaukat Sahib sent letter to his Ustad from Pakistan, he would share with us during the class. When I graduated from the academy of Pandit Ji, he told my father, “Khan Sahib, Shaukat has learned music hence he does not belong to you anymore. He now belongs to sangeet. His soul is now of a wanderer, so don’t tam it” and Pandit Ji was right as I kept on moving from place to place like a restless soul. “You know I learned music then but I feel that I have found music now,” Khan Sahib said and when I asked what he meant by finding music, he said that his riaz (practice) of 40 years is equal to 100 years. “I can sing for 20 hours uninterrupted. Words or poetry may fall short but not my sangeet.” Even at the age of 59, he does his riaz daily for hours. He once told me that he was in love with music and one janam (birth) was not enough to satiate his hunger for music. In his teenage in 1975, he went to Mumbai and got a chance to meet music composer Shankar Ji of the famous Shankar Jai Kishan duo. Recalling that meeting some 38 years ago Khan Sahib said “It was noon time when I met him in his office on the third floor of Famous Studio, Shankar Ji asked me which Raga is sung at this hour, I said Shudh Sarang as after 12pm, Ragas of tivra swar (major notes) are sung. It pleased him so much that he took his harmonium and asked me to sing the raga and when I did Shankar Ji enjoyed it so much that he handed me over a wad of Rs 20. Khan Sahib said he spent almost a year in Mumbai but left as he was too young and nobody took him serious as a classical singer. When I asked him why he chose to come to Pakistan knowing that his father had opted for India, Khan Sahib said that his soul was that of a wanderer and one good day in 1977 he spontaneously decided to visit his grandmother who was living in Jhang district that time. Khan Sahib settled down in Lahore and visited India only once three years after the death of his father in 2003. In 1989, his father Ustad Baqir Hussain Khan came to Pakistan to convince his son to go back with him to India as he would always be considered an outsider in Pakistan but he refused to leave. A decision that Khan Sahib fails to justify and regrets it even today. What his father predicted had already happened to Khan Sahib in 1982 when Lahore Radio Station Director Salim Gilani told him that he was one the best classical singers but refused to give him a chance on radio just because he was India returnee. When I came to Pakistan, for many years I would correct mistakes of singers in Lahore and Karachi but since there was and still no culture of learning in Pakistan, everyone would make fun of me that I was always finding faults with singers making everyone turn against me. “What could I do, I had learned music the way it deserved to be learned,” Khan Sahib said passionately. Khan Sahib is not just a music maestro but a deep thinker too. He once told me that to attain music, one has to enrage his soul. Khan Sahib is jolly but very sensitive and deep at the same time. He truly is a prince at heart. One moment he is joking around with his students and the next he would say something very deep-like a quotable quote. Once he got tearful while singing a song of Salim Raza saying that Pakistan did not give Salim sahib the amount of respect that he deserved. He believes Salim Raza was the best playback singer Pakistan produced followed by Noor Jehan. In terms of classical sangeet, Khan Sahib is impressed with Roshan Ara Begum and to some extent Ustad Fateh Ali Khan. As for Indian singers, Lata Mangeshkar tops the list for Khan Sahib followed by KS Sehgal, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar. Shaukat Hussain Khan Sahib At the prime of his singing career, a tragic incident happened in 1994, which rattled his life when someone jealous of his singing prowess fed him a poisonous substance that paralysed right side of his face. It took Khan Sahib 22long years to recover. Though Khan Sahib recovered physically but its emotional toll ruined his personal life as the love of his life, his fiancée deserted him fearing that he would never sing again. “It was a small private evening gathering in Karachi. Late poetess Perveen Shakir was also part of the gathering. A person named Hakeem Nasir was very jealous of my singing so he offered me a substance saying that it would help cooling down my hot temper. I took a tiny piece of it but it was enough to do the damage. When I woke up the next morning, one side of my face was stoned and my right eye felt like protruding,” Khan Sahib said with a mixed expression of sorrow and anger. Everyone thought including my fiancée that I would never sing again but I proved them wrong. I knew deep in my heart that without music life would have no meaning for me so I did everything it took to gain my voice back, Khan Sahib said. “You know when I could barely move my right jaw, even then I kept on singing to show that my will could not be shaken come what may,” Khan Sahib added. I asked Khan Sahib about the current state of music in Pakistan, he said that the music in Pakistan has long been dead. “Had music been awarded a slightest of regard or an enabling environment, would an Ustad of classical sangeet sing film songs to inattentive crowd at a park in Islamabad as daily wage worker of Capital Development Authority? When the entire society is decaying, how could music progress. This is a bankrupt society. It does not appreciate talent as everything is looked at from the perspective of material possessions. I believe it’s a talent killing society,” Khan Sahib angrily said. Khan Sahib has been working as a singer to entertain public at Lake View Park in Islamabad for the last 12 years against a monthly remuneration of around Rs 20,000. Some would ask why Khan Sahib whose singing skills are unmatched is not a known name in Pakistan, the answer is that Khan Sahib is a genuine artist who values his self-respect and does not let anything to hurt it. No denying the fact that to get rich and famous in Pakistan, one needs good connections and public relation skills more than talent. Even for this profile piece, it took me weeks of convincing until he finally agreed to give me permission to write his story. Though hardly five feet in height and with a small frail body, Khan Sahib’s range and base is matchless. When he sings KS Sehgal Sahib, people tell him wish Sehgal Sahib was alive and see you singing, he would certainly accept the fact that Khan Sahib sings if not better than Sehgal Sahib then equally good. When he sings, swars (surs) dance around like butterflies. It may sound outrageous to some but I would say it anyway that if one wishes to see swars in physical shape or form, one should hear Khan Sahib singing all genres of music be it Khayal, Thumri, ghazal or geet. Without fear of being judged as biased, let me say with confidence that the quality of his Thaan rendition is simply out of this world and when in mood, his sangeet and Thaan could take one into a trance. I asked him once that what it was that he missed the most about India. “I miss Hindustani Samaj (Indian culture) freedom and large heartedness of its people. It’s the land of Prince Raam and Mian Tansen so naturally I miss it,” Khan Sahib said getting emotional. When asked about his last wish, Khan Sahib said it was his dream to perform classical sangeet in India and it would be ice on the cake if Lata Ji also graces his performance with her presence. Seconds later, realizing ground realities and the ongoing hostility between India and Pakistan, Khan Sahib asks me hopelessly if India would even grant him a visit visa when he decides to go. “When the creeping loneliness of old age grips me, my heart bleeds for my village where I spent my childhood and teenage with my friends and family. I don’t know if my friends will still be there or moved to other parts, will I ever meet Sarla Devi with whom I performed in front of Nehru Ji?” Khan Sahib, held by uncertainties asked me. Will his dream be ever materialised? We never know as the world is full of surprises but perhaps a visit to the land of his forefathers may bring some relief. The writer is a student of Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, October 23rd 2017.