New Delhi: Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh drew huge crowds in Pakistan during his maiden trip to the country in 1979 even as he remained under surveillance by a Pakistani intelligence official, who incidentally turned out to be a fan, according to a new book on the late singer.
The incident finds mention in "Baat Niklegi Toh Phir - The Life and Music of Jagjit Singh," authored by Sathya Saran and published by HarperCollins.
"The political situation when we went (to Pakistan) was not very calm, we could sense a tension. When we landed we noticed a man getting into the aircraft and just standing there. We saw him again and again. He followed us out of the airport and we saw him again in the hotel. It was unnerving.
"The room bell rang. Jagjit opened the door, and he was outside. He entered. Jagjit asked him in Punjabi, 'Are you following us?'," the book quotes Chitra Singh, wife of Jagjit Singh, as saying.
Chitra recounts how the slueth mentioned that he was a fan and "gestured that the room was bugged."
"Explaining that he was from the Intelligence Department, he with utmost care, drew from inside his jacket a bottle wrapped in newspaper; he had brought alcohol as a gift since the hotel served none," says Chitra, who had accompanied her husband on that tour.
The book further quotes Chitra saying that Pakistan had banned them from giving any performances but they had accepted a private invitation from the Press Club, where they sang to a full house.
The next day they visited Shankar Dayal Sharma's residence, who was at that time Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, for a private concert and what followed was a flood of invitations for the duo to perform.
Chitra recalls that it was only after they showed the
notice issued to them by Pakistan government which allowed them a stay only till 20 February that they were spared of any further requests to perform.
Much later, in 1990 when Jagjit re-visited Pakistan, this time without his wife, he met former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, at his residence there.
The book recounts a jugalbandi between the musical maestro and Musharraf with the latter playing the tabla.
With his music Singh had earned admiration among people in the neighbouring country, captivating among others its entire cricket team.
"He took Baboo (Jagjit's son) to the hotel where the Pakistan cricket team was staying during a tour in the early 1980s, so that he could get all their autographs. The entire team took turns to touch the singer's feet. He had the knack of making every single person think he was singing solely for him," the book quotes Kartar Singh, the youngest of Jagjit Singh's siblings.
The book further reveals that Singh, who was a favourite of crowds at concerts, hardly cancelled any of his live performances but had to call off the one where he was to perform with Pakistani ghazal legend Ghulam Ali.
The show, scheduled for September 22, 2011 in Mumbai was cancelled at the last moment after Singh was hospitalised after suffering a stroke. The ghazal maestro passed away a few days later on October 10.
Sathya Saran's "Baat Niklegi Toh Phir" gives insights into life of Singh and the many roles that he played as a son, father, husband, brother, friend and above all a musician par excellence who changed the face of ghazal singing forever.