“I just can’t come to terms with the artificiality and glamour of the film world,” he says with emphasis.
Awards and recognition.
Bismillah Khan became the first Indian to be invited to perform at the prestigious Lincoln Centre Hall in the United States of America.
He also took part in the World Exposition in Montreal, in the Cannes Art Festival and in the Osaka Trade Fair.
So well known did he become internationally that an auditorium in Teheran was named after him — Tahar Mosiquee Ustaad Bismillah Khan.
National awards like the Padmashri, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan were conferred on him.
In 2001, Ustad Bismillah Khan was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
With the coveted award resting on his chest and his eyes glinting with rare happiness he said, “All I would like to say is: Teach your children music, this is Hindustan’s richest tradition; even the West is now coming to learn our music.’’
Khan’s Love for India
In spite of having travelled all over the world — Khansaab as he is fondly called — is exceedingly fond of Benaras and Dumraon and they remain for him the most wonderful towns of the world.
A student of his once wanted him to head a shehnai school in the U.S.A., and the student promised to recreate the atmosphere of Benaras by replicating the temples there.
But Khansaab asked him if he would be able to transport River Ganga as well.
Later he is remembered to have said, “That is why whenever I am in a foreign country, I keep yearning to see Hindustan. While in Mumbai, I think of only Benaras and the holy Ganga.
And while in Benaras, I miss the unique mattha of Dumraon.”
Ustad Bismillah Khan’s life is a perfect example of the rich, cultural heritage of India, one that effortlessly accepts that a devout Muslim like him can very naturally play the shehnai every morning at the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Ustad Bismillah Khan passed away on 21 August 2006 at the age of ninety after a prolonged illness. He was given a state funeral and the Government of India declared one day of national mourning.