Sunday, June 17, 2012

Memories of a Magical Voice

It has taken me and Saira some time to come to terms with the fact that Mehdi Hassan Miyan is no more with us in this world. The voice which we loved to hear when he connected with us on the telephone sometimes in recent years when he had to give up traveling due to his critical lung condition has been stilled, but the echoes remain in our subconscious and will continue to do so.

The magic of his voice cannot be described in words. I know millions of his admirers will agree with me when I say that Mehdi Hassan was very special to the Creator. Which was why he gifted him with the ability to sing his way into the hearts of even those who had little understanding of the pure ghazals he chose for rendering. He drew everybody - the common man, the well read, the rich, equally to him when he rendered the ghazals of such  profoundly intellectual and philosophical poets as Faiz Ahmed Faiz or Ghalib for instance. It’s only an uncommonly gifted singer who can draw his audience equally with the charm of his voice and his deep understanding of the exquisite poetry he is rendering. And Mehdi Hassan Miyan was one such richly gifted singer.

He visited us whenever he came to Mumbai and it was always a great occasion for the family. Saira’s grand mother Shamshad Begum Sahiba (Ammaji) especially used to be so happy to see him. As a classical vocalist of repute, Ammaji had a discerning taste and she always held Mehdi Hassan Miyan in high esteem for the splendid quality of his singing when he captivated his audiences at concerts. The CDs which he presented to her of the recordings of his concert tours delighted her. In fact, Ammaji and I shared a great love for Urdu and Persian poetry. For me, it is a taste I acquired from  my childhood in Peshawar when I listened attentively to my grand parents, uncles and aunts discuss Persian poets such as Khayyam, Hafiz Shirazi and Maulana Rumi, among many others.

The last time Mehdi Hasan Miyan visited us he was having high fever and he wanted to lie down. He held my hand and we recited together his favourites and mine. I can still recall his soft voice as if it was just yesterday that he was here. I have witnessed his success and the incredible adulation his admirers accorded him in other countries and in Pakistan. He remained ever so humble and unaffected by it all as all great men are. May God bless his soul and grant him the best of Jannat.