A musical journey drew to a mysterious close on Friday, as news of legendary ghazal singer Vithal Rao’s demise broke out in the afternoon evoking shock and despair in the city. Rao, 86, not just wowed Hyderabadis for over seven decades – right from the time of the last Nizam – but also won accolades all over the world for his melodious renditions. The ghazal singer suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
But even as family members and well-wishers grieved the sudden death of the Ustad, what seemed to befuddle them more was other, predictably more pertinent, questions. How did ‘Guruji’ land up in Hyderabad after going missing from Shirdi, almost a month ago? Who brought him back? Where had he been all these days? Will we ever find answers to these questions? Perhaps not.
The ghazal exponent’s last journey, believed to have rather surprisingly ended at the city’s Gandhi Hospital on June 24, began exactly a month ago — on May 24 — when he had gone on a pilgrimage to Maharashtra with 14 members of his family. After brief stopovers at Buldhana and Tuljapur, the group reached Shirdi, the last destination on their itinerary. From there, ‘Guruji’ lost his way.
On May 29, moments after he and his daughter Sandhya Rao finished their prayers at the Sai Baba temple, Rao disappeared into thin air — almost literally — and remained untraceable till his last day.
While family members, disciples and even admirers moved heaven and earth thereafter — scanning railway stations, hotels and hospitals across cities in Maharashtra — trying to secure any possible clue that could lead them to the musical genius, they failed miserably. Even the efforts of the police, both from Shirdi and Hyderabad, yielded no result.
Cut to June 24, and a 108 ambulance found ‘Guruji’ lying unconscious outside Country Club in Begumpet. Incidentally, at the same time the family was searching for Rao in and around Charminar bus station, after a tip-off from a stranger.
“We got a call saying that my father was seen boarding a bus to Old City from Secunderabad station. So we all rushed there,” said Santosh Rao, the youngest son of the Nizam-era singer. That search too ended in disappointment and within the next 48 hours, the family received the bad news from the Crime Branch of Hyderabad Police.
“We were informed that the ambulance took my father to Gandhi Hospital. When doctors there asked him his name he replied: Vithal Rao. Those were his last words,” Santosh added. Not surprisingly then, the family is now trying to put the pieces together to recreate the story that finished so abruptly.
“We are still struggling to come to terms with what happened with our father. We have no clue how he got here, how he survived all through the last few weeks and who called the ambulance,” Santosh said, battling back his tears. He, along with a few other members of the family, identified the body on Friday.
Family apart, even the city police seem to be stumped by Vithal Rao’s bizarre death. They claim that they had reached out to almost every railway station in the country in their search for the acclaimed artist. “We had gone to Shirdi to assist the local team there. When we got a lead that Guruji might be in Hyderabad, we returned and continued our search from here. Sadly, it ended with his death,” said CCS inspector Shyam Babu. Vithal Rao’s funeral will be held in Old City on Saturday.
source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Hyderabad / by Sudipta Sengupta, TNN / June 27th, 2015