The Banaras Gharana Parampara
My Gruruma, Shrimati Bageshwari Devi, suddenly died due to a heart attack, after not getting a post in the Khariragarh university, as the singing teacher in the art section. Guru Ma did not get the appointment as she had no degree, although she was a famous Banaras Gharana singer! I was very sad about her death because the night before she died, she had called me and said, "I am going away please come soon"! I said, "I will". But at that time, my child was hardly 3 months old. The same night she died and I was heartbroken.
After many day of greaving, I felt that I should arrange a Shradhanjali or a tribute concert for my Guruma. So I decided to perform the first 'Smt. Bageswari Devi Sradhanjali Concert' - in which I invited her favourite instrumentalist the Shehnai legend Ustad Bismillah Khan. At that time he was not very actively seen in the concerts that were going on then, because everyone was under the impression that he is now crippled and in a wheelchair, and going out would be a major problem for him now. I went from Bombay, paid him an advance, and came back. In the meanwhile, I was getting offers from other senior artists that if I invite them instead of Ustad Ji, they will give me many concerts in London and America. But my guruma had always said 'Ustad Bismillah Khan was truly a Benaras Gharana artist, and I should listen to his music' - and that is why I held on to my choice.
I had a two-day grand festival at Iskcon auditorium where Ust Bismillah Khan came.
Very luckily, 12 days before the concert Ustad Bismillah Khan was given the Bharat Ratna Award by the then Atal Bihari Govt - And I got a Bharat Ratna for my first concert in Bombay!!
When he came down to Mumbai, he did not know that I was a singer. We were all waiting for him to come including the then-Chief Minister Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh ji, Sunil Dutta Ji, and my esteemed Hon. Kripashankar Singh, they all asked me to start singing as they waited for Ustad Bismillah Khan to come. I went on the stage and I started singing. I was singing a 'thumri' and my husband was then escorting Ustad Bismillah Khan inside. As soon as he heard me sing, Ust. Bismillah Khan said, "Who is this singing? I am hearing the old Rasoolan Bai in her voice!! And also hear the pure Banaras Gharana style.. that's why I want to do Jugalbandi/duet with her!" He hurried in as my husband pushed the wheelchair in. After receiving the message, Dr. Soma Ghosh stopped singing and everyone welcomed Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan.