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'He said he would return'

A fan turned friend, singer Shoma Roy remembers ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh as a witty person and recounts her friendship, his shows, the last meeting and more

While the news of ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh's death brought melancholy to most of us and sent the nation on a trip down memory lane, a woman living in Kolkata is inconsolable.
 
Shoma Roy, a fan of Jagjit Singh and singer herself has a story to tell. Her first introduction to the singing sensation was back in 1977 at a small record store in Patna on her way back from college when she happened to have caught a few words of the ghazal Ahista Ahista.



"I went back to the shop looking for the song. Back then I had no idea who the singer was, but the voice was magnetic enough to have captivated me," says Roy. Trained in classical music herself, this was her beginning into the world of ghazals.

She then began listening to every ghazal released by Jagjit Singh and would attempt some originally sung by his wife Chitra Singh. "It was in the year 1984 on February 17 that I first met him at a show called Coming Alive at Kala Mandir in Kolkata. He met me like he met other people back then," she recounts.

That left behind, she had become a fan and the kind that would no less than idolise her regard for the singer. "I had written a New Year letter to him wishing him and his family on the occasion with no hope of any reply.

Though I wrote my landline number below, I assumed this was one amongst many of the kind that he received," says Roy. Her letter though wasn't abandoned unread and Jagjit Singh made a call to this ardent fan for the first time in the year 1984.
 
"I started calling him up then. We used to talk and he would encourage me to sing. I didn't have the guts to sing his ghazals. He would say that the ghazal isn't his alone and others could sing it too," she says. "I sang the ghazal Dard Badh Kar and he said I don't sound Bengali," she adds.

The calls became a regular feature and so did meetings when he'd perform in Kolkata, Shoma Roy, a fan to begin with turned a friend to the singer she remembers for his humility and wit. "He was a witty person and would make fun of me as I worked in a company that made bottles then," she remembers.

The news of the maestro's death made her inconsolable and she still spoke stifling her sobs thinking about the part he played in her life and grieving the loss. "It feels like having lost a parent," she says.

Recounting a time when she met him 20 minutes before he went on stage for a show in the green room, she says, "The security wouldn't let me in and I had nearly given up. He recognised me and I ran to the green room.

He introduced me to singers Usha Uthup, Bhupen Hazarika and actor Victor Banerjee in the green room and said I was the fanatic," she tells us fondly. "He used to call me whenever he visited Kolkata. He admired my voice and said there will come a day when I will sit beside him and sing. I knew that wouldn't happen," she adds.

Looking back at him as not just a friend but a mentor and teacher, she learnt ghazals from him she claims. "He said my voice is meant for ghazals, it has texture," she says.

She also, remembers meeting him for the last time a month before his death, on September 10 during a show in Kolkata. "He said he will return," she says.

Musicians pay tribute

I have never been a ghazal fanatic personally. I grew up to a lot of his songs like Hoton Se Choolo Tum. May he rest in peace. He was an icon in that genre. It must be extremely sad for the fans.
Sushmit Sen, Indian Ocean

He was the king of pain for all ghazal lovers. His voice has comforted many and his rendition of poetry was great. There would be a phase in everybody's lifetime where they would have been fans of Jagjit Singh, and so have I. As a performer and ghazal artist he was very sought after. He had mass appeal.
I attended a live show by him in the city and remember he took great pains in explaining his poetry.
Raghu Dixit, Swarathma

He was definitely a legend. Nobody made ghazal singing as popular as he did. He went from the top, he has not gone down as somebody you won't remember. He has maintained his success and remained the top guy in the industry for over three decades. My wife is a big fan, I have been surrounded by his music and I attended a show six months back. I still remember, one of the first LPs my dad bought when we had an LP player was Jagjit Singh's Unforgettable. I still have a picture of that and a lot of LPs by him.
Subir Malik, Parikrama

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