( This narration is based on an interview of Ustad Bismillah Khan , reported by Dr.Madhu Vasudevan of Malayala Manorama daily ) .
Bismilla Khan's uncle Ali Bux used to go to the nearby Jadau Sri Balaji (Maha-Vishnu) temple every morning . There, he played the shehnai for the entire day to earn four rupees a month . Sometimes Bismillah followed him in the morning, listen to his music, get engrossed and bewildered. After the mornings sessions at the Jadau temple, uncle and nephew walked towards the Balaji temple. A room was reserved for Ali Bux. He practiced there for about five hours daily. When Ali Bux finished practicing he found Bismillah sitting beside him, listening to him and hungry as well. Never did Bismillah disturb his uncle. They returned home each day after these morning sessions for lunch.
Bismillah often wondered why his Uncle went to the room in the Balaji temple to practice while he could practice at home without being disturbed. Unable to suppress his curiosity he asked his uncle one day. Uncle Ali stroked his locks and answered, "You will learn it one day." Bismillah was quick to ask, "But, Mamu when will I start playing shehnai ?" "Why talk about when; you are going to start today," he said.
Overjoyed, Bismillah practised in the room for 4 to 6 hours. Oblivious to the changes taking place outside the four walls he experimented and discovered new heights and depths of musical scales and melodies. Bismillah was overtaken by the thirst to perfect his music.
One day Bismillah khan was engrossed in his shahanai practice at 4:00a.m in the premises of Balaji temple, all alone. Suddenly he realised that some one was sitting next to him. It was none other than Bhagavan Balaji Himself !!!.
Shocked and astonished, Bismillah Khan remained still . Then Sri . Balaji smiled and
said "Play.."... . But Khan was still too shocked to continue. Then Bhagavan
Balaji smiled and disappeared.
Later that day Bismillah Khan went to Ali who is his Guru and Uncle, narrated to him what he has experienced in Balaji temple . Uncle slapped him on the cheek and "Did I not tell you not to say any thing to any one" ...?If any one watched the Video about Ustad Bismillah Khan on Doordarshan some 10 years ago, you would have heard him refer to it again.
Mysterious are the ways of Bhagavan Narayana when it comes to blessing His devotees. "VICHITHRA-ROOPASTHWAT-KHALU-ANUGRAHAH." (Dasakam 87, Sloka 7-- Narayaneeyam) . Bhagavan doesn't go by caste, creed or religion. "BHAKTI" is the only criterion. All Glories to Bhagavan Sri Krishna ! .
Even as a devout Shia, Khan Sahib is also a devotee of Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of music. And at the age of 12, he recalls, he received a signal - a peculiarly Hindu signal - that his sadhana had been rewarded. He recalls:
"Mamu used to do his riyaz (practice) at the temple of Balaji (an avtaar of Vishnu) for 18 years. He told me to do the same thing. I would begin my riyaz at the mandir at 7 pm and end at 11 pm during which time I usually played four ragas. After a year and half, Mamu told me, 'if you see anything just don't talk about it'. One night as I was playing, deep in meditation, I smelled something. It was an indescribable scent, something like sandalwood and jasmine and incense. I thought it was aroma of Ganges. But the scent got more powerful. I opened my eyes - and when I speak about it I still get goose flesh - when I opened my eyes, there was Balaji standing right next to me, kamandal in hand, exactly as he is pictured. My door was locked from inside. Nobody was allowed to enter when I did my riyaz. He said 'play, son'. But I was in cold sweat. I stopped playing."
"He smiled, and disappeared. I unlocked the door. I thought a faqir may have come in. I took a lantern and searched all streets. They were empty. I ran home, ate quickly and slept. Mamu had understood what had happened. But he teased me, pretending he knew nothing, But as I blurted out the experience, Mamu slapped me, because he had asked me earlier not to talk about anything that might happen to me. Then he kissed me and asked me to go and buy vegetables. Mamu always told me 'never look back, keep going forward'. Even now I go to Balaji's mandir alone, at night and play all by myself. When I play before others, in my heart I'm listening to my gurus. In my heart, they clap for me at the appropriate time."