Zakir Hussain is India’s iconic tabla maestro. Speaking with Sugandha Indulkar, Hussain discussed the high volume tolerance debate, why he feels media should temper its tone – and being the first heartthrob of Indian music:
We’re seeing a considerable debate on tolerance currently – is India a tolerant nation?
Yes, India is a tolerant nation. Indians know how to live peacefully with each other. We are a diverse country and in our diversity, we’ve found peace and compassion.
I am proud to be an Indian. My wife is an American. I can get an American passport – i never went for it. I believe i am an Indian, my father believed it, because there is a deep-rooted connection with the culture and art of India that we are constantly aware of. At the time of Partition, many people went to Pakistan but we stayed here because we knew we were Indians. It really is unique, this beautiful, culturally rich nation of ours. We are peace-loving – and we need to hold on this harmony. We should not give anyone an opportunity to pit us against one another.
But we are hearing many contrarian views. Have you faced any intolerance yourself?
Not at all. I am the quintessential Mumbai boy. I was brought up in Mahim. My father was the best tabla player I knew. His discipline and dedication were very inspirational. My parents were staunch followers of Islam. At home, after my morning prayers and riyaaz, I would go to a madrasa and pray. From there, I’d go to St Michael’s school, before which I would go to the chapel and say my hymns and novenas. In the evening, I used to go to a temple and then come home to learn tabla again.