Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jottings: Slice of life - 7

Jottings: Slice of life
There was this quite beautiful girl during my college days - whom I cannot forget two reasons. One, she was good looking in a manner which could raise an eighteen year old's testosterone to palpable levels. She was our first infatuation ( I purposely use "ours" because there were many first year's who were pretty enamored by her looks). Two, she introduced me to the world of Ghazals during that crucial period when Jagjit and his wife Chitra were at the peak of their abilities, and singing soulful songs in a manner that could leave a young listener in a state of awe and hopeless romanticism.
It is hard to believe that nearly 30 years have passed by since those adolescent days. If someone had told us then, that Jagjit and Chitra would stop singing together in 1990, or that Jagjit himself would be no more in couple of decades and Chitra would become a recluse hardly stepping out of her homely confinement, or that the poet Sudarshan
Fakir ,whose peerless , simple and pregnant words melted and lilted in the mellifluous voices of this duo, would also die virtually anonymous leaving behind a legacy of haunting poems - we would have laughed it away as vain assumptions. Yet, here I was, nearly thirty years later, listening almost the entire night yesterday to that magnificent combination on YouTube, render Ghazal after ghazal - churning within me all kinds of emotions that were dormant or forgotten for so long now. What voices and what pair both of them made together.
I was wondering what made them click. Both of them started their careers with Ad Jingles; while Jagjit did have some formal training, Chitra almost sang without any idea of classical singing. Yet, when they sang, their voices complemented each other so beautifully. The rich, deep, quivering Low baritone of Jagjit and the shrill high effortless octaves of Chitra met each other at an ethereal point in space intersecting one another, exploding into notes and words of such pristine purity and perfection, it became difficult to separate the music from their singers, and its soothing waves gathered its listeners into a world of lightness, gravity and profundity almost transforming the experience into a divine resonance of something very deep within. Their Ghazals became the lingua Franca of modern Romanticism, pain and existential angst. Stripping away ghazals from their traditional Urdu underpinnings, Chitra and Jagjit recast this art form into something accessible by everybody, not necessarily the connoisseur. That was their key to success . Even While misfortune kept knocking consistently at their private doors, first with the tragic death of their young son at 20, and then the suicide of their daughter later, Music kept flowing uninterrupted from Jagjit at least, if not from Chitra. How many songs, how different were each melody, what beautiful words embroidered them. No matter, how many times one listens, new meaning and synthesis emerges.
I have heard some critics say that Jagjt, after Chitra retired started composing monotonous tunes. There is an element of truth to that. Especially, the later years, before his death were one of repetition. But even then, there are times when simply listening to his voice is enough. Words, tune , context - all become subservient to the raw commitment and talent his bought to his singing. Like the chants of Rigveda, Jagjt's voice stilled the mind, not numbing it as modern music does. His voice reached deep within oneself, and not many singers can achieve that consistently over forty years of commercial singing.
At two today morning, when I finished my work and decided to switch of my music, I felt a little sad that Chitra decided to quit when she did. I was thinking how much more could the husband and wife duo done for music, if they had continued for a decade or so more. Chitra was always reluctant to sing in public. She came from a very conservative family, and when she lost Vikram (her son), I think she somehow blamed herself for his untimely death. I guess, we have to respect her decision. But when I listen to songs like "Kis mod se shuru kare..", I lose that resolve and wonder why life could not have kept such talent secure from its tragic buffeting. Perhaps, it's her way of saying that nothing precious can exist for too long. Its very temporality is what gives it immortality.
God bless...
Yours in mortality ,
Bala

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