By Sharmila Chand
“What I sing reaches
To start with, I must tell you about a strange dream that used to blow my mind every time I had it. It was the darbar (court) of Lord Krishna, where I would sit sandwiched between kings to the left and artists on the right. Lord Krishna would tell me: ‘‘Jasraj, prayers and rituals are meant for others. What you sing reaches me straight. Sing on…’’ So you can imagine what goes in my mind and heart when I sing.
Yet, another miraculous incident in my life reflects on my close relationship with God. Pandit Maniram, my elder brother and guru in Ahmedabad, suddenly lost his singing voice. When every medical treatment proved futile, a friend referred us to Maharaja Jaywant Singhji Waghela of Saanand, who asked Pt Maniram to sing for the Divine Mother, his deity. Accompanying my brother on the tabla, I witnessed the incredible! Pt Maniram’s voice actually began to revive and very soon, he regained the clarity he had lost. The significance of that incident had sunk deep in my mind and at the young age of 14 I embraced the first ripples of spirituality in my musical consciousness.
Till date, whenever I step on the stage, I lift my hands as if waiting to be embraced by that Almighty who I am seeking everywhere and who I perceive in my audience. This gesture has come to me involuntarily but it is difficult to believe that it has such a deep meaning for me. When my audience witnessed the unseasonal rains while I was singing the monsoon raga Dhulia Malhar or on another occasion, my rendition of Ragini Todi inspired a deer to come amidst a bewildered human audience, it is not difficult for me to believe my special relationship with Him and my audience.
I strive to reach the Divine and I sing because He is making me sing.
It was because of Him that instead of going to school, I hovered around the tea stall which played a Begum Akhtar song: ‘‘Deewana banana hai to deewana bana de…’’ That was my first romance with music.
And as a deewana, I really do not know what I write. How I compose; what is that magic word that triggers off an entire composition; what meter it binds itself in; which raga its notes arrange themselves into; what rhythm it flows in. I can only describe it a blessing from Goddess Saraswati.
Mero Allah Meherbaan…Koi bigad sakat nahi…tero man leejay tu thaan…, This bandish dates back to around 1965. It was suggested that no bandish in raga Bhairavi could have its sam on komal dhaivat, the vadi swar or the predominant note of Bhairav. I somehow could not agree with this and offered to present the very next day, a bandish that would base itself fundamentally on that particular note. As I sat alone in deep thought, I raised my hands skywards in an unconscious movement, as if to seek the blessings of the gods. I uttered ‘Allah’ unwittingly. Suddenly I felt as if all the missing pieces were falling in place. Mero Allah Meherbaan… Words began to come together of their own volition, and almost miraculously, the sam began to crystallise ever so solidly on the elusive komal dhaivat.
As I look back 50 years, I find it unbelievable that I have been around for 50 years. I still don’t know how I evolved into a musician, an artist. But one thing is for sure; it is all the grace of the Almighty.
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