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No chickening out over food

"I eat to live and not the other way round and prefer home food."

Jagjit Singh...Nostalgia over melody and food at China club on M.G. Road. Photo: S. Arneja.

`SAHAJ PAKE meetha pake', well, the recipe is this simple for a successful life and if the life is of Jagjit Singh, one doesn't need to savour it to confirm. "I was a slow starter. Success happened late, but once it did come, it came to stay," reflects the ghazal maestro settling for a lunch at China Club on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road with his latest offering "Close to my Heart" living up to its name. Diced chicken with chilli and garlic and vegetarian spring rolls are enough to get Jagjit started, "Everybody is asking me why I have switched to remix. I haven't committed any crime. It is just that I love these songs right from my student days and always yearned to sing them in my style. I watched `Tarana' in half-rate just for `Seene Mein Sulagte Hain'. It is a tribute to my memories, the composers like Anil Biswas, to the directors, who shot these songs and the actors who performed on them. More than that young generation should learn about their melodious past."

Point taken, after all the fans should appreciate the choices of their stars as well. Turning to food Jagjit finds lamb briskets quite spicy and turns to lemon coriander soup. "I eat to live and not the other way round and prefer home food. Shaljam ki sabzi ho, sabut dal ho, masale kam ho saath mein dahi ho, that's ideal. However, you can't have it everyday amidst tight schedules. I try to stick to vegetarian food, as I believe that man is biologically vegetarian but I love reshami kababs and how can I forget to mention machli that my Bengali wife Chitra prepares in sarson ka tel? I just love it but her consistent grouse is that I don't appreciate much." Public appreciation might work for him but right now master chef Li Wei is waiting with main course for his turn.

In comes chicken with chilli and black bean sauce and sautéed greens with garlic sauce and Jagjit likes the effort with a mild grumble, "Namak kuch zyada hai. I am a heart and diabetic patient. So I am always careful." Tiger prawns obviously make a hasty retreat. A bit of prodding and Jagjit opens up. "It was 1982, one day Income Tax officials raided my house. I was shell-shocked as those days raids were not that common and there was a social stigma attached to them. My papers were not in order because of carelessness. Thus, I became a patient of hypertension. As far as personal losses are concerned, I don't want to share them."

Times of "Tumko Dekha To Yeh Khayal Aya, Zindagi Dhoop, Tum Ghana Saaya" are in archives. "No, I don't think so. It is just a transitory phase. When I fiddled with the kotha style of ghazal singing, people questioned it. Later it became immensely popular.

These days we might find decline in the art but the blame also lies with the media, which projects the popular singers as pop stars. And there are still sensible films like `Dhoop' being made, which I recommend people to watch."

Waiting for the dessert to arrive, Jagjit once again takes a look at his personal favourites and refuses to grade them. "I can't grade them. But yes, I can rank my favourite stars. See, we have put them in that order only on the cover. First is Dilip Kumar. I can't forget the impact I had after watching `Deedar'.

Then Dev Anand. I used to listen `Dukhi Man Mere' from `Funtoosh' on radio in Sri Ganganagar, when I was a kid and made a resolution to watch it in theatre one day and I finally saw it in half rate in Jallandhar.

And Guru Dutt completes my list." But there is Rajesh Khanna as well on the cover. "He doesn't figure in my list. He is because of the opening song Kahin Door from `Anand'. The song is really moving."

Though lured by Chocolate Temptation, Jagjit rejects offers for composing. "I can't compose for anybody. I relish a challenge like `Mirza Ghalib', who happens to be my ultimate favourite. I love to sing Gulzar and Bashir Badr as well but Ghalib is Ghalib."

However, all through one has a mystifying inkling,

Tum Itna Jo Muskara Rahe Ho

Kya Gham Hai Jisko Chupa Rahe Ho.


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