Tiny Shekhawati hamlet Luna mourns Mehdi Hassan
The native could not return. The persistent efforts during the past six months by the Rajasthan government to bring the ghazal maestro Mehdi Hassan to India from Karachi for treatment did not materialise. And for Mehdi Hassan, who hailed from Luna village in Jhunjhunu district, the International Rajasthani Conclave in Jaipur which he attended in 2002 proved to be his last event in his home State.
On Wednesday Rajasthan mourned the passing away of one of its legendary sons. This season has been especially bad for Rajasthan's music legends. Another illustrious singer from the State— and another equally gifted ghazal singer at that — Jagjit Singh bid adieu to the world in October 2011.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Assembly Speaker Deependra Singh Shekhawat and Minister for Tourism, Art and Culture Bina Kak, expressed grief over the singer's death.
As information on Hassan's illness reached the outside world in January this year, Mr. Gehlot had offered the family to bear all expenses for his treatment in India. Mr. Gehlot was in correspondence with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and the Minister of State E. Ahmed to help Mr. Hassan and his family with visa and other arrangements for the trip.
Last of the letters Mr. Gehlot wrote in this connection was on May 16, requesting Mr. Krishna to grant visas to more family members of the singer to accompany him to India.
“There was no communication from the family thereafter. His condition seemed to be too fragile for moving him out of the private hospital where he had been admitted,” said a source in the Chief Minister's Office.
Old timers in Luna, a village of 1,500 inhabitants recollect three occasions when Mehdi Hassan visited the village after his family's departure even prior to Partition. “I was lucky to be with him for three days when he visited Luna in 1980. He was ecstatic about returning to the land of sand dunes,” said A.N. Khan Advocate, who is from Dhanuri a village in the neighbourhood of Luni. “He was put up at Jhunjhunu's Dak Bunglow by the India Government but he kept telling me that he wanted to sleep on the sand dunes…” Mr. Khan noted.
The sand dunes were dear to Mehdi, as his surviving childhood friend Narain Singh Shekhawat (91) in Luna would vouchsafe.
For the boy used to roll over on the sand dunes wrestling and grappling with the children in the village before he left them all behind at the age of 12 to accompany his father Azim Jaan and uncle Karim Jaan, first to Basti in Uttar Pradesh and then to Pakistan.
In Luna the village people got together during the day to pay homage to the person who had brought glory to the tiny dust-laden hamlet of Kayamkani Muslims.
For them Mehdi was the “guided one” as the name implied. With the same logic they also believe that Mehdi — named after Imam Mehdi, a messianic figure, who the scriptures said would appear on earth before the second coming of Jesus Christ — would come back.