This may be a cliché but Begum Akhtar was like the proverbial shama to which countless parwanas have lost their souls. Stories about her life are legendary and add to the mystique of her musical personality. There is for instance the famous one about a poet in Lucknow driven mad by her music who roamed the streets scrawling her name on walls. Then there is the unconfirmed but widely believed account of her enthronement by the Rampur Nawab and her dramatic escape from the stifling atmosphere of the court and demands of her patron. In the 1950s she emerged as the eminently respectable wife of Ishtiaq Ahmed Ansari a lawyer in Lucknow. Her transformation from Akhtaribai Faizabadi, the famous singer-courtesan to upper class housewife was complete.
October 2006, volume 30, No 10