S. K. Karim Khan, staunch Gandhian and folklorist, died on July 29, in a Bangalore hospital after prolonged illness. He was 98. He remained unmarried and was all along looked after by children and grandchildren of his brother. Karim Khan was a doyen of Kannada literature and was decorated with several awards. A versatile man, he was writer, poet, playwright, lyricist and orator. He was justly called ‘Janapada Jangama’ or mobile encyclopedia for his multi-faceted genius. He wrote dialogues for nearly 25 Kannada films and was a popular yakshagana singer. His role in supporting Congress during freedom struggle and mobilising masses through his oratory is still remembered in Karnataka. His father, Rahman Khan had migrated to Hassan in Karnataka from Kabul. Karim Khan later took up residence in Ulsoor in Bangalore. Several governments who promised to pledge a house to him never fulfilled the same.
Ustad Bismillah Khan, one of India’s most prolific musicians, gaining worldwide acclaim for playing the shehnai for more than eight decades passed away last month. In 2001, he was awarded India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna. A devout Muslim, Khan was a symbol of India’s religious pluralism and a symbol of harmony for people of different faiths. Born on 21 March, 1916, in a small village in Bihar, Khan belonged to a family of court musicians. Khan’s recital was a regular feature on every Independence Day . Aged six, Khan moved to his maternal house, located close to the Ganges at Varanasi. Khan’s 1937 performance at the All India Music Conference in Kolkata brought shehnai to the centre stage of Indian classical music. Among the high points in his career was when he played at Delhi’s Red Fort on the eve of India’s Independence in 1947. Bismillah Khan was a very private person and shunned publicity. He believed he “should be heard, not seen”. Khan was known for living a simple and austere life at his home in a narrow alleyway near the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi. The musician’s love for Varanasi was well-known - even when he was on his death-bed he refused to be treated in Delhi despite such offers from the government.