By Javed Akhtar, Hindustan Times
Today, if I had to summarise my feelings and thoughts about Jagjit Singh, these two lines would be apt. In Urdu poetry, there is a term called ‘chain’ (peace). In a sentence, we’d put it as, “Uski aawaaz mein chain hai”.
That’s what Jagjit’s friends, followers and fans felt whenever they heard his voice, and that list includes me as well. Somehow, even if someone didn’t understand a word of what he was singing, they would just believe that something beautiful was being conveyed in a song. That is the magic his voice created, and that is the magic that Urdu poetry and ghazals have lost today.
I last spoke to him on September 22, a day before he had his brain haemorrhage. He spoke to me about a concert tour of sorts in the US next year. I told him we would meet in a couple of days and finalise the details.
I didn’t know those two days would never pass and I’d never speak to Jagjit again. It just shows he had no idea that he was unwell… I’d like to believe he wasn’t unwell. I visited a little after the surgery; the doctors had declared he was in a coma. Over the next few days, as I enquired about his health, I realised the choice was going to be pretty bad.
If he survived, he would be in a vegetative state as long as he’d live, bed-ridden forever. The other option was that he may not make it.
As I put pen to paper, my mind is flooded with hundreds of memories of Jagjit, some that put a smile on my face and some that leave me teary-eyed.
In chronological order, I remember the first time I ever heard him was on an LP which Amitabh (Bachchan) played while we were sitting in the garden of his residence. The song was from Jagjit and Chitra’s first album. And the first song on the LP was ‘Baat niklegi to door talak jayegi’. I’d say, “baat nikli aur wakai door talak gayi”.
It’s commendable how he maintained his position from day one as one of the finest voices India has produced, without getting too deeply involved with Bollywood music. When I met him, in person, for the first time during the music sittings for Saath Saath, I realised he carried his success on his shoulders very lightly. We together worked on some beautiful numbers for the movie, including ‘Tumko dekha to yeh khayal aaya…’ and ‘Yeh tera ghar yeh mera ghar…’ We struck a chord that despite his demise, I believe, is still unbroken. We worked on several albums and songs hereafter, including Silsilay and Soz. But his best-selling album to this day is the one where he sang Mirza Ghalib’s ghazals, in a language not many would be able to comprehend today.
As a person, I feel he was courageous, candid, not very diplomatic and was blessed with a fantastic sense of humour.
He was an earthy, real and rooted man, something that was always reflected in his charismatic voice. He never brought his personal life, his equation with his wife Chitra or the pain of losing his young son Vivek to the fore. Chitra went into depression and quit singing. Jagjit, on the other hand, took life as one takes a bull by the horn. Despite calamities and misfortunes, I didn’t see him depressed ever.
He always preferred meeting people outside his house, wherever one felt convenient, perhaps because he felt it was best to keep his personal space, very personal. And everyone respected that. On his 70th birthday in February this year, we even had a mushaira of sorts. That’s an evening I’d never forget.
Jagjit and I often met, also because he was championing the cause of copyright act’s amendments with me and several other artistes in the industry. Each time that we met key parliamentarians and office bearers, he was with us. And now when his dream is ready to come true, he’s not going to be around, in person to see it.
Unfortunately, that’s how unfair life can be!