Nanaji has always had a complaint against Jagjit Singhji. And he never misses out on bringing it up whenever music and musicians are discussed at home. It seems Jagjitji had once appeared as a judge on a music reality show. One of the participants, a rather nervous Bengali girl, stood with crossed hands when her turn came. It being Judge’s Choice round, Jagjitji asked the girl to sing some notes in Kazi Nazrul style – a legendary form of traditional Bengali music. All the time he said this, it seems, Jagjitji had a wry and disinterested expression. And this is where the shoe pinched. Nananji feels that Singh ji’s tone betrayed a very unpleasant apathy towards Bengali music. Something which, what with his wife being a Bengali and all that, didn’t go down very well.
The age-old complaint came forth as a memory when I read of Jagjitji’s demise. I can vividly recall the arguments between Nanaji and me – the you-interpret-too-much routines. I can also recall the multitude of times I have spent monsoon mornings in a Jagjit ghazal, playing and re-playing my favourite number from Sarfarosh. Complaints and grievances notwithstanding, Nanaji still gets goosepimples when I tune the player to wo kaagaz ki kashti, wo baarish ka paani.
As a child, I was very curious about lives and deaths in the glamour business. How could Amrish Puri be no more when he continued to sing and dance to I love India? For that matter, I have never taken Ashok da’s death well. He still seems to me the retired military officer who lives in his Lonavala house, guiding the sorts of Arun (Amol Palekar) from Choti si Baat. Ditto for Jagjit ji. I have – without fail – always missed out on a chance to watch him live in concert. Either the passes would disappear or time would. But every time I saw him on television, I would crave for that Sony Bravia TV set they have in showrooms. Though I have a rule forbidding a sad Jagjit ghazal at certain times, it is not rare that I have found myself slipping into a parallel world listening to the very song I had banned. The ban, of course, holds for the better half, who has a soft corner for especially heart-breaking music.
We will no longer have Jagjitji’s magic voice to serenade us when we are blue. But, I am sure, for all those whose lives his music has touched, a stray note from one of his ghazals will always find a way into the heart. And there it will forever stay.