June 7, 2009
My heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the family members who lost their loved ones in the Air France 447 plane crash. May god grant them all strength and peace to bear such an unexpected emotional trauma. With my wife Subhalakshmi and I were watching CNN in New York on June 1st. when suddenly we saw the breaking news that AF-447 Aircraft with 228 passengers onboard went missing from the radar. I started praying for the safe return and landing of the flight but it is really sad that the plane finally crashed. Every time I hear about any plane crash of any country I pray for the souls of the deceased and for the peace for the family members. I always felt that after every landing, either domestic or international, we witness a new life. On the 1st of June, I was very tensed and worried, especially because my sons Amaan and Ayaan were also in a plane flying to New York.
My Guru and father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb, was always so afraid of flying. He declined so many overseas offers by the Government of India because of his fear of flying. In the year 1963, Asia Society of USA invited eminent musicians and dancers from India. The leader of the delegation invited me to join for the two month concert tour to the US. I was thrilled with the invitation but I very humbly conveyed that my father’s permission is most important for me. Knowing Abba Saheb’s views of flying, they all came to my home and tried persuading Abba Saheb. Being the youngest child in the family, it was a painful decision for my father to grant permission for me to be away from home for two months. I knew most of all; his fear of flying was the biggest issue. With great persuasion by several eminent artists of the tour, Abba Saheb finally accepted the request. And that was my first ever foreign tour to the U.S.
On the 4th of June, the Counselor General of India, in New York, Mr. Prabhu Dayal invited me for a lecture demonstration for an hour. It was a very inspiring and distinguished audience. I really enjoyed meeting all the guests who love our country and my music. I have such nostalgic memories of Indian Consulate of New York. At the time of Mr. P A Nazreth, I stayed with his family in the Consulate. Now-a-days Mr Nazreth runs the Sarvodya Trust in Bangalore that promotes the teachings and the message of Mahatma Gandhi. I am also one of the trustees at Sarvodya. As a DG, in ICCR Mr Nazreth gave his best. His is a very dynamic and committed Gandhian.
In 1984, I was hosted by Mr. Arun Patwardhan, who was the then Consulate General of India in New York. I was on a two month tour of the US at that time and I gave a concert at the request of Mr.Patwardhan. I really enjoyed their kind and warm hospitality. He and his wife were both great individuals. While I was in India I heard the news that Mr. and Mrs. Arun Patwardhan died in a plane crash, while traveling to Vietnam. I can never forget their love and gracious hospitality.
The late Dr. L.M. Singhvi was High Commissioner of India in UK for nearly seven years when I was a visiting professor in York University (UK) for a month. I met Dr. Singhvi on few occasions in London. He invited me to perform in the London High Commission and Dr. Singhvi hosted a very distinguished audience including Lord Mayor and other Royalties at the concert. During the performance I wanted a glass of water and I signaled to my disciple but he could not understand; the next moment I saw Kamlaji (wife of the High Commissioner) carrying a tray with the glass of water for me. I was so touched by her magnanimous and gracious gesture and realized why Dr. Singhvi and Kamlaji were so popular among the artist community. Later I was invited along with Amaan and Ayaan by His Royal Highness Prince Charles to perform at the prestigious St. James Palace for a fund raiser for Temenos Academy, founded by the great poetess Kathleen Raine. Ms. Raine was also a great admirer of Indian Classical music, especially our family. Soon after we concluded our concert, His Royal Highness Prince Charles gave a very moving and encouraging speech about our concert and our family. I still remember the expressions of pride and happiness on the face of Dr. Singhvi who was sitting with Kamlaji in the front row. My family always will miss Dr. Singhvi for his love and kindness. I pray that his soul rests in peace.I congratulate President Barack Obama for addressing Muslim world in Cairo and trying to unite the people of the world. As an artist, I appeal to President Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and all other world leaders to further increase their efforts to destroy nuclear weapons. The Hiroshima bombing incident on 6th August 1945 is the greatest example of destruction caused by man. People remember the bombing incident every year across the world, yet we see very little commitment to destroy harmful nuclear weapons which continuously puts the very existence of world’s population in danger.