Padam Shri Bhai Nirmal Singhji
When it comes to success, one looks back at a lot of things people are happy about .Those baby steps that only you know of!
Out of those have known you ,there are people who know the price of your success, for the rest you’re plain lucky!
Padam Shri Raagi Bhai Nirmal Singhji Khalsa in an interview with Khushdav Singh in Khaas Mulakat Sangat T.V. in U.K.this is what I unraveled from this interview, other posts on the Youtube …and first hand information from his random fans ,and my favourite Ragi, I was shaken when the Pandemic snatched him away.
His parent’s certainly didn’t know that he was an uncut diamond in need of cutting and polishing !
From very humble beginnings in a village mother Sardarni Gurdev Kaur, father Sardar Chanan Singhbrought him up with the only hope that he’d contribute to the meager income. That was not to be as he was not interested in his father’s trade, which he proudly professes he knows so well. Much to his father’s chagrin he was neither interested in other options.
Even as a young boy he was fond of good music. After the day’s work he’d sit in front of the radio and listen to Pakistan music programmes consisting of gazals, songs, shabads…what he liked best was Gulam Ali’s style of singing and he says he adopted it . The style remained with him even after he underwent training and learning in music schools by maestros of Indian classical music.
He attributes his renown to his mother who had faith in him. She parted with her gold band which he sold for Rupees 30 . She unshackled him from his attachment towards filial duties, and encouraged him to run away from home and pursue his passion.
He managed to get admission at the Shaheed Missionary College Amritsar.a prof. there nicknamed him as Tansen in recognition to his lovely voice modulations.(Tansan a great singer in the court of the Mughal king Akbar) Here he set his heart and mind to accomplish his dream of becoming the top Ragi at the Golden temple.
He did become the Hazoori Ragi at Darbar Saheb! His silky voice resonated all over the world and soon he became a household name. His Asa Di Vaar started the day for many a devout Punjabis. He worked hard and sang the Gurbani mellifluously in their stipulated 31 ragaas.
His hard work didn’t go unnoticed. He was awarded the Padam Shri the highest civilian award in India.So humble in his stance,he wondered who had nominated him. he had never imagined such an honour.In the course of a conversation he discovered it was none other than the then P.M. Dr. Manmohan Singh who had suggested his name. He is the only Raagi who has been conferred with the award. However, the most important award he confesses is the faces of his audience who bless him with their expressions!
In his address to the Punjabi youth in a college ,he said there is no end to learning.He talked about his keen desire for knowledge. He would even read from the paper in which goods were wrapped and sold . He couldn’t study beyond class 5 because of poverty. In all humility he stated that he has written 2 books well researched based on his experiences in Ragas , Gurmat classical saangeet, which are prescribed as text books for post graduate students!His message to the young musicians is that they should learn and render the shabads in the specified Raagas in order to get the real essence of the meaning of the word(shabad).Guru Naank was a mystic who along with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana mesmerized the ‘Kayanath” with his melodious teachings. Music resonates with everyone.
On a serious note,he recalls with extreme sadness being an eye witness to the attack on Golden Temple in June 1984.It was so frightening. He was on duty in the precincts of the Gurudwara. The mayhem of thousands of innocents is inexcusable.
He enjoyed his foreign trips .which provided him the opportunity to explore the world.He has been to 71 countries .Enjoying each one’s culture ,flora , fauna marveling God’s creation.
He related an interesting anecdote about his meeting his creative inspiration ,his guru Gulam Ali.In one of his trips abroad to England he learnt that he was there.It was a great moment for him,off he went to meet him .It was an ecstatic moment ,when the Ustad told him that he knew him as an admirable Hazoori Raagi.His respect was reciprocated and the two became family from then on.
Such was his simplicity, love for learning and spreading the message of God , having the good of all at heart. His calling was singing and his endeavour was to compose good music and sing God’s praise for the people. He was a rustic, straightforward perhaps that is why he won the hearts of one and all!
His was a singleness of purpose to popularize singing God’s praise in the classical overtones.This is no small part of his greatness.It has been his ability to inspire and rediscover the greatness of the verses in the Guru Granth Saeb that are written with the length, metre and beat in keeping with the Ragaas. He believed that we are fortunate to have inherited such wealth of knowledge. This tradition of Gurmat Sangeet should be carried on!