Person of the Year 2015
Vol 6 Issue 9, Feb 27 - Mar 5, 2015
    Citizen Reporters      |   | Submit Story
Green WarriorsSocial EntrepreneursUnsung Heroes

Perpetuating the memory of legendary singer Begum Akhtar

   By  Anjali Singh
   Lucknow
06 Mar 2015
Posted 01-Feb-2013
Vol 4 Issue 5

Out of sight, out of mind. This adage describes perfectly the lives and careers of numerous artistes and musicians of India. Once the toast of cultural circles, they easily slip out of public memory as soon as they quit the stage.

The late Begum Akhtar may not have become a complete stranger to the world of classical music but in her home state of Uttar Pradesh her soul-stirring voice has all but faded from the minds of music lovers. In fact, even as preparations are on nationally to celebrate her centenary year – which falls in 2014 – the state where she was born and received her musical ‘taleem’ (education) remains oblivious to her legacy.

Shanti Hiranand, 80, a student of Begum Akhtar, has restored the latter's grave that once lay forgotten in a cemetery in old Lucknow's Thakurganj area. (Photo: Anjali Singh WFS)

But this will not be for long if 80-year-old Shanti Hiranand has her way. A student of the great vocalist, Hiranand has got together with some Akhtar fans to revisit her work and has even restored her grave that once lay forgotten in a cemetery in old Lucknow’s Thakurganj area.

Born in Faizabad, Begum Akhtar came to live in the city and made it her home. She passed away here in 1974 at the age of 60 and is buried at a two grave cemetery next to her mother, Mushtari Sahiba.

Says Hiranand, “Begum Akhtar was my guru, guide and mentor ever since I came to her to learn singing in 1957. She passed away while performing in a concert at Ahmedabad. I was lucky to have been trained under her in the traditional styles of ‘thumri’, ‘dadra’ and ‘ghazal’ but I learnt a lot more from her than just that. She had a charming way of connecting with her audience. But the neglect her memory has been subjected to was painful for me and some other fans, so we decided to do something about it.”

Hiranand first set her sights on the restoration of her guru’s last resting place. But she knew that she needed to raise a lot of money for this ambitious project. Thus began her numerous rounds of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. She even approached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in order to ensure some action.

Her efforts bore fruit when the Department of Archaeology of the Government of India released Rs 5 lakh for the restoration and renovation of the grave. But the sum was not enough to meet the enormous costs that were estimated for this project.

Things started looking up once the Sadbhavana Trust of Lucknow came on board. Madhavi Kukereja is Local Head of the Trust, of which writer Salim Kidwai is also a founder member.

The Sadbhavana Trust’s involvement began in 2010, when Kukereja invited Hiranand to perform at a concert organised by it.

She says, “At this concert, Hiranand made an appeal to the people of Lucknow to do something to help revive the Begum’s memory in her own city. That’s when we decided to support her.”

Had it not been for an enthusiastic architect who decided to provide his expertise pro bono for this project, things would not have moved forward at all.

Delhi-based Ashish Thapar, who supervised the entire renovation work, says, “I belong to Lucknow and I have grown up here. Although I moved to New Delhi to study architecture and stayed on I always wanted to do something for my city. So when Madhavi approached me with the concept of renovating Begum Akhtar’s grave I was ready. I am a big fan and here was my chance to do something creative for a great cause and that too for my hometown and its people.”

But it was not an easy task as the graves lay amidst encroached land. Years of neglect had meant that they were reduced to a tiny piece of land behind a rickety gate that was difficult to approach.

Explains Thapar, “When I saw the condition the graves were in, I was shocked. While the area where the grave was had been a garden at one time, nothing of it was left because of encroachments. Although the entire task was challenging, based on the kind of person she was, the life she led and the ideology she lived by, I got an idea of what she would have wanted for her final resting place. A white and black makarana marble carved in Mughal inlay style was the ideal choice for the grave.”

Begum Akhtar (Photo: Naresh WomenOnRecord)

Thapar joined hands with his friend, Parag Pradhan, an architect who specialised in marble inlay work. Says Pradhan, “Having grown up listening to her ‘thumris’ and ‘ghazals’ I was more than happy to get involved. When I got to know that the budget was limited and that Begum Akhtar’s fans were getting together and donating their services to renovate and restore her grave, I wanted to be a part of the effort. I decided to design the marble inlay work to be used to cover the grave. My inspiration came from the motifs used in the Red Fort in Delhi.”

The work was completed in time to mark her birth anniversary. A candle light tribute was organised at the musical legend’s grave and it was thrown open to the public in November 2012. That glittering night in the presence of her fans, Hiranand brought the singer’s work to life by giving her voice to some popular ‘ghazals’, ‘thumris’ and ‘dadras’ of Begum Akhtar.

Today, Hiranand is a happy woman. Besides keeping Begum Akhtar’s work alive through her performances, she has now been able to give Lucknow a permanent monument to the singer’s greatness. - Women's Feature Service



Print  |  Email  | 
 Share   


You might also like:

Winter home

Pong Dam wetland has emerged as a favoured winter resort for migratory birds, especially the endangered bar-headed geese. The man-made wetland hosted over 130,000 birds, says Vishal Gulati

Read More

Reform thru work

Within the high walls of a jail in Andhra Pradesh there is BPO facility that not only employs prisoners but also prepares them for a life after they are set free. Rama Devi Menon has a peek

Read More
Stories on Innovations & Innovators
THE LEAD STAR
adyar bakery
 
Mentoring Tamil Nadu



Popular Stories

Educator extraordinaire

When Rajesh Kumar Sharma went to see how Metro Rail work was progressing near the Yamuna station, he realized that poor children had no school to attend. So he set up ‘Under the Bridge School’. Partho Burman meets the educator extraordinaire

Read More

Green cobblers

Inspired by a man making sandals out of used tyres in the US, Jay Rege and Jothsna came to India to turn eco-conscious shoemakers, launching ‘Paaduks’. The social entrepreneurs also share their profit with their cobblers, says Rohan Potdar

Read More

Sandy wonders

If the word Goa evokes just images of raves, read on, you may end up in the land of sandy wonders soon. For, Renuka Singh’s list of the top 10 beaches informs us that Goa has something on offer for everyone, including those seeking solitude

Read More

Saving girls

Her first attempt to save a 12-year-old girl from the clutches of an abusive father failed. But that propelled Renu Singh to turn a crusader for gender justice and rescue about 3,800 girls and women in over three decades, says Partho Burman

Read More

Milky boom

The success of Milky Mist, a dairy company, is a story linked to the big dreams of T Sathish Kumar, a class 8 drop out. P C Vinoj Kumar tells us how a 16-year-old turned his father’s floundering business around by giving it a new identity

Read More

Missing Nobel

Winner of many awards for his social work in Mumbai slums, Jockin Arputham missed the Nobel Peace in 2014. But for people whose life he changed through his dedication, he is indeed an ‘arputham’ (miracle, in Tamil), says Kavita Kanan Chandra

Read More

Saviour on street

Whatever job he was in, S M Venkatesh saved abandoned people from the streets. Now, his Agal Foundation works with Helpage India, responding to distress calls, quickly and efficiently, as P C Vinoj Kumar found through a snap sting operation

Read More

Saving children

Starting with a night shelter for children of sex workers, Prerana has come a long way providing support to women stuck in Mumbai’s red light district. Kavita Kanan Chandra retraces Priti Patkar’s 28-year journey that has saved many a child

Read More

Good ball

To counter ‘guns and drugs’, a culture that he saw abroad, Chetan Misra mentors children through football, which he believes is a tool for social and holistic development. Through ‘TheFootballLink’, he promotes the game, says Partho Burman

Read More

Bringing water

By reviving a traditional irrigation system, using modern techniques, an NGO, Gramya Vikash Manch, has channeled water to three parched districts of Assam, raising hopes of a bumper harvest

Read More
 
Kudos image

"The Weekend Leader not only gives a glimpse of the better things happening around us but also tells stories of people who made it possible.”

Ajay Chaturvedi, Entrepreneur More Kudos
 
Archives  |   Columns  |   About Us  |   Contact Us  |   Feedback  |   Response  |     |   Cheers!  |   Support Us  |   Friends of Positive Journalism
© Copyright The Weekend Leader.com, 2010. All rights reserved.