JAGJIT SINGH AS I KNEW HIM IN OUR COLLEGE DAYS
DAV College in
those days was out of Jullundur Township and the new hostel was across the road
from the college. The hostel was a massive; double-storey, stand alone,
rectangular building with hundreds of rooms housing some seven hundred
students. The occupant of one such room on first floor, facing GT road was a
handsome, strapping young sikh from Ganganager known as Jagjit Singh pursuing
his B.Sc. with me. So, we were not only hostelmates but also classmates.
The jail-like hostel was such that by boarders, all rooms were not considered equally good or advantageous; every student was on the lookout for a comparatively better, more suited room. The management sorted this issue in an interesting manner – the student who secured the highest mark in the previous exam was to have the first choice of the room and so, a kind of merit list used to be drawn. The following were then the most disadvantageous rooms and the tail-enders of the merit list used to be stuck up with them:
· The rooms on the either side of the baths and toilets due to reason above and the strong odors toiletry and the bath stuff emitting from there.
· The rooms on the either side of a boarder known as Jagjit Singh.
Jagjit Singh will have his first two-hour ‘riyaz’ at five o’clock in the mornings when the neighbours were fast asleep and were generally awakened by the loud, classical singing of ‘that godforsaken, inconsiderate third year science student’.
The same thing will happen for two hours at five in the evening. Due to all this unending ruckus, the boarders closer to Jagjit Singh’s room used to be pitied upon. On other occasions too, he would catch hold of any fellow boarder or boarders found in the corridor and would sing a melodious film song for him which would go over the listener’s head and he would issue this nasty comment: “Yaar, tu ne to pass hona nahin, hamen to padhne de.”
And Jagjit Singh will retaliate angrily, “Saalo, you’d not listen to me now, but there will be a day when you’ll pay for this privilege.”
And there was a day and days and days to come.
Such was the self-confidence of would be music maestro when he was 19 or 20.
* * *
To begin with, Jagjit Singh was a classical singer and always contested in inter-college or inter-university meets in this category. But his self-confidence was shaken by a young guy, junior to him by one class by the name Purshottam Joshi. Besides being an arts student in DAV, he was staff artist of All India Radio, Jullundur since when he was eight years old. The super successes of that fellow were assured as a legend, if he and Jagjit Singh both were contesting in an event, everybody was certain that Jagjit will stand second to Joshi’s first.
This gave such a
complex to Jagjit Singh that he switched to light music in which he was
immediate, undisputed, unparalled success. Had there been no Purushottam Joshi
in college during those days, he would have been a classical singer and would
never have become the darling of the nation as a gazal singer whom even ustad
gazal singers like Mehdi Hasan envied.
There is a Polish proverb that says; three things cannot be taught – singing voice, poetry and generosity. So, Jagjit Singh, too, was a born singer. He had a music-tuned ear by birth and he could not become anything but a unique singer. At such a young age he used to claim that hand him a stringed instrument that he has never seen – may it be from Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Germany – for a secluded half an hour and he will play any song of anybody’s choice on it.
And play he did, with accuracy, expertise and enthusiasm.
He was so fond of singing that he never missed a chance where he could get even a dubious audience. In college the principal – Suraj Bhan, the great educationist of Punjab, who later became vice chancellor of Punjab University – would address the students for five minutes on public address system from his office and then go for his lunch to his residence which was within the college premises. For the rest of twenty five minutes, Jagjit Singh will station himself before the mike in principal’s office with a harmonium and sing songs about which he was never sure anybody was listening as he could not look out from the principal’s room. But he always anticipated that everybody was attentive to his singing and enjoying it immensely which, unfortunately, never was the case.
* * *
Lohri was a typical Punjabi festival which was celebrated only in Punjab. On Lohri night, there was a Lohri celebration for all the boarders and a stage show of music was organized by college management. Many artists, mainly from All India Radio, Jullundur, participated and in music section the local talent, the local participant was the one and only Jagjit Singh. All India Radio artists would be renowned and big names in their trade, so the turn of Jagjit Singh would naturally come only when all those invitees were done with. Till that time the young audience of boarders was bored and was ready to call it a day. In such a scenario, Jagjit Singh would be invited to sing a song which he did.
Three times Lohri came during our stay in the hostel and the three times Jagjit Singh sang the same song on audience’s insistance and, in spite of it being anticipated, there never was a wet eye when he continued with that song of his. Many students would openly sob and the spell would not be broken even when the song was over.
The song was: एह ता जग दियां लोढ़ियां, साढ़ी का दी लोढ़ी अखां सजनां के मोडियां.
* * *
As we were science students, we had practical classes after recess. In the class of Physics there used to be an experiment of ‘resonance’. The experiment required two taut, stretched, piano like wires to resonate at same frequency. For this a tuning fork was required which will create resonance in one wire and then the second wire was to be brought on the same frequency with the help of tuning fork.
Jagjit Singh always accomplished this without the help of tuning fork.
He, then, would invite the instructor to check his experiment and the first objection of the instructor would be, “Jagjit, you did not get the tuning fork issued for the experiment!”
And the Jagjit Singh’s answer would be: Mainu nahin pata. You check whether it is correctly done or not!”
And, to the great surprise of the instructor, he always found it correctly done.
Such were Jagjit Singh’s ear naturally tuned to the intricacies of the resonating strings.
* * *
The hostel was sheer hell in summer as there were not even fans in the rooms. Those who could afford – and there unfortunately were not many such students – would buy a table fan or get it on monthly rental. So, during summer evenings, the boarders, including Jagjit Singh, would roam in corridors till retiring time. His summer evening attire of the moment would be a knee-long-underpants, called ‘kachhera’ by Sikhs. It had a long string as fastener which when let loose, will reach up to the ankles. It was customary with Jagjit Singh to wear only that one piece of apparel during scorching summer evenings and roam about. He would be standing among a few boarders chatting with them with the strings of the kachhera carelessly held in his teeth. As the chat went on he would pull the strings with his teeth and the kachhera would fall down around his ankle presenting his stark naked torso to the horrified viewers. But he would pretend that he did not know about the sudden, abrupt downward journey of his wearing apparel. Then someone would point out with effort and Jagjit Singh would offer a pretentious reaction of start and would maintain that he became aware of his state only when pointed out.
This was his favourite prank which he repeated several times during every summer for three years.
May be it was due to his indulgence in such pranks and his religiously regular daily riyaz of light and classical music that he failed in B.Sc. final exam.
* * * * *
In : Memoirs