Back home in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) after a fortnight in Mumbai (India), we were having our usual weekly music session with my wife’s guru ji’s, Shri Ujjwal Rai and Shri Gyanendra Maurya (Saket Sangeet Samsthan, Kanpur) . Gyanendraji, was looking unusually grim. After some time, he broke the sad news out, “Sita died…the day before.”
Sita Yadav had been his most promising disciple of classical music for almost fifteen years. We were shocked beyond words, and the only reaction was an anguished exclamation, ‘Oh no!’ She was in hospital in critical condition when we left for Mumbai, but…such an end was totally unexpected. The musical evening assumed a pensive note, but it went on till the end. While dispersing, we decided to pay a visit to Sita’s place together, the day after.
Sita had completed her M.A. in classical music. Music was her passion. She had started learning classical music at a very early age, when she was just a class VI student. By now she had become quite an excellent, distinguished performer. She had won many prestigious awards and recognitions. She was the Classical Voice of Uttar Pradesh, in 2012. She obtained the first place from Kanpur Zone at Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Academy’s music competition. Besides, she also participated in a prestigious music contest conducted by the renowned Malini Awasthi in Mumbai.
Our association with her started when we were recording for one of our folk songs audio albums. She was one of the singers. Despite staying too far away, at the other end of the city, she regularly appeared for practice sessions and finally, the recording. We had plans to involve her further in our endeavours and to invite her for our next musical goshthi (get together), but then, man proposes and god disposes.
About a months back, Sita started having severe, unbearable headaches. At a leading hospital of the city, she was diagnosed with serious lungs issue which developed complications. Despite all possible medical treatment, she kept languishing. The problem, according to doctors, had got into her brain and she started losing consciousness on and off. There were spells of coma even. She even underwent brain surgery, but to no avail. Finally, she was put on ventilator. The desperate family did not know what to do. They made all possible efforts, but…destiny had its own plans for the poor soul. She breathed her last on the 20th.September. A musical prodigy passed away leaving her notes incomplete, unfulfilled. RIP!
As decided, we arrived at Sita’s house in the afternoon. We found her father at the gate itself. Seeing his daughter’s music teachers at his door, he could not hold his grief and broke down with tears flowing. The Guru took him in his arms saying consoling words but straining hard to hold back his own tears.
We were led inside, to the drawing room and seated. All faces wore a mournful visage. Nobody seemed to know what to say. Then, Sita’s father himself started. In choked voice hardly audible, he lamented, “We do not know what to do. Our life seems to have ended with her.” Then he said, “We didn’t have any music in the entire family, it was she who brought it here.”
“This was Sita’s room,” he continued, “Here she would sit alone, singing or studying. When I was around, I’d come and sit with her to listen her songs. And then she’d sing with more enthusiasm and perfection.” Then he rose, went to a corner of the room and picked up a large polythene bag. “I never saw this earlier. She kept all her documents so well in it.” I took the folder and started leafing through. It contained a huge collection of music awards certificates, college degrees, marks sheets etc. Amazing indeed!
Even in utter grief, Sita’s Dad did not lose his humility and poise. In an emotional gesture, he pointed at Gyanendra ji and told that his contribution in the girl’s development and achievements was no less than that of her father even. “Bhai Sahab (Gyanendra ji) taught and guided her so well all these years (15 years), and never charged a single rupee,” he told with deep gratitude. That much for the Guru’s love and commitment for music, to have provided perfect grooming to a deserving disciple.
Finally, somebody desired to hear Sita’s voice, her song. Her brother put her music on the laptop. As the first note emerged, the entire room was dumbstruck. It was as if she herself was singing. Many eyes turned moist as she kept pouring and pouring her notes of raga Bhimpalasi, totally unmindful of her audience.
Then we decided not to prolong their grief too long by referring to her innumerable fond memories again and again. I requested her Dad to keep in touch with her music circle, as that would draw up her soul around, and make her happy in whatever form she happens to be. He turned emotional, and said that he would. We, at least I felt reassured that Sita’s long musical journey, her deep saadhna (practice) would not go in vain.
Ironically, while returning, the car music system was turned on, and after just a few ghazals, there came Jagjit Singh, in his deep, pensive voice… ‘Chitthi na koi sandes, jaane woh kaun sa des, jahaan tum chale gaye…’ (Neither letter nor any message, no idea which country, where you went away…) We all got silent for a moment, struck by the sheer coincidence. It was the song the renowned singer sang after his son’s tragic death in a car accident.