NEW DELHI: The death of his wife fourteen years ago had left Bismillah Khan, the shehnai maestro, shattered and inconsolable, but he came to terms with the tragedy by treating 'shehnai' as his 'begum'.''Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan used to keep his shehnai on his bed and under his pillow. It inspired him. It gave him power to think about 'ragas' and music,'' says the couple –Neena and Shivnath Jha - who took possibly the last interview of the maestro before his death early yesterday.The Jha couple, who has set up 'Bismillah'', an NGO dedicated to the welfare of forgotten artists, spent over 16 hours with the Ustad on August 18-19 to inquire about his health and other issues, including his desire to perform at the India Gate - a wish that remained unfulfilled.''I am still practising...I am trying to produce a new 'raag'' -- ''raag bhadai'' -- at India Gate,'' he had told the Jha couple while lying on the bed in Room No 101 of Heritage Hospital in the temple town of Varanasi.The Jha couple was to be the organisers of the August 9 concert that could not materialise.Terribly weak and fragile, the shehnai meastro, during the long-drawn interview, cried, slept, reminisced his past and talked about his yearnings and dreams. In particular, he wanted to meet melody queen Lata Mangeshkar before his death.''...woh (Lata) meri choti bahan hai. Uski awaaz mein jaadu hai.Kash main mil pata" (she is like my younger sister. Her voice has magic. I yearn to meet her),'' he said.


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