Anup Jalota is as uncomplicated in his food preferences as in his appearance
Success brings its own challenges all right. But while some become haughty and unapproachable, others seem to go with the flow quietly, exuding warmth. One of those is popular singer Anup Jalota. To say the Mumbai-based singer is at The Ambassador Hotel's Yellow Brick Road restaurant for a quick lunch is to put it mildly. He's hardly going to eat at all, because Jalota is in the midst of a strict 15-week weight-loss regimen. And, having lost five kgs in six weeks, he is looking forward to losing five or six more and return to his trimmer self.
Concert tours send his eating habits out of gear, he notes, hence the decision to get back in shape. No doubt, if you often travel and hard work means sitting in one place and practising your singing, gaining weight is an occupational hazard. “I have a treadmill at home. I also do yoga,” he explains. Here in Delhi, Jalota, obedient to his diet plan, places an order for a simple soup. “Whatever you do, you might as well do religiously, otherwise what's the point?” he asks. So, as part of the regimen, he has been having lauki juice in the mornings.
Never mind that when free of restrictions, he loves his South Indian dishes like idli and uthapam. “If I get hold of sambar, I just keeping drinking it!” He also likes dhokla. He seems as simple in his food preferences as in his appearance. In a sober black shirt, Jalota's look, with close cropped hair and no flamboyant accessories, is not reminiscent of a life under the arc lights. But as his smile widens into a grin and his eyes crinkle in amusement, you remember the wisdom of Meera and Kabir and all the other saints whose words he has interpreted through his melodious voice to delight his fans.
Today bhajans have taken on the boisterousness of pop songs, the opulence of orchestral ensembles. “The bhajans that are meant to be listened to in peace and quiet — those are not to everyone's taste. Those are the kind I sing, when you listen to every word, when the raga is named and you sing an alap. The other kind, which is more of a celebration than devotion, also sells.”
My type of music
Through his association with the Sona Devotional Music Awards, now two years old, Jalota says, “I'm trying to promote my type of music.” He likes to point out that bhajans will never stop selling. His sources tell him that his hit “Aisi Laagi Lagan” still sells in the same numbers it did when it first hit the market 30 years ago. Yes, music sells, but sometimes one wonders, didn't our ancestors lay down injunctions against making money out of mantras and other scriptural verses?
“Bhakti doesn't need a medium,” he notes. “It needs neither a temple nor music. But these mediums have been made for it, and they have become commercialised — a means to earn.”
In an era of cut-throat rivalries, this too is a refreshing take: If money be a part of the game, so be it. He seems to follow a policy of live and let live. But if he lets people deal as they will with food for the soul, he is less lenient with his meals.
Soup over, Jalota is done at the table. Yellow Brick Road's array of all-day snacks from cuisine varieties of India and the world don't hold him.
He can't even be tempted with a juice, that panacea of the health food activists. “Juice is most fattening. Fruit is not, because you get the roughage too.”
Spoken like a true nutritionist. It turns out Jalota is a specialist cook too. Besides rotis and paranthas, he makes egg bhurji. “It's not difficult, but you have to cook it carefully. I make it with the white of the egg alone.”
Separating the white from the yolk is the tricky part, he laughs. Detachment never comes easy, even if you are a bhajan king!ANJANA RAJAN