A Never-Ending Love Affair With Jagjit Singh
My dreams harbored a man who could sing soulful melodies like Singh.
I can’t remember when and where I started listening to Jagjit Singh’s ghazals (a ghazal is a lyric poem with a fixed number of verses and a repeated rhyme, typically on the theme of love, and normally set to music). But it would be when I was just about to enter my teens. And it started as always (when it comes to me) with Hindi movies.
I heard Raj Kiran sing “Tum itna jo muskara rahe ho” (The reason behind your constant smile) to Shabana Azmi. It’s Shabana’s tears I remember most from the scene and a hauntingly beautiful voice singing the most amazing lyrics. Girls dream of princes charming, knights in shining armour (or shining Ferraris) and tall, dark handsome men. My dream harbored a man who could sing soulful melodies to me. It was the start of a never-ending love affair.
When most girls looked forward to that Chayageet episode where the latest Sanjay Dutt or Anil Kapoor song would be shown, I waited to watch Raj Babbar sing “Honton se choo lo tum” (Touch my song with your lips) to Anita Raj—actors I never liked, but only for the song.
I had to write it down as I wanted to memorize every line of that song.
I went on to discover Singh’s many ghazals that never became part of movies. The unforgettable “Kaagaz ki
I went on to discover Singh’s many ghazals that never became part of movies. The unforgettable “Kaagaz ki kashthi” (Paper Boat), which I spent hours listening to so I could note down the lyrics. This was the age before Google; we had to listen and note down the lyrics. I had to write it down as I wanted to memorize every line of that song. My favourite line still remains “Na duniya ka ghum tha, na rishton ke bandhan, badi khoobsurat thi woh zindagani” (free of worries or societal expectations, we lived such a beautiful life).
My favorite Jagjit-Chitra (Chitra Singh is Jagjit Singh’s equally talented wife) ghazal is “Us mod se shuru karein hum phir yeh zindagi” (Let’s resume living again from that turn we took). The lyrics capture the tensions of a long-term relationship that has lost its love. Note the words—“Ashkon ki chandni se thi behtar woh dhoop hi…us mod se shuru karein, hum phir yeh zindagi…har shay jahan haseen thi, hum tum they ajnabee” (that warmth was better than this cold light of tears, let’s go back to that turn, where every moment was beautiful, when we were strangers to each other).
Saath-Saath figures in my blog as one of the Top 10 love stories. It’s a poignantly beautiful story and Singh’s ghazals play a huge role in enhancing its space. Who can forget “Tum ko dekha toh yeh khayal aaya” (The sight of you made me think this)—undoubtedly one of his best works ever, but my favourite ghazal from that film was “Pyaar mujhse jo kiya tumne toh kya paaogi” (What will you gain by loving me?). Farookh Sheikh (protagonist) sings this ghazal, beseeching his lover to forget him.
I longed for a poet in my life because I realized poets could weave magic with melody. In fact, many years later, when I read Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, I cried when the lead character Lata did not marry Amit the poet. I was so upset with her! I had to remind myself that she was a fictional character and sadly, so was he.
The old-world charm, the misty-eyed look, the unrequited love, the whisper of sweet-nothings and every other cliché in the book—all of these made a big mark on my impressionable young mind. Today, I went back to my old CDs, which were lying forgotten with the advent of iPhones. And I found some old Jagjit Singh ones along with a gem of an album called “Koi Baat Chale” with the amazing combination of two very talented men—Singh and Indian poet Gulzar.
India has lost one of its greatest musicians with Singh’s demise but the ghazals he sang will forever be heard by generations to come. And what about me? I will be listening to his songs till the day I meet him in heaven…provided I reach there. If not, I will have to rely on my iPhone in hell, but regardless of the place and time, Singh will always stay by my side.
First published in Such is Life