By Farhana Farook
When years ago Chitra Singh sang the ghazal, ‘Safar mein dhoop to hogi, jo chal sako to chalo’, she would have hardly imagined it would one day encapsulate her own life’s journey with her husband, legendary ghazal singer Jagjit Singh.
At this moment, she is by his side in Bombay Hospital – Jagjit has been advised rest by doctors after he complained of weakness. Just a couple of days ago, After Hours had a heart-to-heart with Jagjit and Chitra – often referred to as the ‘first couple’ of ghazals – and they shared some precious memories of their life together.
Chitra’s world tragically grew silent when she lost her son Vivek in an accident 17 years ago. “My world came crashing down. I had reduced to 43 kilos and looked like a ghost. I couldn’t face people — mera gala apne aap band ho gaya. And it stayed like that for nearly 14 years. I didn’t even hum during those years,” she recalls, her eyes brimming with pain.
Chitra continues, “But one morning, while I was looking at Vivek’s photograph, I felt I was dishonouring my gift. Also, Vivek was so proud of our singing. Just to honour his memory, I wanted to sing again.” But, like ‘an instrument not used for years’, Chitra’s voice had lost its ‘dhaar’. And while her riyaz is still on, she feels that she’s still not ready to perform – at least yet. “It’s the biggest tragedy that I cannot sing. One day I feel I’m doing well, the other day I’m back to square one. If I cannot match my calibre I’ll let myself down.”
Though they’ve been married for almost 40 years, but to this day, Chitra continues to be besotted by Jagjit’s genius. While she says her first impression of Jagjit was that of a ‘lazy slob, who slept anywhere and anytime’, she later realised that his singing had ‘no karigiri, no acrobatics’. “Through your ears it reached your heart. Even I started singing in his style — he was my guru,” she reveals.
Being a couple in the limelight, their marriage also had its share of skirmishes. “People tried to break our marriage. Many singers were jealous – but I wanted to be with him. I didn’t want to give up. Today, I am basking in his glory,” says Chitra self-effacingly. The lines they once sang together, “Us mod se shuru kare phir yeh zindagi,” has taken on a whole new meaning for her.