Thinking of him today, on his birthday, along with many others, I remembered, one particular incidence. Just a couple of months before he left this mortal world in 2004, I went to visit him in his Princeton, New Jersey home. He was little sick and weak but in high spirit. After dinner, three of us, Abba, Amma and me, were sitting in the living room, talking and waiting for Hidayat bhai, who was at some concert and was going to be back quite late. Abba talked about some old times, and like always, told some fantastic stories. We talked till past midnight when Amma said it’s too late and he should go to sleep. I helped Amma to clear the table and took empty tea cups and plates to the kitchen. When we came back from the kitchen, we saw Abba on the stair case, holding the railing and stepping up slowly, one step at a time. Amma asked loudly, “what are you doing? Why are you going upstairs”? I was surprised too since his bed room was on the main floor of the house, not upstairs.
Softly and quite lovingly, he said I am going to see if Rajan’s room is alright. “Dekhoon uske kamre me kambal, pillow vagaira sub theek to hai?”
She said I have made the room, changed the sheets myself. Blanket pillow and everything is fine, you don’t need to check it.
I was astonished and quickly went up the stairs, held his hand and brought him back downstairs saying “Abba! You don’t need to do this for me.”
In this special Indian ‘Guru-Shishya Paramparaa’ (Teacher- disciple relationship), disciples are supposed to respect, serve and take care of the guru for rest of their lives but Guru, other than teaching is not expected to do anything else.
Naturally, I became quite emotional at his gesture of such love for me, who is not even worthy of being called his disciple; since, because of my circumstances, the actual time of my learning under him was very short, and of course, lack of enough practice too.
I often remember this incidence with great reverence, along with many other fond memories of the times I spent with this legendary, one of the greatest personalities of our times.
Great people are great in every way.
Note: The legendary Ustad Vilayat Khan (August 28, 1928 to March 13. 2004) was the greatest and most revered Sitar Nawaaz (Sitarist). He was lovingly called ‘Abba’ by all his students and disciples.