Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is probably the oldest voice that I remember from my childhood. Dam mast qalandar playing in our Suzuki Swift (it became Khyber much later) car with my dad focusing on the road and my mother trying to settle down my little brother who loved walking in a moving car. I was too young to understand the spirit of the song but was happy for music with modern catchy beats.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and those long night road trips
Little does one know in childhood that there will come a time when everything will become a reminder of our connection to the days we had once lived and loved. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Dam mast qalandar is that red scarf for me which when taken out of an old trunk reminds you of an Eid spent with your grandmother. It is a token of those long rides in Suzuki Swift with my parents for me.
My childhood is filled with memories that night-time road trips from on Lahore Sargodha road. These memories come lined up with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s music which a little girl listened just because this was all that was played on that little car’s frail music system.
He also ruled my beloved Bollywood but in a funny way
In my growing up years, I had started recognizing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as a part of my daily life. Khan Sahib was there for every emotion and every moment. I also remember his work being copied across the border. As a child who had no concept of privacy, I was just happy picking up a song because its tune sounded familiar.
It was much later that his qawwalis were used in the films as they were.
Some people never leave
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a part of our daily lives. I, as a child, had no idea of his power and status. He was just a part of our family who went with us no matter where the road went. Even when everyone else was quiet on those night long trips, Khan Sahib would continue singing Sajna teray bina and Akhiyan udeek diyan. I solemnly pledge I had no idea of the loss of departure till then but I sang along and knew these qawwalis by heart. Also, I had no idea that he would leave the world in a blink leaving these sad departure songs for his loved ones to listen every time they shed a tear in his memory.
Nusrat Fateha Ali Khan was gone too soon. Everyone else stayed behind. Life had to go on.
By then I had a fair idea of death and its finality. But I did not know that some people never leave. They continue living with us.
My teenage inner voice
My teen years were more about self-consciousness. As a young girl, I was always conscious of how I looked. My confidence depended solely on how things were on the outside. It was all about the surface. I was also becoming familiar with the idea of romance and silent crushes. I was an apparently confident but shy girl who did not have the audacity to reveal what she felt because of shaking self-esteem. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan made sure that he did not let his child break in loneliness. Sometimes you just need a voice that reassures your thoughts just by saying them for you. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan became my inner voice. He echoes wherever I went.
The innate message of religious harmony
As I grew up I realized there was more to life than what I strongly felt in my teens. I had started thinking about the lack of tolerance which had started creeping into Pakistani society by then. I often failed to understand why people hated each other on the basis of their beliefs. There were questions about peaceful co-existence in my head. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan also guided me there spreading the message of love that preceded everything else. He was one of those very few popular singers who sang Guru Gobind Singh’s famous Shabd ‘Mitr pyare nu’ and also performed at Gurdwara Sahib.
Mira Bai’s bhajan ‘Saanson ki mala pe’ reached every Pakistani household when Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sang it from the depth of his heart.
He articulated the self-righteous ones that at the end of the day humanity prevails every practice.
My introduction to folklores and deeper than words poetry
Had it not been for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, I would probably have not learned most of the folklores and poetry. He taught me the story of Sassi Punnu who slept away and lost her love’s life. Heer is a part of me till today because of those qawwalis which still echo in my head.
Baba Farid, Bulleh Shah, and Shah Hussain’s poetry guides me through the dark tunnels of life today. It was after listening ‘Na man behooda gide’ that I explored Rumi who had to offer me enough for the rest of my life.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan lives with me
To the world, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a star who shone upon the sky for a short period but lit up the whole sky. To the world, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a phenomenon who even won the hearts which did not understand his language but still believed he was speaking of the calling they had always been waiting for. But to me, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is my best friend who spoke my heart and held my hand to make me get through the dark lonely path I had never seen. He has helped me reach the places I have never been to and mourn the love I have never seen. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a part of my childhood which still lives with me and reminds me of who I actually was. He is my best friend who went with us to every long night road trip in a white Suzuki Swift car. He never left.