It was after 14 long years I was going for a live concert of Ustad Zakir Hussain, here in elegant Chowmahalla Palace at Hyderabad on 17th December. Last time, it was in Palakkad at Rappadi Amphitheatre, when it was organized by The Rotary Club of Palakkad and Association of Chartered Accountants. I had the privilege of accompanying him to the hotel after the programme, along with Dr. Prabhakar of SRI (Society for Rural Improvement). Having hosted the Maestro in the USA, Dr. Prabhakar knew him personally and wanted to meet him to discuss about a charity concert for his organization. Though we had to cancel that programme later, the meeting was very positive and I was awestruck at the humility of this legend.
The whole programme was a huge learning curve in my life! The fusion of Tabla (Ustad Zakir Hussain), Violin (Dr. Kunnakkudy Vaidyanathan), Ghatam (Vikku Vinayaka Ram) and the Kanjira (Selva Ganesh) was literally an amazing experience! However, the most unforeseen (for me, till then) happened towards the end of the programme, when Ustad conversed with the most ordinary audience through the medium of Tabla! Later, when we met him, it was the unbelievably modest behaviour of this great man left a permanent yard stick forever in my mind to look for, in any such celebrities!
One more incident on the same day left another deep mark on my sensibilities. In the hotel lobby, we met Shree Mattannoor Sankarankutty (The famous ‘Chenda’ artist), who was there with his twin sons for just taking the blessings of the Maestro! Ustad blessed the kids and talked about Chenda in length & breadth! I believe that the depth of his knowledge on the various formats and technicalities of Chenda must have amazed Mattannoor as well! Years after, I witnessed the ‘Arangettam’ (Debut Performance) of these young kids in ‘Pallassana Pazhayakavu Temple’ and Shree Mattannoor was nostalgic about this meeting when I referred about it.
With these memories intact, I went to this concert on 17th December, 2011 at the beautiful Chowmahalla Palace and as expected, Ustad was at his magical best! Though he played many new innovations and unique improvisations, there was a deliberate effort from him to play himself subtle to give importance to young Sabir Khan (Son of Late Ustad Sultan Khan), who with his Sarangi, shared the stage. In fact, Sabir Khan was performing for the first time after his father passed on, a month back. The usual ‘takeover and indulgence’ of Ustad Zakir Hussain was missing, though there were couple of glimpses of it as rare exceptions. He, often forgets momentarily that there are others around him and indulges himself in a seamless journey of Ragas! However, he used to come back to his composure recognizing others respectfully and pass the baton to them, who in turn indulge themselves in pursuit of outreaching the set standard bar! This was deliberately downplayed in this concert to accommodate this youngster and as an ardent fan of Ustad, it was little disappointing for me. The young Sabir Khan also had his moments of glory when he enthralled the audience with his variations in Sarangi.
At the end of the programme, pointing at the beautiful Chowmahalla Palace, Ustad reminded the audience to preserve our rich heritage and culture along with the T20s and IPLs. He told: “There are numerous young artists performing around you. Google them and encourage them too, not just me alone”.
With every individual who touched his feet for his blessings, he too bent down to show his respect and it kindled my sensibilities to learn the DNA of humility from this great soul!
The Legends are those who travel beyond the stricture & frame work of their profession into virgin lands of exploration with an open mind and correlate every new experience to the well learnt basics of their profession to evolve new practices and bring freshness to it and thus contributing in transcending the same warmth to their listeners.
Every youngster has tons of lessons to learn from this great human being, who is humility personified!