Shubra’s parents were basking in the glory of her first few baby steps but as always she needed attention. This was before the car stereo suddenly came to life as her family drove down the Marine Lines one chilly morning in Mumbai.
The music had a mesmerising effect bringing an ecstatic smile on Shubra’s face. Shubra voluntarily took the floor in the Maruti Van signalling everyone in the car to join the party. The music played perfect host to the rising waves threatening at times to swamp the car but no one complained as everything seemed in perfect harmony.
The music grew louder with the breeze coming in fast and wild. It appeared as if the rising sea waves sought singer’s ‘kagaz ki kashti’ as a return gift for allowing Shubra to celebrate her ‘bachapan kaa savaan’.
She neither knew the lyrics nor the singer, but the song was able to strike a deep rapport with her. For the rest of us in the car it was a happy reprieve from pile of worries that
surrounded us. As the van dropped us at nearby Bombay Hospital, my father whispered into my ear his desire to ferry the ‘Kagaz Ki Kashti’ to the hospital. Jagjit Singh in his sheer diversity and brilliance stayed a permanent companion for the four months my father stayed indoors. As he walked out back home healthy, he sang his favourite Ghazal to my little niece Shubra.
My father lived for about four years post his surgery, but died about twenty years ago with the unwritten wish: ‘Mera Geet Amar Kar Do’! They say parents never die for you. Yes, but wonder what makes them live with you forever?
Among several prized possessions I have of my father today is a set of worn out but well performing Jagjit Singh cassettes he must have bought in the late eighties in the Valley. Jagjit Singh, almost like a loyal family member, managed to be a part of the skeletal stuff my parents could manage to extricate as they were forced to flee from the Valley in 1990.
Singh’s journey to my parents’ new home in Jammu then and now here is a testimony to the permanent place the singer enjoys in hearts of millions and millions of music lovers all over the world. Shubra, you and me, are among millions who have an eternal crush on the ‘Kashti’ singer.
For a generation fed on the elitism bred by Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh did to Ghazal singing what Kapil Dev and M S Dhoni have together done to Indian cricket: made it a household passion cutting across socio economic criterion.
For the romanticist, he has been like a colossus who rose from the ashes to tell another story of love and care. For those with an eye for history, he got Ghalib almost to pop out of your music system ready to embrace you. For anyone with a yen for the beat, he reinvented himself as among the most popular Punjabis all over the world. And devotion brought out the catharsis in him ringing in a bell that appeared straight from the heaven.
Jagjit Singh brought dignity to tragedy using his craft as the talisman. He thus redefined work integrity even as his soul mate and co singer Chitra Singh (as a tribute to her young son who died in a car crash) silenced her voice permanently.
But when the phone rang yesterday morning, as I was driving my son to school, I knew Shubra was on the line. I could read her lips. Before we could proceed further, my son had his favourite song loaded on to the music system: ‘Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho, Kya Gham Hai Jisko Chhupa Rahe Ho’. I thought to myself it was not all that difficult to fulfil my father’s last wish! Thank you Jagjit Singh!
(This is a personal tribute)
Author is Editor-Zee Research Group (ZRG)
(The views expressed by the author are personal)