This is my trip down memory lane, where I reminiscence about what the uncrowned ‘Ghazal King’ meant to me as a heartfelt tribute to the legend.
Chaahe kuchh bhi ho sawaalaat na karna unse,
Mere bare mein koi baat na karna unse
Baat niklegi toh phir door talak jayegi…
‘Jagjit Singh’ A voice that soothed me when I was agitated, and I did not even know why. The phenomenon that brought ghazals from the high echelons of mushairas to the common man and made it not just accessible, but also palatable for him. He met a deeply felt need of the new generation to connect with the roots, which had not been explored by other ghazal luminaries. I may be not more than 4 years old when I first heard late Jagjit Singh’s voice. The ghazal king came in my life very early. While my playmates and other friends took to rhymes and nursery poems, for me it was sheer Urdu poems sung by Jagjit Singh. The reason I came in contact so early with the singer, was because of my father and his friends who got introduced to his music while as students in Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU, Delhi). Those were the days of cassettes and my father and the neighbourhood uncles carried with them all the music they had collected since the days when Jagjit Singh started his music career.
A lot of his ghazals were played at home through 1980’s and they have stayed with me even to this day while I write this post and my entire collection of his Ghazals stand at 1100 from 1976-2011. Work made me relocate and till I got settled in the new city it were the ghazals of Jagjit Singh that helped me to get to terms with new life, new people and new surroundings. The music added to the vibes – the silence which was inside and outside of me. The winter, summer, monsoon made it even better. When I slept on my terrace house watching the stars from the bedroom window, Jagjit Singh always played in the background. Slowly I found myself liking my new home and life. I have always found my peace with Jagjit Singh.
Can you think of Saath Saath without its songs? Those mellifluous duets of the Chitra Singh-Jagjit Singh duo, that spoke of a love, about togetherness, companionship and most importantly about enjoying life in its simplicity. ‘Yeh tera ghar, yeh mera ghar’ connects with all young couples who are setting up a new home on a modest income but with big dreams. ‘Tumko dekha to yeh khayal aaya’ – a song every lover can identify with… a song that steps beyond the physical and celebrates a love that is about finding tranquility, solace, peace and support in your beloved.
While ‘Bahut pehle se in kadmon ki aahat jaan lete hain, tujhe ai zindagi hum door se pehchaan lete hain’ had a lighter romantic vein,‘Baat niklegi to phir door talak jayegi’ spun a story rich in visual detail that never failed to evoked emotions in the listeners. And ‘Sarakti jai hai rukh se naqab, aahista aahista’ was sung with just the kind of delicate fragility as the shayari expressed. ‘Gham ho ke khushi dono kuch der ke saathi hain, phir rasta hi rasta hai, hasna hai na rona hai’, rising and dropping in pitch and timber, creating a mesmerizing ambience what Jagjit’s voice in Live concerts. ‘Aadmi, aadmi ko kyaa dega, Jo bhii dega wahi khuda dega’, ‘Fasila toh hai magar, koi faasila nahin’, ‘Mere dukh ki koi dawa na karo, mujhko mujh se abhi judaa na karo’ – all these ghazals had a philosophical depth to it which for the 12 years old me, it was like listening to holy sermon. Just when you start exploring the depths of lost love in ‘Uski hasrat hai jise dil se mita bhee na sakoon’ with Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh scales the high octaves with the sharply rising ‘meherbaan hoke bulalo mujhe chaho jis waqt, main gaya waqt nahin hoon ke phir aa bhi na sakoon’ bringing in positive buoyancy and hope. Alongside there were ‘Hoton se chhoolo tum mera geet amar kar do’ ‘Chhitti Na Koi Sandesh’, ‘Koi Fariyaad’, ‘Hosh Walon Ko’ – usually a one-off song/ghazal in films that scored over the rest of the songs in that film. Basically a single carrying an album on its shoulders! A bright spot on TV was the serial Sailaab. And the highlight of the serial, the title song sung by Jagjit Singh – ‘Apni marzi se kahaan apne, safari pe ham hain. Rukh hawaaon ka jidhar ka hai, udhar ke ham hain.’ Nida Fazli’s ‘Duniya jise kehte hain’ blew me over when I first heard it. I was too young to understand the deeper meaning perhaps. But Jagjit Singh opened up for me a new world of music and poetry, which made me realise there is a world beyond foot tapping music and sentimental love songs.
After Chitra Singh withdrew from singing, following the tragic death of their only son Vivek in 1990, Jagjit Singh continued to march a solitary journey, scoring some of the most remarkable ghazals. What we call “thehraav” in Hindi… had set over Jagjit’s voice due to grief and age. This brought about some of Jagjit’s best collaborations with Gulzar. When Gulzar collaborated with Jagjit Singh, it led to the creation of some of the most melodious and sublime poetry in Marasim. Gulzar-Jagjit Singh association brought alive the ghazals of one the greatest poets ever Mirza Ghalib and within the reach and understanding of the lay listener. Had it not been for them, Mirza Ghalib would have remained restricted to the few golden Suraiyya-Talat Mahmood ghazals of that vintage black-and-white film Mirza Ghalib. The music lovers of today’s generation would have perhaps remained unacquainted with the magic of Ghalib.
His voice, the clearance of the words, music, and lyrics everything drew me to Jagjit Singh – it sounded very good to my ears. When I look back at my childhood, I feel the best thing I did in my life was turning fond of Jagjit Singh and his ghazals. It was sure I did not understand most of his singing but it had a consequence on me. They were soothing to my ear and connected to my heart. Nothing else mattered. Many decades after, did I actually discover the true meaning of the songs which I had enjoyed listening and humming to as very much as a child.
Qaid-e-hayaat-o-band-e-gham asl mein dono ek hain maut se pehle aadmee gham se nijaat paaye kyon? –Ghalib
“Jagjit ka jaana, ek poori duniya ka uth jaana hai, ik daur kaa uth jaanaa hai… bahut badi shaksiyat aur bahut badi presence aapke paas se uth ke chali jaaye to wo khaalipan, use bayaan karna bada mushkil kaam hai – Gulzar
I’d quote Gulzar again before sharing 5 of my personal favorite Ghazals by Jagjit Singh, because my words fail to describe the rara avis that Jagjit Singh was…
“एक बौछार था वो,
एक बौछार था वो शख्स
बिना बरसे किसी अब्र की सहमी सी नमी से जो भिगो देता था…
एक बौछार ही था वो
जो कभी धूप की अफ़शां भर के दूर तक
सुनते हुए चेहरों पे छिड़क देता था…
नीम तारीक से हॉल में आँखें चमक उठती थीं
सिर हिलाता था कभी झूम के टहनी की तरह
लगता था झोंका हवा का था
छेड़ गया है कोई…
गुनगुनाता था तो खुलते हुए बादल की तरह
मुस्कुराहट में कई तर्बों की झनकार छुपी थी….
गली क़ासिम से चली एक ग़ज़ल की झनकार था वो
एक अवाज़ की बौछार था वो..” – Gulzar
I write a lot, which keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. There is always something to write about, always a new story to craft. Not writing, for me, is like trying to hold back a sneeze. Learning to write was the most powerful influence in my life. I can still remember the awe I felt when I realized I could put real words onto paper and tell out a story. From that first ‘a-ha’ moment I knew I wanted to write.
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