I remember the first time I met ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh was at a youth festival in Karnal in 1959. It happened just by chance. My solo item was about to be announced and the tabla player was missing. I was in a state of panic. Sensing my nervousness backstage, Jagjit walked up to me, introduced himself and offered to help which, of course, I readily and gratefully accepted.
So when I performed my solo item that day, Jagjit Singh accompanied me on the tabla. Years later, when he shot to fame, how I bragged about it to anyone and everyone! Well, we lesser-known mortals always tend to do that don't we?
Minutes later, when Jagjit Singh's turn came and he sang a ghazal in his mesmerizing voice, the audience listened in pin-drop silence, exploding into a thundering applause as he finished. I became his instant fan and hugged him as he got off the stage. Later, we would keep meeting at inter-college functions and hang around together. We would discuss music and, like all college boys, pretty girls. After college, destiny took us in different directions and we lost touch. I learnt he had shifted base to Mumbai, then Bombay, looking for a break.
The much-awaited break came after a long struggle of 13 years when his first LP, "The Unforgettables", was released in 1977. Jagjit catapulted into fame overnight. Who can ever forget his reverberating renditions such as "Baat niklegi..." or "Sarakti jaay hai..." and many other unforgettables he sang thereafter? He revolutionized ghazal singing by giving it a new dimension and direction.
Jagjit Singh went away too early. The world had not had enough of him. He could still hypnotize people with his unmatched silky voice. Now that he is no more, I remember him with a tinge of regret. Regret because I did not make any effort to catch up with him after college. There had been a long gap, after all. Later, he had become too big a celebrity and I was too diffident to contact him. What if he didn't remember me?
However, I wish I had met him, at least once, for old time's sake. A couplet from his ghazal resonates in the mind: "Tum chale jao gey to sochengey, humne kya khoya humne kya paaya."