This is no obituary piece or great remembrance, but an experience that came to my mind the moment I came to know of his demise. Having only met him once and listened to his song tracks a few times I cannot vouch more about the maestro, but can share an incident which spoke volume about the man.
It goes seven years back in time, somewhere around February March 2004. It was Monday for sure for I had just entered office a couple of hours behind time for I was returning back from Jodhpur.
Responding to the good afternoon, my bosses reading something handed me an envelope and looked at his watch signalling me to rush. I saw the envelope stepping out and it was press invite to meet Ustad Sultan Khan at Park Royal hotel,Nehru Place.
It started 10 am sharp and I was already over two hours late for the interview.
I rushed with my photographer by 1 pm and by then all the media had left and Ustadji was in his room set to order his lunch.
Outside his suit I pleaded with the publicist Harish Sharma, “I have just returned from Jodhpur and got late.” I tried to make my point and before I could further argue a voice emerged from the room.
“Jodhpur se kaun hai? (who’s there from Jodhour?),” said a voice. I dashed in fancying my chances, but was clueless what was in store for me.
Wearing a chequred lungi and white kurta, an elderly man was sitting on the bed leaning against the wall. A smile emerged as I walked in, “Aap ho jodhpur se, kathe birajo( you are from jodhpur and where in the city do you stay put),” he asked signalling me to sit on the bed next to him.
I said near masjid in jalap mohalla and he said I used to live near that place barely a kilometre from my house, he recalled an elderly khan sahab in my area and was chatting as if we had known each other for ages.
“Take your note-book out,” he ordered. Very sweetly without me asking he quickly started speaking about his album Piya Basanti and in a matter of few minutes responded to all my questions.
As I was about to pack my bags he said, “aaj daal roti aur subzi le aao, (get daal and bread with vegetables), will eat with the pandit after a long time.”
He held my hand and said I am your elder and you can’t say no to me. Over the next half hour we chatted and had lunch, much to everyone’s amazement.
Done with lunch, he took his paan daani and offered me a pan, “isme tambaku nahi hai (there is no tobacco in this one.)”
Taking the paan, I just wished him well and he patted my back and put his hand on my head as a gesture of giving blessing.
As I came out of the room amazed Harish commented, “you got a lottery today.” I just smiled back.
That was the end of my tryst with the Sarangi player, may be would have listened to the Piya basanti track a couple of times later playing on TV, but still today that hour spent with the maestro is clear in my memory.
May his soul rest in peace.