Award return over son fear

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By RASHEED KIDWAI in Tikamgarh
  • Published 2.08.05

Tikamgarh, Aug. 2: Dhrupad singer Asgari Bai ? a Padma Shri and Tansen award recipient ? wants the government to take back all the honours bestowed on her because she can’t trust her son with her name.

“My son has failed to respect me. The awards are dear to me but I do not want Babu to encash them,” she said, from hospital.

Asgari Bai, born into the family of a court singer in the princely state of Orchcha in 1918 and patronised by maharajas in her youth, is unhappy her eldest son painted a picture of poverty to get grants from the government and individuals. She also accuses him of forgery.

The dhrupad exponent wants to leave hospital and live with her daughter Pravin but doctors said she is not ready yet. Civil surgeon Dr Usha Khare at the government hospital in Tikamgarh wondered why Asgari’s children wanted to take her home when she was yet to recover.

Asgari’s other children have alleged that Babu forged her signature and took out more than Rs 1 lakh from her pension account. Recently, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Babulal Gaur had sanctioned Rs 1 lakh for her. Two of her sons, Ashok and Kamal, have even written to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam demanding a probe against Babu.

But if Asgari Bai is wary of her son, she is also bitter about being marginalised in music after a lifetime of dedication.

The singer, who trained under Ustad Zahur Khan of Gohad, is said to have had a great aptitude for the mathematics of tala, matra and rhythm.

But now the 87-year-old “tawa’if” (courtesan known to be knowledgeable in various forms of singing and dance) says she feels frustrated and betrayed because today’s classical music world embraces only the “mainstream and respectable” women performers, ignoring skilled hereditary musicians.