An enthusiastic Anwar Khurshid arrived in Whitehorse.
But, five days later, the sitar player left empty handed and weeping.
Khurshid performed at last week’s Whitehorse storytelling festival.
Afterwards, he stayed on a few days to explore the Yukon.
“I was walking in the mountains and people kept recognizing me and asking about the sitar,” said Khurshid from Toronto Thursday.
“I love nature — the music I play is very natural and improvised — I get inspiration from nature.”
So, his last evening in Whitehorse, Khurshid took his sitar out to the trails behind Crestview, where he was billeted.
“I went there to practise,” he said.
After a few hours, the sun set and Khurshid got chilly.
“I wanted to keep playing, so I decided to go home and get something to cover my head,” he said.
Only a few minutes from the house, Khurshid put his sitar in its case and tucked it into the woods.
“I moved it behind where I was playing, inside the forest a little bit,” he said.
On his way back, after grabbing a hat, he saw three people walking away from the trail.
And when Khurshid got to his practicing spot, he realized his sitar was gone.
“I chased after the people, hoping they might know what happened to my sitar,” he said.
But he didn’t catch them.
Khurshid received the sitar four years ago from his teacher.
“It was special, because I earned it,” he said.
“My teacher brought it from India for me.
“And I’ve spent so much time with it — it becomes a part of you when you practise for eight hours a day.
“I spent more time with my sitar than most people spend with their partners.”
After the loss, Khurshid phoned the police and filed a claim.
“I left the sitar there because, basically, I trust people,” he said.
“It didn’t occur to me that somebody would steal it, or take it away — I didn’t think that would happen.”
Near his Scarborough, Ontario, home, there is a ravine, and Khurshid often takes his sitar there to practice, he said.
He admitted he wouldn’t have left it alone in Scarborough, but he felt Whitehorse was safer.
“I was on the bus with a friend going downtown that day, and I didn’t have change, only $10,” said Khurshid.
“I asked people, but nobody had any change. Then this young boy came and just gave us two toonies — it was so nice, so I insisted he take the $10.”
Khurshid still finds it hard to believe his sitar was stolen in a city he felt was so lovely.
“A part of me still believes someone just took it for safe keeping,” he said.
The loss was very hard on Khurshid.
“It hit me in the morning when I was just about to board the plane,” he said.
“I couldn’t hold back my tears, because it is like parting with a loved one.”
Khurshid was enchanted by the sound of the sitar when he was just a baby.
“My father used to take lessons in Pakistan, and I still remember listening to that beautiful sound — it was so intriguing as a child,” he said.
Later, he began taking lessons offered by the Pakistan arts council, and, 26 years later, he is still playing.
Fifteen years ago, Khurshid moved to the Toronto area, and in 2000, he opened his own school, The Sitar School of Toronto.
There are instruments at the school he is able to use now that his sitar is missing, he said.
But they are not the same.
“That was the instrument I was so used to,” he said.
If anyone has information regarding Khurshid’s sitar, contact the RCMP, or call Khurshid at (647) 207-4827.