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Remembering the Mellifluous Renditions of Pankaj Udhas in Madison, Alabama

Remembering the Mellifluous Renditions of Pankaj Udhas in Madison, Alabama

  • His magical voice wove Arabic poetry into silken strands that wrapped around souls separated from their loved ones.

Chitthi aayi hai, aayi hai
Watan se chitthi aayi hai
Bade dinon ke baad, hum bevatanon ko yaad 
Watan ki mitti aayi hai, chitthi aayi ha

Pankaj Udhas, the beloved Indian ghazal and playback singer, passed away on February 26, 2024, leaving behind a legacy of soulful melodies cherished by fans throughout his illustrious career. 

His rendition of the ghazal “Chitthi Aayi Hai” from the film “Naam” captured the hearts of millions, evoking a nostalgia that resonated deeply with immigrants separated from their loved ones. It rekindled the ache of separation that cannot be filled with money or mansions. 

I had the unforgettable experience of attending his live concert in Madison, Alabama, in September 2013. The Bob Jones High School auditorium, close to my home, hosted the event, allowing me the opportunity to engage with Pankajji after his performance. 

The most requested encore that evening was ‘Chandi Jaisa Rang Hai Tera, Sone Jaise Baal, Ek Tuhi Dhanwan Hai Gori, Baki Sab Kangaal’. Young couples were enthralled by the romantic ambiance he effortlessly created. Despite his celebrity status, Udhas remained a polite and personable human being, talking patiently with the organizers and fans after singing nonstop for two hours.

Udhas’s musical prowess shone brightly from his debut ghazal album “Aahat” in 1980. Subsequent albums like “Mukarar,” “Tarrannum,” and “Nayaab,” endeared him to the Indian diaspora worldwide. Through numerous live performances, Udhas connected deeply with his fans, sharing his passion for music. 

Udhas was instrumental in making the ghazal popular. His magical voice wove Arabic poetryinto silken strands that wrapped around souls separated from their loved ones. 

Born into a musically inclined family in Jetpur, Gujarat, Udhas inherited his love for music. His journey began with humble roots, evolving into a storied career marked by numerous achievements and accolades. 

In 2006, Udhas received the prestigious Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, in recognition of his invaluable contributions to the arts. His talent and dedication inspired generations of musicians and music enthusiasts alike.

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Udhas bid farewell to the world at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai after battling pancreatic cancer for an extended period. His passing marked the end of an era in Indian Ghazal music, leaving behind a void that can never be filled.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed heartfelt condolences, acknowledging Udhas’s indelible mark on Indian music and culture. As fans mourn the loss of a musical icon, they find solace in the memories and melodies that Udhas has created, and are etched in the annals of music history in letters of gold.

(Top photo, the author with Pankaj Udhas at a concert in Madison, AL, in 2013.)

With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

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