MUMBAI: Citizens across the social spectrum from celebrities to commoners arrived to mourn the death of ghazal singer Jagjit Singh on Monday. “Every singer wears a fine kurta , drapes a shawl and sits before a harmonium. But try and find another artiste like Jagjitji in this world,” said ghazal singer Raj Kumar Rizvi at the funeral. “His selection of poetry, his patronage of new talent and his abundant but silent charity all put him in a class apart.” The death register at the Chandanwadi electric crematorium listed entry number 1510 as Jagjit Singh Dhiman, a 70-year-old Hindu whose family chose to pay the optional fee of Rs 250 although the service is free. He was born Sikh, however, so the last rites were a blend of Hindu and Sikh ceremonies. A Sindhi priest Rajeshwar Maharaj, who was invited from the US to perform the funeral , led Singh’s younger brother Kartar and his widow Chitra through the rituals. Singh’s body was laid upon a bed of flowers at Chandanwadi hall and scores of fans filed past for a last glimpse before it was carried to the inner chamber. At 1.10 pm, mourners were asked to step back before the body was inserted into the electric furnace, and at the final moment loud cries of “Jo bole so Nihal , Sat Sri Akal” mingled with Hindu chants.
Chitra Singh emerged from the seclusion of the past few weeks, a picture of stoicism. A grey shawl and dark glasses served to shield her through the condolences although she broke down when the cremation took place. A visibly grieving Pandit Jasraj, wife Madhura and daughter Durga took their seats beside Vinod Khanna, Raj Babbar and Manhar Udhas. Manhar’s brother Pankaj Udhas stood by in silence with Gulzar and composer Kuldeep Singh. Heads turned when Ghulam Ali entered-the Pakistani maestro was to have performed a jugalbandi with Jagjit Singh on September 23 when the singer took ill.
Suresh Wadkar, Kabir Bedi and Sonu Nigam exchanged condolences with Ameen Sayani and Harish Bhimani while veteran film-maker Lekh Tandon slipped in unnoticed. From former police commissioner A N Roy to old-time accompanists who had cut their teeth at the Jagjit Singh school of music, all converged to bid the singer farewell. Hundreds of ordinary citizens stood solemnly along Chandanwadi Road.
Raj Kumar Rizvi, Singh’s protege and now veteran “ghazalsara ” in his own right, recalled how Singh had helped him find accommodation when he arrived in Mumbai with his wife, singer Indrani Rizvi. Another protege Ghansham Vaswani, whose initial hit Hota raha tera hi bayaan chaudhvin ki raat was composed by Jagjit Singh, was there too in silent grief.
Monday was Sharad Purnima , the brightest moonlit night of the year. And it became a little brighter as a new star entered the celestial firmament