“Waqt rehta nahin kahin tik kar, iski aadat bhi aadmi-si hai, Aaj phir aapki kami-si hai…”
These lines in your voice have suddenly acquired an altogether new meaning. Perhaps the news was so unexpected that I couldn’t handle it. Or may be I had taken you for granted – that you are always going to be with us. This happens with family, right?
You know you had something that made me feel I’m related to you – as if you were a dear Uncle I had never met, but always shared great love with. Perhaps it was the kindness in your voice, perhaps it was the gentle demeanour of your face. And I’m sure you made everyone feel the same. You belonged to everyone. And it was never difficult to fall in love with you.
And falling in love with you meant falling in love with your music. You have to take credit for initiating in us a love for Ghazals when we were just kids. You made it accessible for us during an age when we were not capable enough to appreciate the likes of Ghulam Ali Sa’ab and others. You took the Ghazal form to the common man, you made popular its use in cinema. You gave us that push at the right time to develop a liking for something that was apparently not ‘easy to appreciate’.
So this naturally led to more exploration of this genre from our end. Once we ‘learnt’ some more and discovered the very classical form of Ghazals there was a time when we formed a strong opinion about your music. Let me confess this, there were times when I remarked that your music is repetitive and it does not have range. Too blinded by my ‘sense’ of music, I was beginning to forget my ‘Uncle’ who had initiated me into it. Again, this happens with family. I was taking you for granted.
The 23rd of last month, on my way from Pune to Mumbai, I got a chance to listen to ‘Teri khushboo mein base khat’. It was not for the first time that I was hearing that song, but suddenly my perception of you changed. I realized what your music was about. Your music was not about the melody or the voice, but about the words. No other composer-singer has achieved this – to underplay the composition in order to render the poetry in the best possible way. You sang as if you were talking to us – sharing those words of wisdom, making, among others, Gulzar sa’ab’s thoughts reach us unadulterated. You were the dear teacher-friend who shared great poems with us and made us understand what they meant only by reciting patiently, correctly, aptly. Despite possessing one of the best voices that we ever heard, you never tried to overpower the words, to overwhelm us with your singing. And yet, you managed to develop a style of your own, inimitable, pure, genuine.
During the last few days my brother and I talked a lot about you. A couple of days ago the two of us were singing your ‘Kya khoya kya paaya jag mein’ on the footbridge over Goregaon station. Not once we thought that you’ll be gone so soon. Today I feel like a son who never paid enough attention to you, never thought of paying back, mainly because somehow this thought never came to me – that one day even you’ll be gone.
Just talked to Mom over phone, about you, about your music. And then played your music. Was feeling really bad until these lines left me thinking, as your songs have always done…
“Shehad jeene ka mila karta hai thoda-thoda, Jaane walon ke liye dil nahin thoda karte; Haath chhooten bhi toh rishte nahin chhoda karte….”
If life is an opportunity to defy death, you have surely succeeded.