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In Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's Musical Reign

Ruling the world takes a unique skill set. Rulers are made of different metal. It's not the era of kings and emperors who pronounce decrees and expect them to be followed. Politicians only seem to care about power and extending their influence and would go to any length to achieve that. However, in my reign ...

Mannu Kohli   |   illustration by Keshav Kapil  |  

 

There will be one God. One humanity.

Artistes are a different lot. We come into the world to serve through our art. We serve people irrespective of their beliefs and affiliations. I would, first and foremost, do what all the leaders, the priests and god-men of the world have failed to: spread the message of one common God, one humanity. That there is one supreme power ruling the universe regardless of the religion anyone follows. The universal truth is that there is one force, which brings us into this world and which takes us away. We come the same way and go the same way. It is a misfortune that world politics is based on religion today. And it's the poor innocents who are affected the most. I would urge people to understand that if the passage of birth and death varied for different religions, there would still be a basis to believe in different gods, but when we are all born the same way and die the same way, where is the doubt? Often, god-men and priests, down the ages, the world over, have used religion to fulfil their own agenda and needs, which are dictated by power and greater influence. I would end that.

 

I would spread peace and harmony through music.

My connection to the world is through the language of music. Musicians across the globe are a family who connect through the same seven notes. I would even suggest the judiciary change their dependence on words, which might be the weakest form of communication, and therefore often ineffective.

 

My desire would be to unify people and make them feel safe. During my travels, I find that many resonate with the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message of non-violence has more value and relevance in the current context.

I don't believe in the ideology of ruling through fear-mongering, manipulation and singling individuals out or dividing them on the basis of caste, colour and creed. A musician's wealth is the love and respect of the people for his music, which he wants to share further and pass on. These are the values a ruler should spread in their reign. I would spread the message of peace and harmony through what I know best-the seven notes of music. You can divide a country, you can partition land, but music is a force that can never divide. It only connects and brings people closer.

 

People would have better access.  

Lakhs of people in the world still do not have access to basics such as food, water and electricity. I would provide these to everybody on this planet. I would like to dispel the suffering of the poor. No matter the political party in power, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. I would like to see that end.


Education will be rooted in empathy.

Our schools do not teach compassion and kindness. What kind of education system do we follow that has failed to teach these values basic to any life? How can racism exist where there is modern education? How can a scholar, academic or a public intellectual be communal or a fundamentalist or bigoted? Our 'education' is geared towards scoring good marks and degrees. It doesn't teach oneness, compassion and equality. My appeal to all is to abandon their selfish interests and spread the message of peace; not be the opportunists that we end up being-as beautifully said in Hinduism, 'Atma hi parmatma hai' (soul is god). Service should be the only motto of life.    

 

- As told to Mannu Kohli

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