Noted Sitar and Surbahar player Ustad Imrat Khan has turned down the Padma Shri award as he believes it comes “too late” and is not “parallel” to his “worldwide reputation and contributions”.
Imrat, 82, said he has mixed feelings about getting a Padma Shri when his “juniors” have already received the Padma Bhushan.
“At the last moments of my life at the age of 82 the Government of India has chosen to recognize me with the Padma Shri award.
“While I acknowledge the good intentions behind this move; I have mixed feelings about it without holding any prejudice, to the purpose of this award which comes perhaps many decades late – while my juniors receive the Padma Bhushan,” he said in a response to Indian Consulate in Chicago who had contacted him after the announcement on the eve of the Republic Day.
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Imrat, who lives in St Louis, says he made great contributions to propagating Indian classical music worldwide, particularly the Sitar and his ancestral Surbahar.
Having performed with stalwarts like his older brother Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Ustad Amedjan Thirakwa Khan and Pandit VG Jog, Imrat says he does not want to compromise by accepting Padma Shree.
“My music has been the center stage of my life and I have put it on the highest pedestal with a lifetime of devotion to its art refusing any form of corruption to its form and essence.
“I do not expect at this moment in my life that my devotion and contributions be diminished to a level lower than my followers, students and sons – by age or reputation.
“I have never compromised in my life. Why should I compromise now when this award presented to me is not parallel to my worldwide reputation and contributions in the name of the pure arts and culture of India?,” he said.
The artiste claims that declining the Padma Shri is not a matter of self-aggrandizement but “an issue of propriety”.