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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bismilla Khan's stolen shenais recovered ~ grandson arrested !!

Most South Indians would be hooked to the lovely music generated from ‘Nadaswaram’ – the famous wind instrument, traditionally played in temples and in marriages.  Its North Indian counterpart perhaps is ‘Shehnai’ – mostly made of wood, with a double reed at one end and a metal or wooden flared bell at the other end.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was one of India's most prolific musicians, gaining worldwide acclaim for playing the shehnai for more than eight decades. He was credited with helping the shehnai - a type of wind instrument - attain a higher status in Indian classical music and taking it to a world stage. It had earlier considered to be an accompanying instrument. In 2001, he was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.

The shehnai too  is traditionally played at Indian weddings and ceremonies and its high-pitched notes and heart-tugging sound are considered auspicious.  Khan was seen playing at various temples and on the banks of the holy river Ganges in the northern Indian city of Varanasi, his home town. He was particularly proud of playing outside the famous Vishwanath temple in Varanasi.  He passed away in 2006.

There was news in Dec 16 that 5 shehnais belonging to late musician were  stolen from his son’s house in Varanasi. The theft was discovered late on a Sunday night. Along with the five shehnais — four made of silver and the fifth a mix of silver and wood — a silver plate of the Inayat Khan award won by the maestro and two gold bangles have also went  missing from the house in the Dalmandi area  in Uttar Pradesh.

The family of the maestro had recently shifted from their ancestral house in the Sarai Harha area to a new location in Dalmandi. On November 30, the family visited their ancestral house for a few days and when they returned to their new house on Sunday night they found the lock broken and the items missing. An FIR was registered at the Chowk police station against unknown persons. There were reports that  shehnai legend’s family was  saddened by the theft of the “invaluable items.”

Razi Hassan, Bismillah Khan’s grandson was quoted as saying that the shehnais held a “special meaning” for the family. The four silver shehnais were gifted to Bismillah Khan by former Prime Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and Shailesh Bhagwat, a fan from Mumbai, respectively.

Now more have been revealed.  Soon after the recovery of a wooden shehnai of Ustad Bismillah Khan+ and 1kg silver extracted from three silver shehnais, the police recovered his fifth silver shehnai. Ustad's grandson Najre Hassan alias Shadab had stolen five shehnais - four made of silver and one of wood with silver plating. The theft was unearthed by the Varanasi unit of STF on Tuesday with arrest of Shadab and two jewellers.

Chowk inspector Shivanand Yadav told TOI that following the interrogation of Shadab, the fifth shehnai was recovered from his house on Tuesday night. He wanted to leave for Assam with this shehnai.  Earlier,  the STF arrested three persons including Shadab and jewellers Shankarlal Seth and Sujit Seth. Shadab had sold four shehnais to the jewellers for Rs. 17,000. The three silver-made instrument and the silver plating of fourth one were melted by the jewellers.

Makes a sad reading indeed !

PS : instead of google search, if you are ask some women in your locality, one may not be surprised to hear that ‘Nadhaswaram’ was the famous Tamil soap opera that ran more than 1300 episodes from 2010 to 2015 ! – it was directed by Thirumurugan, who had earlier debuted in Metti Oli.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

12th Jan 2017

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