Pankaj Udhas concert in the skies : The Tribune India

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Pankaj Udhas concert in the skies

Pankaj Udhas concert in the skies

Pankaj Udhas. File photo



Rahul Bhandari

THE demise of ghazal icon Pankaj Udhas brought back fond memories of a trip my wife and I went on about a decade back. As we settled into our seats on the flight from Seoul to New Delhi via Hong Kong, we were pleasantly surprised to know that we would soon have on board the renowned ghazal singer and a Bollywood actress, who were returning to India after a concert in Hong Kong. Pankaj exuded a calm aura, as though he brought with him the spirit of every song he had sung. His ever-smiling face and his long conversations, replete with anecdotes and tales, set the ball rolling for an amazing evening in the sky. What amplified our awe for him was his humility, in stark contrast to the haughty behaviour of many celebrities of today, most of whom rarely acknowledge the presence of fans and admirers. He did not refuse any request for photographs or autographs from his fans on the flight, taking his time to respond with patience and offer a smile for every compliment.

He started to hum to himself as the plane took off. The inflections in his voice created a beautiful tapestry of feelings. We asked him to sing a few verses from popular ghazals such as ‘Chandi jaisa rang hai tera’, ‘Aap jinke karib hote hain’ and ‘Chitthi aayi hai’. As the cabin crew walked in with the beverages, we could not resist making a request for a few lines from the classic ghazal ‘Thodi thodi piya karo’, and he was kind enough to oblige. He had just returned from a concert, yet he didn’t say no to anyone. The tea table on the plane seat served as a makeshift percussion board to provide the setting for an enthralling evening at an altitude of 40,000 ft. It seemed as though the enchantment of his songs had transformed the very air that surrounded us. We experienced a sense of being carried away to a world of elegance and beauty, where time came to a standstill.

The time spent with him was full of bliss. It seemed that worldly concerns and anxieties had disappeared, leaving only the unmitigated delight of simply being alive and in the present. I couldn’t help but feel grateful for this unexpected gift as I looked out of the window at the starry night.

As the roughly five-hour journey came to an end, I realised that this experience would remain etched in my memory forever, serving as a testament to the limitless potential of the human spirit and the transformational power of music. Pankaj Udhas’ wonderful voice will be missed, but he will undoubtedly add to the musical celebrations in heaven.


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