It just seems like yesterday, when I had landed in Mumbai on a cool January evening in 2005. Immediately on landing, got a call from Jagjit uncle, telling me to reach the studio in Andheri. At the studio, he was already recording music for Sirhind Di Deewar, a play written by my father, Harpal Tiwana. As I entered the studio, he made me listen to the music and excitedly looked at me for feedback. I was taken aback that a legend like him wanted my opinion. Later, he explained that since I was the director of the play, he wanted me to be in tune with what he had composed.
Before all this began, I remember the time that he spent with my father during his films’ recordings and his various trips to Patiala for his concert tours. During those times, I was always in awe of him. It was only after my father’s passing away that I developed a creative bond with him. This bond lasted till he passed away in 2011, but the lessons learnt are a valuable part of my life.
He made sure that my trips to Mumbai were comfortable. A pillow and a blanket were always lying on the sofa at the recording studio. Making people around him feel special was his nature.
I remember a small incident when we had winded up the recording for our music piece, but he was not happy. It had got quite late, so I said, “Chalta hai,” and he responded by saying, “Jagjit Singh ke liye nahi chalta hai. (This does not work for me).” As a result, the sitar player was called from his home to record the music piece again at two in the morning.
His mantra for success was dedication, perfection and the importance of riyaaz for a performer. Whenever budding singers asked for his advice on how to hone their talent, he emphasised on the importance of training in classical music and to riyaaz everyday. He practiced what he preached and if anyone called him in the morning, they could hear him on the taanpura.
A foodie, he loved all kinds of food items, especially the fried stuff. Chitra auntie [his wife Chitra Singh] whom he lovingly called ‘mummy’ (and she lovingly called him papa) wanted him to eat a healthy diet. But, he was a true Punjabi and had a taste for good food. My wife often complains that uncle spoilt me, since I got treated at the best restaurants.
His wit and humor would leave us in splits of laughter. But, despite the adulation and success, he was a very simple man. There are so many times when we travelled in an auto in Mumbai if a car was not available. He also had a very sharp business sense and we would often seek his advice on financial matters.
Whenever we called him, papaji would always call back, even in the middle of the night. I feel privileged that I got to spend precious time with Jagjit uncle. The lessons learnt are a treasure which I hold close to my heart. I join millions in paying a tribute to him on his birthday. A true legend, inspiration and mentor.
Manpal Tiwana is creative director of the Harpal Tiwana Foundation, Patiala