Bismillah best in folk melodies

This refers to the article, Goonj uthi shehnai by Nirupama Dutt (Spectrum, Aug 27). Ustad Bismillah Khan, in the footsteps of the legendary Tansen, has earned an exalted place in the annals of Indian music. There are no two opinions that he raised the lowly folk instrument to the level of concert music. Shehnai now fares competitively in jugalbandi with the elite sitar/sarod group. It is a matter of great pride for the music fraternity that Khan Sahib was accorded the highest state honour, the Bharat Ratna.

Nirupama Dutt has amply described the maestro’s contributions and accomplishments. But at some point of time, it may be desirable to judge him in the proper perspective.

Khan Sahib was at his best in folk melodies like kajri, chaiti, Benarasi dhun and light classical varieties such as thumri and dadra. He played classical ragas with consummate skill but his repertoire was mostly limited to the basic ones.

Generally great musicians in their lifetime produce one or more talented disciples to carry on the tradition but Khan Sahib despite his long innings spanning over seven decades did not leave behind a worthy successor.

As for the history of shehnai, it has no connection with a barber as contended by the writer. Nai (pronounced as in nain) is a Persian word for flute. Rumi, the great Sufi poet, symbolised bamboo reed (the raw material for flute) with the human soul separated from its source and wailing to return to it. Nai, as an accompanying instrument, plays a prominent role in Rumi’s Whirling Dervesh dance. Shah-nai, literally meaning ‘king of flutes’, was the name given to the instrument due to its richer tone and high manoeuverability.

V.K. RANGRA, Delhi


Generic medicines

This refers to Pushpa Girimaji’s Brand power (Spectrum, Sept 3). The malpractice of selling a different brand to customers by chemists is rampant. Medicines are also of two types, generic and branded. The latter are manufactured by renowned pharmaceuticals and prescribed by doctors but the margin of profit is much more in the former.

Being cheaper also, the chemists are able to inveigle the gullible patients into buying generic medicines despite the prescription.

These medicines are less effective also as I once experienced when on a chemist’s suggestion I purchased a BP-lowering generic medicine instead of the recommended brand.

Unscrupulous dealers who have no pharmacy degree but are plying their business in the name of a qualified person in absentia generally indulge in the malpractice. A large number of chemist shops are being run that way.

A few years back, the Punjab Chief Minister had ordered all chemists to don overalls duly inscribed with their names and licence numbers. However, the order is being grossly flouted. Even drug inspectors turn a Nelson’s eye on them for obvious reasons.

D.K. AGGARWALA, Hoshiarpur

Salute to grit

Reeta Sharma’s A Survivor’s Tale” (Saturday Extra, July 29) was a hair-raising and pathetic tale of the travails of a common woman. It spoke volumes of the gullibility of the parents of marriageable daughters who give them away in marriage to cunning and selfish NRIs without verifying their antecedents.

Sheela Balu Bhai Patel, the aggrieved woman, fought against odds and eventually could stand on her own feet through sheer will power and a never-say-die attitude. She deserves a salute.

Women like her are the pride of their parents and womankind. Several women, who have been deserted but could not take a stand against their in-laws, should take a leaf out of Sheela’s life. Instead of cursing their lot or surrendering to exploitative in-laws, they should wage a battle to survive with dignity.

To save young girls from ruin, provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act must be stringently applied.



Shelley’s India link

THIS  refers to “Shelly’s India link” (Spectrum, July 30). The discovery of a 20-page “rare pamphlet” by Percy Byshe Shelley (1792-1822), containing “references to British oppression in India and elsewhere” is prima-facie an exciting discovery. It gives an insight into Shelley’s development both as a poet and a political thinker.

Shelley was an atheist, a revolutionary and a non-conformist. To him, a poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth. In his poetry, he searched for transcendent moments, as is evident from Ode to the West Wind and Mont Blanc. In the latter, he asks: What were the earth and stars and sea, if to the human mind’s imaginings/ Silence and solitude were vacancy? In his poems, nature becomes the portal for his meditation upon the ultimate source of life.

As a political thinker, Shelley optimistically examines the possibility of man overcoming political tyranny and evil. He was a poet-prophet, who wrote a visionary mode of poetry, using poetic symbolism of a worldview. He asserted: “There is no real wealth but the labour of man”. His concern for those “whose life is misery, and fear and care” and for the “famished” poor, and his commitment to “the natural quality of man” is evident in his Alastor.

In the Preface to this poem, he inter-alia says: who love not their fellow beings, live unfruitful lives, and prepare for their old age a miserable grave.

Deepak Tandon, Panchkula



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