What happens when you immerse the lyrics of the grand Urdu Poets in honey and spread the lyrics upon the majestic velveteen nature around you? The magic known as Jagjit Singh happens! Think of Jagjit Singh and his Ghazals cascade over you!
JAGJIT SINGH… one name … a thousand memories! A name etched on my soul. Today on his death anniversary, I share my love and admiration for his undaunted spirit for life! Every human being’s life begins and ends in the same way. It is what they do between these two events that give meaning to their existence and distinguishes them from others. Jagjit Singh’s story of courage and belief in the self is what sets him apart from the rest.
“Sometimes I feel that time is running out and there’s so much more left to be done. I feel that whatever I have done, I can do something better.” – Jagjit Singh.
Jagjit Singh was born ‘Jagmohan’ in a religious Sikh family in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan. His father wanted him to be an IAS officer, but when he saw a musical spark in his son, he arranged music lessons for him thinking that his son would grow up to sing prayers in the Gurudwara. Little did he know that his son, who was renamed Jagjit, was destined to be the sweetest note of the music world.
Jagjit went to school and later to college but music overrode all scholarly ambitions. He cut his hair, started singing jingles and did some other odd jobs in the film industry. Being a Sikh, cutting his hair to blend in the music industry would have been a revolutionary step for him at the time, but he saw tradition as a guide and not a jailor.
He taught us a lesson here – he emphasized through his action that ‘We can either emphasize those aspects of our traditions that speak of regression, exclusion, and suppression OR work on bringing a change that brings progress and growth, both on a personal and professional level. The choice is ours! Had he been bound by tradition, we would never have had the privilege to listen to his voice.
The delay in Jagjit Singh’s success was probably due to the fact that originally he wanted to be a playback singer in Bollywood. But he realized his mistake and changed direction. Making a wrong decision is understandable but refusing to change is not. It was while Jagjit was single and singing jingles that he met Chitra, and very soon they embraced matrimony. Jagjit and Chitra were the first SINGING DUO in the music industry.
When we were younger, we heard the Ghazals but we could not really connect to that music, well… at least, not all of us! One can say that Jagjit Singh made Ghazals accessible to the common people and got rid of its elitist tag in no uncertain terms – he turned Ghazal into something of a mass-market money-spinning commodity. Ghazal went pop and his velvet voice became an emotional salve for millions. Jagjit Singh changed the face of the music industry in one bold sweep.
Simple tunes, the unique timbre, and his soulful renditions created magic. He took the risk of walking and chalking a new path, persisted through hardships and embraced success. He knew that a person can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your objective. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm!
Soon, ‘India Today’ included Jagjit and Chitra Singh in their list of ‘50 People who changed our Lives.’ Jagjit and Chitra performed all over the world, spreading music in their unique style. Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failures along the way. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it! Jagjit Singh left his footprints on our heart forever, for the person he was and the music he made!
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Let’s face it. We live in a command-based system, where we have been programmed since our earliest school years to become followers, not individuals. We have been conditioned to embrace teams, the herd, the masses, popular opinion — and to reject what is different, eccentric or stands alone. Jagjit Singh had the courage to be different. He ventured into an unexplored avenue of ghazal singing, took a gamble and followed his passion and became a legend – ‘The King of Gazals.’
At the pinnacle of his success, Jagjit Singh lost his only son Vivek in a tragic road accident.
At the birth of Vivek in 1971, Jagjit Singh had said, ‘We were not well off then, but I felt as if I was the richest man in the world.’ But life gave him the biggest blow and it is an irony that his profession compelled him to sing about sorrow, anguish, agony, distress, regret, loss… The pain was his profession and now his profession was painful – as his renditions would constantly remind him of his loss. He felt as if life’s very purpose had disappeared. Jagjit and Chitra stopped singing.
The loss of his son could have spelled disaster for his career, but this was Jagjit Singh – and like a phoenix, he rose from his ashes! Gradually, he took up the Tanpura and began his riyaz again. He stated, ‘I thought I have to live now, this is part of life, I have to go on. I felt I must not let what had happened become a weakness to crush me, instead I should turn it into a strength. The anguish, the pain of the memories, the grief stayed with me, but in the strokes of the Tanpura I felt a kind of peace, and I took to heart the words of Nida Fazli’s poem: Apna Gham Le Ke Kahin Aur Na Jaaye Jaye, Ghar Mein Bikhri Hui Cheezon Ko Sajaaya Jaye.’
Although Jagjit Singh made peace with himself, Chitra could never completely recover from this shock. She stopped singing completely and announced her retirement. However, they released an album ‘Someone Somewhere’ as a tribute to their son which was recorded before the mishap.
But life was not done with him yet! Very soon, Jagjit had to shoulder yet another tragedy when his step-daughter Monica committed suicide. Jagjit Singh was devastated.
But, learning is a gift even when pain is your teacher. Bad things do happen; how we respond to them defines our character and the quality of our life. We can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of loss, or we can choose to rise from the pain and turn pain into power. He could have become an embittered loner with the cards life dealt him, but instead his voice became more soulful. Pain gave a new depth to his voice. He scored new heights of artistry. His voice now had pathos, purity, and dignity in each ghazal that he sang. Some people think that to be strong is to never feel pain. In reality, the strongest people are the ones who feel it, understand it, accept it and learn from it.
He has won numerous awards and was given the much coveted “PADMA BHUSHAN” by the Government of India. In February 2014, Government of India released a postal stamp in his honor to commemorate his immense contribution to the world of music.
Giving back to the world creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful. Jagjit Singh loved giving back to the society which had given him so much love, so much value! He was associated with a lot of charities and also performed in many concerts to raise money for Social causes and mishaps including Earth Quake, Floods etc.
Here is one of my favourite songs of Jagjit Singh…
Some people give a message when they die. Some people are a message!
Lyricist and director Gulzar aptly defines the yawning vacuum as ‘Jagjit Ka Jaana, Ek Poori Duniya Ka Uth Jaana Hai, Ik Daur Kaa Uth Jaanaa Hai… Bahut Badi Shaksiyat Aur Bahut Badi Presence Aapke Paas Se Uth Ke Chali Jaaye To Woh Khaalipan, Usay Bayaan Karna Bada Mushkil Kaam Hai.’
Jagjit Sigh’s life is his message; a message of swimming against the tides and creating his own place in the world of music, a message of learning to turn your pain into your driving force.
His life is his message – a message to grow with understanding from the pain that life gives. Instead of playing the victim, he turned his pain into his strength and lived a life that is a lesson to us –to deal with whatever cards fate deals to us, to survive, and to grow!
Ilesh Khakhkhar – A dynamic entrepreneur, who is a founder / chairman of Ethicare Remedies with more than 20 years of successful track record in pharmaceutical & cosmeceutical market.