Racecourse remembers the ghazal singing horse owner - By Shivani Naik I Indian Express
Posted on - 11 Oct 2011
Racecourse remembers the ghazal singing horse owner
Jagjit Singh had a hectic schedule as a ghazal singer, but he always made timetofeed his enthusiasm for horse racing
By Shivani Naik
AS Jagjit Singh concluded his morning walks at the Mahalakshmi Racecourse, he would often join the jockeys and the trainers for a cup of tea at the Gallops restaurant. Indian ace jockey-turned trainer, Malesh Narredu, would be at the breakfast table where the ghazal singer would advise the riders to avoid having the calorie-increasing milk and sugar.
The milk would then be poured into an empty plastic bottle that he brought along and he would mix the sugar in it. Narredu was curious as to what he did with the milk bottle, so he followed him out of the racecourse and was astounded at what he saw. “He gave the milk to the beggars sitting outside Haji Ali. I was absolutely touched by the gesture of the great man,” he said. Jagjit Singh — the renowned ghazal singer and an avid horse-racing enthusiast passed away at the Lilavati Hospital at 8 am on Monday, after being hospitalized for a reported brain haemorrhage over a fortnight ago.
Ever since the day he followed the Mahalaxmi racecourse-regular to Haji Ali, Narredu had developed a renewed respect for the man and wanted to be associated with him in any way possible. It was a dream of his to train one of his horses, one that he achieved only on Sunday, a day before the death of the great man. “I trained his two-year-old colt named Astromia and ran it in Jagjit Singh’s colours. The horse came in third and I wanted to deliver the news of this success personally but it was too late,” said Narredu.
Singh made sure his house was close to the racecourse so that he would be able to indulge in his regular morning walks at the racecourse. There he would often run into his long-time companion and chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) — Vivek Jain. “He had a hectic schedule as a ghazal singer, but he always made time to feed his enthusiasm for horse racing.”
Singh’s affection for the equine creatures seemed to increase intuitively after the untimely death in an accident of his son Vivek — ‘Babu’ to his family and friends. “I studied with his son at Sydenham, but my bond with Jagjit Singh grew stronger over conversations on horse racing after we reconnected some years post Babu’s death,” says Asif Lampwala, prominent lawyer and also a horse-owner.
“You could say his attachment to horses increased significantly after the tragedy. And as such after singing, horses were his truest second love.” Singh’s interest in horses is said to have been stoked by his growing friendship with famous trainer Magan Singh Jodha few decades ago.
“He’d often actively start a barbecue at Magan’s stables at night, and if he got into the mood would sing for hours together,” Lampwala says.
For one of India’s legendary former jockeys and now trainer Pesi Shroff, Jagjit Singh’s lasting impression will be in influencing his young daughter to pursue music. “He’s really responsible for converting her to music and ensuring she has a fine teacher now,” Shroff says. Though the horse-lover and the career horsesteerer shared a common all-pervading passion, they seldom spoke of horses. “We spoke about everything else, rarely horses. But I’d always see him in the morning for his cup of tea at the race course. All I can say is he wasn’t just a star singer, he was also a star as a human being,” he adds.
Horse-owner Khushroo Dhunjibhoy reckons Singh never really cared much for betting, but enjoyed the races as a pure competitive contest. “He loved the sport for its own sake, and wasn’t much of a wagering man,” he says. His love for horses was beyond all else and in one instance, a few RWITC members had appealed for help for a Blue Cross animal shelter. “It was to help destitute animals, and he just came and sang, and raised all the funds,” Dhunjibhoy concludes.