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The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Shanno Khurana, 2013 August 4.
Oral history with Shanno Khurana, 2013 August 4.
Khurana, Shanno, 1927- and Sandhu, Manleen
Author (no Collectors):
Khurana, Shanno, 1927-, Sandhu, Manleen, Sandhu, Manleen, and Sandhu, Manleen
Shanno Khurana was born as ‘Raj Kumar’ on 23rd December 1927 to father Chaman Lal Kumar and mother Jamuna Bai in the princely state of Jodhpur in present-day Rajasthan. She was later named Shanno after a woman from Jalandhar who visited Jodhpur to raise funds for a good cause. Shanno’s father was a railway engineer posted with the princely state of Jodhpur. Her mother died in a railway accident when Shanno was about 4 years old. Since then, she was mostly brought up by her paternal grandmother who lived with them. Her father was originally from Shahpur in Sargodha and her maternal side of the family was also from a place near Sargodha. Shanno is one of eight siblings, five sisters and three brothers. She also has one brother and two sisters from her father’s second marriage.Early in her life, Shanno and her family discovered that she had a lovely voice. However, her father never wanted her to pursue singing professionally since at the time, female singers were widely associated with courtesans in the king’s palace and this was frowned upon by larger society. Thus, Shanno and her sisters were also never allowed to visit the king’s palace. She would listen to songs on the radio and try to sing them. When she was eight years old, Pandit Raghunath Rao Musalgaonkar began coming to their house to teach music to her older brother. A few years later, Shanno’s father yielded to her request to allow her to learn from him as well. At the time, Shanno was attending St. Partick’s Convent School in Jodhpur. She remembers the nuns at school being very affectionate. Eminent Indian physicist, M.G.K Menon’s sisters studied with Shanno at St. Patrick’s Convent.Her first radio broadcast was from All India Radio in Lahore in 1945. Shanno fondly remembers singing Raag Multani. In the same year as her first radio broadcast, Shanno married Dr. Parmeshwar Lal Khurana. He was a medical doctor and dentist in the Air Force. In early 1947, she and her husband relocated from Lahore to Delhi for he wanted to practice dentistry in Delhi. When Partition struck, Shanno and her husband were living in a house on Parliament Street in Delhi. There was news of rioting in Connaught Place which was near their house. Since her husband’s family was from Banno in NWFP, they had close to 40 of his relatives who had come from Banno and were now living with them in Delhi while in search of their new homes. Shanno’s father-in-law was a prominent lawyer in Banno. With 40 people living in the house, Shanno remembers that time as being one of great hardship. Organizing their stay along with food and other amenities was a big challenge. At the height of rioting, some of them who had to sleep in the lawns due to lack of space inside the house, kept guns under their pillow. Some stayed in their house in Delhi for a whole year before they could move out into their own houses.After Partition, Shanno worked very hard to promote female musicians in newly independent India. She also noticed how the classical music scene in Delhi hardly enjoyed an audience or general presence in the city’s culture. Thus, Shanno, with a team of fellow artists who were her supporters, conceived and executed the concept of performing opera on Punjabi and medieval Indian folk tales and historical legends. She was able to use western mediums of performance arts to bring Indian classical music and arts into the consciousness of residents of Delhi who thus far were more into tea-time and cocktail bands as remnants of Delhi’s colonial legacy. In this interview, Shanno also talks about the role radio played in propagating classical music after Partition. She speaks about how after Partition, when the princely states were dissolved and musicians lost royal or aristocratic patronage, court musicians left the darbars and the common man finally experienced unprecedented access to these musicians for the first time. In 1959, she began studying from Mushtaq Hussain Khan, a highly distinguished classical music exponent who taught her until he passed away in 1964.Shanno eventually got her PhD in Music/Musicology and conducted extensive studies on the folk music of Rajasthan. Her contributions to classical music are very well known in India for which the Indian government also awarded her the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards in 1991 and 2006 respectively.She has two children, a son and a daughter. One of her grandsons, Naman Ahuja, is an art historian and currently teaches at Jawahar Lal Nehru University. Today, Shanno lives in the home she and her husband built together in Defense Colony. Her husband passed away a few years ago. At the age of 85, Shanno continues to practice singing for a couple hours every day.
History and History
Physical Description:
15 video files
Publication Info:
New Delhi (India)
New Delhi (India), August 4, 2013
Filmed interviews