By Pandit Jasraj
India’s music scene has suffered a colossal loss with the demise of Girija Devi. Filling this void will be very difficult… It can’t happen. She was such a great performer.
I used to call her ‘jiji’. It means elder sister. She was six months older to me, and in the music industry, the world knows, there was nobody to compare her talent.
I had first heard on a national programme in 1956. I had felt really nice about it. People had started talking about her talent that time.
Later, she used to travel in and out of Kolkata a lot. She used to come often to our house. We had a very sweet relationship. We used to banter about singing. She was a very sweet lady. The eyes well up with tears now when I take her name. She used to sing so well, and with such precision and practice. She had a sharp voice.
I have a very good bond with all musicians, but Girija Devi always had a special place. She was an institution in herself and the vacuum she has left, will never be filled. I feel no singer like Girija Devi will ever be born. The world is ‘bahu ratna vasundhara’, but I feel nobody can take the place of Girija Devi.
I have done a lot of programmes and tours with Girija Devi. When she joined the ITC Music Research Academy, after that our travels together got reduced. But before that, I did a lot of programmes with her. Bihar, Assam, Bengal, Punjab, Delhi, UP, Bihar… There was no place where Girija Devi reached and I didn’t, and vice versa. We used to prefer to stay in the same hotel, and always asked for rooms close by.
It was a very sweet relationship. Today, it has become only a memory.
Last night, when my daughter Durga told me, ‘Bapuji, Girija Devi nahin rahi’, I became quiet and numb. I didn’t say anything. Hum maun ho gaye. Koi bhaasha hi nahi nikal rahi thhi (I went silent. There were no words to express what I was feeling). I spoke in the morning when Durga asked me, ‘Aap theek hain (Are you okay)?’ I said, ‘Ab theek hun? (Now I am okay’).
The kind of shock I got, it will only heal with time. It’s tough to get over this shock so soon.
As far as her singing was concerned, she used to also sing Khayal very well. Of course, she was the queen of Thumri. She was also very knowledgeable. She knew a lot of things and secrets about music. I don’t know any such knowledgeable talent. It’s a huge loss for the music industry.
I have memories and memories of her.
I don’t remember when I met her last. It must have been at least two years since I met her last.
I was so excited about the upcoming event (MTV India Music Summit 2017 in Jaipur, where Girija Devi and he were to share the stage for a conversation with writer Prasoon Joshi). I was thinking what our Prasoon saab will ask us, what will Jiji say and what I will say. I was a little scared, but I was also happy that I will meet Jiji and talk to her about music and everything else.
Suddenly, sab choor-mur ho gaya (everything crumbled). Building hi dhay gayi (The building has collapsed).
She was a very large-hearted lady. She used to take care of everyone and she used to also contribute towards charity. She was a very clean-hearted lady. As a human, she was a wonderful lady.
“Babul mora naihar chhooto hi jaaye”. She used to sing this beautifully. Ab naiya chhod ke chali gayi… naiyya sach mein chhoot gayi (But now the boat has embarked).
(As told to Radhika Bhirani)
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