Khan, Vilayat, 1919-, Sandhu, Manleen, Sandhu, Manleen, and Sandhu, Manleen
Vilayat Khan was born in 1919 into a family of balladeers/folk musicians with musical prowess dating back at least two generations from his birth. His father’s name was Raj Mang and his grandfather, who was also a balladeer, was named Khairu; they were both dhaddis, practitioners of folk music rendered on a percussion instrument in Punjab. Vilayat is one of five siblings, all brothers. He did not attend a formal school and is not literate. He received training in folk singing, music and ballads from a very young age.He was married to Dhanni before Partition. When Partition struck, Vilayat was living with his family in Goslan. Vilayat’s family initially came to Malerkotla where his maternal grandmother lived. Being a Muslim family in east Punjab, his family was forcefully sent to a refugee camp about a month after they came to Malerkotla. From that camp, they were boarded onto buses that took them to Kasur. From Kasur, they took a train to Lahore. They did not see any violence along the way. His family brought a lot of gold with them. Vilayat came to Pakistan with his wife Dhanni, four brothers, mother and father. All of Vilayat’s children, 4 sons and 3 daughters, were born in Pakistan.Vilayat’s family eventually came to Sargodha, where it could only sustain itself with dignity till the time the money, gold and silver they brought with them was all spent. Vilayat says he forgot how to sing, including the poetry and lyrics of the songs he used to sing before Partition. There was no audience to appreciate his art. For survival, he did odd jobs like secretly cutting wood and selling it and other forms of day labor. He says such was his sadness in the 10 years that he lived in Pakistan, from 1947 to 1957, that he never once laughed.Sometime in 1957, Vilayat and his father decided that they would return to Goslan, for that is where they believed they would be prosperous, both monetarily and spiritually, once again. Vilayat remembers selling his mother’s silver bangles and other ancestral jewelry to accumulate Rs. 9000, the amount of money he needed to make his journey from Sargodha to Goslan, a distance of over 400 kilometers with all sorts of bureaucracy and border controls that added to the challenge of returning to India. In the interview, Vilayat narrates in detail the obstacles he faced in his journey back to India, including how thieves posing as policemen robbed his family somewhere near Lahore. He crossed the border near Lahore as well. It took him three days to cover the distance between Sargodha and Goslan.Vilayat says that his music “came back” to him after his return to India. Since then, Vilayat has continued singing and is one of the most senior and formidable exponents of dhaddi music across Punjab today. His contributions to his art form have been recognized by India’s national academy for music, dance and theatre, Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA), in the form of the highly prestigious SNA Award in 2009. Today, at the age of 93, Vilayat lives with his children (some of whom have inherited his art form from him) and grandchildren in Goslan.