October 26, 2011

"Happy Diwali"

Diwali is one of my favorite festivals. It has a colorful touch, there are lights of all sorts illuminating our homes, and the most important part - sweets and savories!

Since my childhood days, my most favorite thing about Diwali has been the 'rangoli' preparation. An auspicious symbol, it is believed that during the Laxmi Puja, the rangoli is used to drive away evil spirits and to invite the Goddess into the household.  

What is your favorite part of Diwali?

"Wishing you all a very Happy Prosperous Diwali. Have a safe one !"

Some snaps of this year's celebration - 

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October 10, 2011

He wanted me to dance for him...

... but I never got the chance.

It was in February, 2000 when he asked me. Time has passed between then and now. And so has the person. He passed away today in the wee hours of the morning (IST). The person I am talking about is the King of Ghazals and the man with the silken voice - 'Shri Jagjit Singh'. 

Growing up abroad gave me an opportunity to meet famous people upfront and close. Be it -  world-renowned musicians like Pt. Shivkumar Sharma/Rahul Sharma/Hariprasad Chaurasia or experienced carnatic vocalists like Bombay Jayasree (of RHTDM - Zara Zara fame)/T. N. Seshagopalan or legendary danseuses like Padma Shri Chitra Visweswaran / the Dhananjayans.

We, as a family treasured each occasion and the invaluable autographs as a lifetime experience. Like every huge event, Jagjit Singh's "ghazal" night was planned on a large scale to the last meticulous detail.

Even months before the event, tickets were sold-out. The audience had to be accommodated keeping in mind only elite music lovers. The event demanded people who could appreciate  poetry. The kind of poetry which were originally written by Persian mystics. Many volunteers were pooled in. Important guests were invited. A 5-star hotel was fixed for the venue. Long & short speeches were prepared. Snacks/beverages were finalized. The stage was set. Technical arrangements all taken care of and last but not the least, seating plans were charted out.

The previous night of the actual event was when the famous artistes flew in, settled and got acquainted with the organizing committee and their families over dinner and drinks. I missed the chance to meet him personally that evening due to maths tuition class while mom, dad and baby bro happily clicked away pictures with him. No no, I was not trying to prove that I was a book worm or anything. Although I wanted to meet the great personality, with the CBSE Xth board exams less than 2 weeks away, it was more of a time to be buried neck-deep into studies. Yet, I looked forward to the next evening. 

Truly speaking, back then, I had the slightest clue of what a ghazal was or barely understood its symbolic expressions. I knew the artist - Jagjit Singh as the person whose voice played during the title track of a 1990s tele-serial "Sailaab" on Zee TV - 

"Apni marzi se kahaan apne safar ke hum hain....
Rukh hawoon ka jidhar ke hain, udhar ke hum hain...

Pehle apne har cheez thi apni, magar ab lagta hai...
Apne hi ghar main kisi doosre ghar ke hum hain....  " 

And even though I never understood the underlying meaning of the song, I loved its rhythm and soothing feel.

On the big night, I was seated at my allotted place, nearly left bored and company-less. The event had the parents seated right out in the front few rows and the children (big and small) were pushed behind. Baby bro, 10 years old at that time, happily playing off with his buddies least bothered about the whole ruckus.

The anticipation kept building up to see the person, whose voice scores loved listening to. He was wheat-skinned and had a normal physique. Having never displayed flamboyance, his attire back then and today has always remained simple, with the shawl over his left shoulder, adding to the elegance. The rimmed spectacles, a beautiful smile of pearls and the charismatic eyes always showed the innocence of a child. A trademark harmonium at his hands and his troupe set on their instruments, he was ready for the arena. 

The concert began and so did the magic. Left with nothing else to do and having had the luck of a chance pen in my hand, I wrote down the songs he sang that evening. I don't know what made me do that. Maybe for a memoir, or out of boredom. But ever since, those songs have been etched in my heart & remain in my playlist no matter where I travel. 

An amazing night, the concert had the audience requesting for all his known hits. The most enjoyable parts being when he would ask the audience to sing with him and mouth the lyrics. He connected well with his unique tidbits and jokes from time-to-time which proved his music  always healed hearts.

The concert ended on a scintillating note. The aura kept me wishing to hear him sing for the rest of my life. We always got to attend dinner with artistes after the event was over. The dinner hall was the usual kind with a long table surrounded by chairs. While the organizing committee and their families placed themselves at the beginning of the table, leaving the seat at the head for Jagjit ji, my family took the remaining seats at the middle.

When Jagjit ji walked into, he stopped on the other side of the table, bang opposite my family and asked - "Hume kahaan baithna hai?" Where should I sit?

Everyone gave him the choice - "Jahaan aap chahe." Wherever you like.

He chose to sit at the closest seat he found which was right in front of us !! We were ecstatic and I was nervous. Yes, I was. Apparently, meeting a huge artist like him was not something we are used to and this can be pressurizing when you don't have anything else to say to that person. I couldn't look him in the eye, although I wanted to see him. What would I do if he caught me looking at me? Smile? Speak? Look away? 

He was very observant and asked the President of the committee to introduce everyone. Unlike few famous people who tend to get snobby and airy after the performance, there are few like him who behave like any normal person. He liked to chat with everyone around him taking special interest in the younger people of the room. One glance and he asked the President - "Yeh kaun hai?" Who is she?

I smiled at him and looked away while I was being introduced. He instantly remembered my baby bro who took snaps with him the earlier evening. He took great interest when speaking to children. He was also very concerned for others less fortunate. The waiter walked into the hall with a pile of porcelain plates on a tray, to place them on a side table when all of a sudden, he tripped and fell, crashing & breaking all the plates. Jagjit ji's instant reaction was - "Bhai, sambalke ! " Careful brother !

A moment later, he told the president - "Zara dekh leejiye ki uski pagaar se nahi kaate." Please ensure that the compensation for the broken plates is not taken from his salary. 

You could tell those weren't mere words. He always meant great concern. 

I was silent as ever left with nothing to say, trying hard to concentrate on my plate. Throughout dinner, he would look at me at intervals and say - "Yeh ladki bahut chupp hai" This girl is so silent.

He had a child-like behaviour when it was dessert time. "Mujhe sugar ki problem hai lekin hum kulfi khayenge bhaiya... malai waala" I have sugar problems but still I will prefer the kulfi.

Once dinner was over, we all walked out of the hotel to bid goodbye. I trailed behind as much as I could. He called me out and put his hand around my shoulder and what followed was a conversation I never forgot.

Jagjit ji : "I hear, from the President, that you are very good at dancing." 

Me : (Blushing and nervously) "Some people say so".

Jagjit ji : "Which dance style is your favorite?"

Me : "I like all the styles....... No specific one."

Jagjit ji : "Did you like the songs I sang today in the evening?"

Me : (Smiling) "Yes." 

Jagjit ji : "You come by as a very silent and reserved girl for your age." At this point, a total stranger, standing nearby says - "Yes, very true. All evening, she was very observant and wrote down all your songs." Apparently, he was sitting near me, placed alternatively from where I was.

Jagjit ji : "The next time I am in town, will you perform a dance for me?" 

Me : "Definitely...."

After that, those moments turned into a memory for life. He was like any normal individual and yet it was very flattering to speak to him and getting introduced. I always wondered - Would he come to town soon enough for another performance? Even if he did, would he remember me? Do famous people ever remember you the next time you meet them? Well, I guess not.  

Anyways, ever since that day, I have been a fan of ghazals and Shri Jagjit Singh. I enjoy listening to his soulful music whenever I am sad or whenever I want to reminisce my childhood days or happier times or whenever I feel like listening to just anything.

I learnt later that his life had been subjected to many tragedies. His affection towards children came from the fact that he lost his only child and son - Vivek on 28 July 1990, in a road accident. Shocked by Vivek's death Jagjit's wife Chitra Singh stopped singing. More recently, in 2009, his step-daughter, Monica, reportedly committed suicide. 


It always amazed me to see this person, taken down by life from time-to-time, to keep his passion going on. Like the events of his life, the pain can be felt in his voice in many a song.

Here are some of my favorites. "Rest In Peace ... Jagjit ji...."

Tum hamare nahi to kya gham hai....

Tera chehra hai aaeene jaisa...

Tere baare main jab socha nahi tha...

Chand bhi dekha... Phool bhe dekha... 

Chitti na koi sandes... 

Hoshwalon ko khabar kya...

Jaag ke kaati saari raina...

Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho...

Hoton se choo lo tum...

Jhuki jhuki si nazar...

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The King of Ghazals stops singing ...

....and thus the silken voice will never be heard again... 

RIP Shri Jagjit Singh ....

"Shaam se aankh main nammi si hai...."

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