Since childhood, we had heard people humming around at home. Ma was a decent hummer. She would get these Rabindra Sangeet hiccups from time to time. Baba (Dad) was a surprise. His talent to be able to sing came to the fore a little later. Or may be we could comprehend his singing much later as he would mostly emulate Elvis on one extreme and Talat Mehmood at the other. We did not know if he was trying to scare the crows and cows from the garden or singing. Anyways, you must have guessed by now that we were genetically musical.
But my first brush with active music and a real participant was through my sister. I was discovered as a potential singer only because of her. I dedicate my singing star status to her. She had joined residential school a year before me and had become a really popular singer. When I joined in 1987, one fine day, I was playing Badminton when the racquet gutting gave way. Some boys went about looking for a replacement racquet. I walked towards the indoor badminton court where students from Senior School used to come to play Badminton. To my surprise, today, there was no Badminton match there but a group of children sitting around a few musical instruments. I got interested and went closer. Suddenly, Mrs. Tyagi came in from behind and held me by the shoulder. She announced, “Look who is here? Jayanti’s brother!!” As if that was not enough to embarrass me, Mrs. Sharma called me right in between the crowd and said, since your sister sings so well, am sure you too sing well. So, C’mon lets hear something from you.” I felt like the roof of the indoor court blasting to space and a white flashing light coming down and sucking me into the skies. But nothing like that happened. Instead, there was complete silence in the hall with the kids looking at me with wide open anticipating eyes and the two music teachers smiling and waiting. I did sing.
Once I finished there was pin drop silence, followed by a loud round of applause and an instant offer by Mrs. Sharma to sing the lead song in the forthcoming Janamashtami celebrations. From the next day, we started rehearsing for the cultural program. When my sister got to know about this, she was ecstatic. She did not state that I was singing a song on Janamashtami. She kept telling everyone that her brother too can sing!!
During rehearsals there would be just about ten people among whom we would practise. I knew the whole school would be there on the final day. On the D-day, however, more than 200 people giving a blank stare made me sick in the stomach. My throat went dry and my fingers went numb. What saved me was the song, though. Being a devotional song, once the harmonium gave me the starting key, I closed my eyes and pretended am feeling devotional. I was praying no doubt. But reasons were different.
If I remember correctly, my first public song which gave me instant stardom was, “Papa kehte hain, bada naam karega”. I am sure, like all Dads, Baba too used to think the same. He gave up soon though. But it was my sister and her singing prowess that gave me the opportunity to sing for a crowd and keep singing. My sister is a super singer. Infact, she graduated in Classical Music. Although, she has been the Big Bully sister to me, I simply adore her. I have seen very few people with the kind of single-minded focus and dedication towards anything one aspires for. And ofcourse, I love her singing. Oh, actually, I love her.