Author: Shanti HiranandPublisher: Viva BooksYear: 2005Language: EnglishPages: 196ISBN/UPC (if available): 8130901722
Begum Akhtar, b circa, 1914- d, 1974, a legend in her own lifetime, is one such person on whom there is no available biography. A pioneer in the field of Indian light classical music, she helped popularize the traditional form of thumari and ghazal gayaki and took it to the concert level all over India and abroad. Unfortunately, despite her talents, an entire generation of Indians has grown up listening to only gossip connected with Begum Akhtar’s life; be it the controversy surrounding the Nawab of Rampur or her other alleged affairs. This is what Shanti Hiranand has attempted in her memoirs. It is a book that will hopefully provide a salve to all those open wounds surrounding Begum Akhtar’s persona. Shantiji has examined her beloved Ammi with the objective philosophical gaze of a woman and has shown us a side of Begum Akhtar that was hitherto hidden in the dusty corridors of House No 1, Havelock Road, Lucknow.It is interesting how these two women from seemingly diverse backgrounds could come to such an exalted level of understanding between themselves, in times that were not very conducive to such social interactions. Shantiji belonged to an upper middle-class business family. She had a liberal education and was used to a certain space and freedom to pursue her own passions, while Begum Akhtar lived within the cloistered environs of a typical feudal home in those days. On the one hand Shantiji was an austere Gandhian and Begum Akhtar was a person of deep indulgences. It is amazing that even Shantiji’s parents never stood in her way; they never stopped her from being with her Ammi. On the contrary on occasions it was Shantiji’s mother who encouraged her to follow her Guru right until the end.
PROLOGUEACKNOWLEDGEMENTSA word about Shanti Hiranand’s book on Begum Akhtar Preface1. Service and Love2. Seclusion3. God4. Knowledge5. Ecstasy6. Truth7. Union with God8. ExtinctionREFERENCEGLOSSARY