In an era, when Arijit Singh became a synonym to romance with his soulful deep baritone and Atif Aslam garnered huge fan-following in the subcontinent, a voice from Kajol’s Dushman and Aamir Khan’s Sarfarosh still captivates us. The familiar voice which we get to hear from our parents’ old cassettes or maybe now, from their YouTube playlist which they would play while doing their daily chores. The ghazal maestro, Jagjit Singh created a rage amongst the music lovers decades ago, but still continues to be synonymous with ghazals even for the younger generations.
There cannot be a single heartbeat that hasn’t been touched with the soulful voice of Jagjit ji. Later he got married to the ‘Queen of Ghazals’, Chitra Singh and they together democratised this musical form and created some incredible music together. Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh together earned the sobriquet of the ‘King and Queen of Ghazals’. While everyone has their soulful hit tracks on their playlist, let us take you to their love journey.
Tumko Dekha Toh Yeh Khayaal Aaya,
Zindagi Dhoop, Tum Ghana Saaya…
Jagjit Singh met the love of his life, Chitra Singh in a studio to record a jingle for an advertisement. Reminiscing about their first meeting in 1967, Chitra ji shared in a throwback interview with Filmfare:
“I met him at a recording for a music director who wanted to compile a collection with various singers. My first memory of Jagjit ji was resting his hand on the door as I opened it, almost asleep. He then came in, walked to the corner of the room and fell asleep.”
But after Chitra ji heard his voice, she refused to sing with Jagjit ji because of his heavy voice. Speaking about the same, she continued:
“I told the music director that his voice was too heavy and that I wouldn’t be able to sing the duet with him.”
But eventually she agreed to sing, and together, they truly made an ‘unforgettable’ couple!
Tu Nahi To Zindagi Me Kya Reh Jayega,
Dur Tak Tanhaiyon Ka Sahara Silsilaa Reh Jayega…
Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh’s chemistry worked like magic and there was no looking back for the much-in-love couple. Jagjit ji and Chitra ji decided on forever in 1969 and it was the latter’s second marriage. Chitra ji was earlier married to Debo Prasad Dutta and had a daughter with him, Monica. Chitra ji decided to part ways with her former partner in 1968 and moved on to live separately with her daughter.
In this difficult phase, Jagjit ji lend his support to Chitra ji and her daughter, Monica. But when he expressed his feelings to her, Chitra ji didn’t say ‘yes’. And Jagjit ji was so much in love with Chitra ji that he went on to ask her hand from her ex-husband, and said:
"I want to marry your wife."
The couple finally tied the knot in 1969 and embraced parenthood with a son, Vivek. But their happy little world came crashing down when Vivek passed away in a car accident on July 27, 1990. This loss shattered the couple to the core, so much so, that Chitra ji withdrew herself into a shell and the couple gave up their music for a year. However later, Jagjit ji immersed himself and buried his sorrows in music, Chitra ji found solace in spirituality and stopped singing after the loss of her son.
Chitra ji used to call Jagjit ji ‘papa’. Speaking about how she began calling him so, she clarified:
“He called me Mummy, I called him Papa. When Baboo (their late son Vivek) was alive, I’d say, ‘Jaao, Papa ko bulao’. That’s how I began calling him Papa.”
This difficult phase in their lives even fueled up some speculations about trouble in their married life. Chitra ji, who was an integral part of Jagjit ji’s life, opened up about the same:
“People tried to break us up. Perhaps it was jealousy. They spread rumours that we had split and were even living separately.”
Jagjit ji and Chitra ji barely came in terms with the loss of their son, Vivek, when their lives got struck with another tragedy. Chitra’s daughter from her first marriage, Monica committed suicide on May 29, 2009. And she blames herself for not being able to sense that her daughter was about to commit suicide. She stated in an interview:
“My daughter was so beautiful and strong, the stuff she’d handle singlehandedly! But ultimately, she lost, she couldn’t cope any more. She had a rough life (referring to her failed marriages).”
She went on to say:
“I was talking to her till 3 am. I must have been insensitive not to have sensed that she would do such thing. What kind of a mother am I? I should have given her more support, more of everything…. I blame myself for that.”
But Monica’s two children from her first marriage with cinematographer Jehangir Choudhary, Umair and Armaan kept their grandmother, Chitra ji on a brave front.
“They have lost the roof over their head and the ground below their feet. I cook for Armaan, he needs a different diet as he gyms, it gives me joy. How attached they are to me I don’t know. There’s no physical demonstration as such. Today’s children have so many activities of their own but I’m sure it’s there.”
Jagjit ji too was shaken by Monica’s death, who was like a daughter to him. Recalling the time, Chitra ji said:
“Papa was shaken after Monica’s death. He had seen her as a five-year-old. She was like his daughter. He was touring America during that time. He cancelled all his performances, kept flying for two days catching connecting flights to reach here. He was devastated though he never expressed much. But his quiet presence, quiet support was enough.”
Chitthi Na Koi Sandes,
Jaane Woh Kaunsa Des,
Jahaan Tum Chale Gaye…
Chitra ji would never shy away from praising her husband and his work. She used to call him ‘one-man institution’. In an interview with Filmfare, she was all praises for him and remarked:
“Papa was a one-man institution; he did everything himself, right from selecting the lyrics to composing. Papa’s earlier ghazals were largely romantic but spiritual in the later years. He was a unique musician. He came to Mumbai (1965) with the same aspirations as anyone else. But his voice was so different it never could match any hero. It only grew richer with time. When Mahesh Bhatt used his voice for Raj Kiran in Arth (1983), he was a lot younger and his voice was not so heavy. We also sang for Saath Saath (1982) where his voice suited the mood of the film. But generally, his remained background songs.”
Sharing her experience as an audience, Chitra ji said:
“Earlier the ghazal was referred to something sung for the elderly and those sung by Begum Akhtar, Angoori Bai and others. Jagjit ji made it easy on the ears. When I sat in the audience, I’d find men and women weeping. He made every listener feel that he was only singing for him. He was once to perform at a live concert in Wembley. Before the show a group of foreigners approached him with his album in their hands and asked for his autograph. Jagjit ji asked them, ‘Do you listen to it?’ They said, ‘Yes, we love it’. The way Jagjit ji conveyed emotion touched hearts irrespective of the language.”
Within 2 years of losing her first child, Monica, Chitra ji lost the man of her life too. In 2011, Jagjit ji took his last breath after suffering from brain haemorrhage on September 23, 2011. After staying in the coma for two weeks, he died on October 10 at Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai.
When asked if had any premonition about his death during his last days, Chitra ji had retorted:
“If he had a premonition about his demise he wasn’t someone to share it. But just a few days before his death, his good friend and musician Amar Haldipur had taken him to show some places in Madh Island. When they were returning back in a ferry, Papa was exceptionally quiet. Amar asked him, ‘What happened?’ Papa replied, ‘Kya yaar jaate yeh sab kya dikha rahe ho … (now that it’s time to go, you’re showing me all this).”
Ek Pyaar Ka Nagma Hai,
Maujon Ki Ravaani Hai,
Zindagi Aur Kuch Bhi Nahi,
Teri Meri Kahaani Hai…
After so many heartbreaks and tragedies, Chitra ji shared that earlier the question of ‘why me?’ bothered her, but not anymore. She shared:
“When I lost Baboo the question ‘why me’ would bother me. Not anymore. Spirituality changes your thinking. I know there has to be a reason whether I understand it or not. Any other woman in my place would have crumbled or become bed-ridden. But I didn’t allow that to happen. Because I don’t have the luxury of indulging in myself. I am not scared of death. I welcome it this moment. But there are many things that need to be done, and only my presence can do it. Since Baboo (Vivek) went, there was this thing between my daughter, Papa and me that who would be meeting him first. Both of them beat me to it! Everything in life is momentary yaa jee lo, yaa jhel lo (enjoy the moment or endure it),” she sums up life quoting her ghazal, “Manzil na de, chirag na de, hausla to de...”
After losing her husband, Jagjit Singh, the vacuum grew in her life. But she believes that he is always around her, giving her the strength. She said:
“I know he’s around and gives me strength. I’ve too many responsibilities, too many loose ends to tie. I’m a fighter; having survived is a mere coincidence. Though I don’t know whether I’ll be able to fulfill my responsibilities before my time is up.”
In an interview with the Times Of India, Chitra ji talked about her musical journey with her husband. She was quoted as saying:
“Singing has been my life and I always loved singing. Jagjit ji came into my life and took it to another level. My journey started with him, went along beautifully and stopped abruptly. I am very spiritual. I believe everybody gets only as much as one is supposed to get. I won’t say as much as one deserves…but as much as one is meant to. If you seek anything beyond that, you don’t get it even if you break your head. What I was meant to get with Jagjit ji, I have had a full feel of it. I had a wonderful life and a superb musical career with him. I don’t know what would have happened to me musically. He made me whatever I am. Also, with what Jagjitji and I have gone through personally, there have been a lot of emotional, spiritual changes that have reflected in his music, selection and treatment of songs.”
Hothon Se Chhoo Lo Tum, Mera Geet Amar Kar Do… Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh came as a breath of fresh air. Jagjit ji and Chitra ji were two names but one identity, and their voice will continue to resonate with ghazal connoisseurs and music lovers around the world!