|Satguru Uday Singh Ji|
It was the first week of March 2013. A pleasant wave of wind hit our faces as I landed in Bangalore. I was traveling to Bangalore for the first time after Thakur Ji had taken over the mantle of the Namdhari community as Satguru Uday Singh ji.
As we sped away from the airport my mind drifted to what lay ahead. Up until that fateful thirteenth day of 2012, my relationship with Thakur ji had been limited to professional work. Then everything changed. While I was lucky to be blessed in witnessing the start of Satguru Uday Singh ji’s journey as Satguru ji and our journey in effect with Him as His sangat, inwardly I was in turmoil and my heart yearned for Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji’s darshan - despite knowing that physically that was not possible. The wound had not healed.
My eyes welled up with emotions as we drew closer to Satguru Ji’s residence (Kothi) at Bidadi, at the doorstep of Namdhari Seeds. On many an occasion, I had visited the place earlier when Satguru Jagjit Singh ji had blessed the Namdhari Sangat of Bangalore here. Today I was again visiting the place to do Satguru ji’s darshan.
We spent the next hour settling in and discussing the next day's schedule with the Namdhari team. Our discussions were midway when we heard Satguru ji’s car arrive. A warm smile greeted us as we touched His feet and sought blessings. As my cameraman Manas Mishra an atheist at heart greeted Satguru ji - I introduced him saying that Manas had had the good fortune of having Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji’s darshan as well. Satguru ji smiled and said how we had all been lucky — including Him to have witnessed God walk on earth in the form of Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji. The longing and fondness in those words stunned me into silence and for a second I wondered where had I heard that before.
Having just had langar at about 9 pm, I was pacing across the kitchen when Satguru ji came out of His room and walked towards the kitchen. He spoke to Suba Amrik Singh who was standing there and a couple of other people in the kitchen and then walked across to where I was standing with folded hands. He enquired about the well-being of my family and specifically my grandparents who stayed in Hyderabad. I and the rest of us had assumed that that would be the end of our conversation for the night, however, that was just the beginning of one of the most exhilarating conversations that I had had in my life.
The pleasantries had led the conversation to how my great grandfather Teja Singh ji had traveled from Gujranwala in Pakistan at the behest of Satguru Pratap Singh ji and moved to Hyderabad during the late nineteen thirties. Satguru ji remarked that having been born in the early sixties he had not done Satguru Partap Singh ji’s darshan but had heard about His benevolence from Satguru Jagjit Singh ji. Satguru ji’s voice cracked with emotion as He remembered fondly why just Satguru Pratap Singh ji, He had seen Satguru Nanak Dev ji in Satguru Jagjit Singh ji. Silence again engulfed all of us at that moment as individual memories came flooding back. Suba ji politely reminded all of us that it was getting late and that we should all retire for the night. Satguru ji however looked at me and asked Suba ji to move my dera inside the Kothi and asked me to follow Him in. I was surprised and nervously followed Satguru ji in wondering if I had spoken anything untoward.
It was about 10 pm when seated in the corner of the drawing room on the sofa near the window, Satguru ji started speaking about Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji’s benevolence. He also asked me to narrate my experiences with Him. The wound of Satguru Jagjit Singh ji’s loss lay bare as I started sharing my experiences. Within no time I had tears in my eyes and moments later I couldn’t control myself. The past three months had been a big challenge, every moment had been heavy, I had immersed myself in creating content on Satguru Jagjit Singh ji in the hope that I would overcome my grief but at that moment the dam burst. Satguru ji heard me out patiently, never once breaking the flow of memories, only interjecting to get a few more details and prodding me to come out with my grief in totality, He knew that I needed it, all of us needed it, Satguru Jagjit Singh ji had been the single focus point in our spiritual lives.
My heart felt lighter and it seemed as if a major burden had been lifted over my shoulders. I looked at Satguru ji embarrassed at the mess I had made of myself and apologised for letting myself go. He smiled the same benevolent smile that I had seen so many times before in my life. He started sharing his experiences with Satguru Jagjit Singh ji and the benevolence that he had seen and experienced as a part of the Sangat. I was surprised as to why was He sharing that with me when He remarked - we are all children of Satguru Jagjit Singh ji and were now duty-bound to carry forward His legacy as envisaged by Him. In the words of Bhai Gurdas, Satguru Uday Singh ji reaffirmed how Satguru Jagjit Singh ji had propagated the legacy of Satguru Nanak Dev ji and the subsequent Gurus
ਜਿਥੇ ਬਾਬਾ ਪੈਰ ਧਰਿ ਪੂਜਾ ਆਸਣੁ ਥਾਪਣਿ ਸੋਆ ॥
Wherever Baba put his feet, a religious place was erected and established.
ਸਿਧ ਆਸਣਿ ਸਭਿ ਜਗਤ ਦੇ ਨਾਨਕ ਆਦਿ ਮਤੇ ਜੇ ਕੋਆ ॥
All the siddh-places now have been renamed on the name of Nanak.
ਘਰਿ ਘਰਿ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਧਰਮਸਾਲ ਹੋਵੈ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਸਦਾ ਵਿਸੋਆ ॥
Every home has become a place of dharma where singing.
ਬਾਬੇ ਤਾਰੇ ਚਾਰਿ ਚਕਿ ਨਉ ਖੰਡਿ ਪ੍ਰਿਥਮੀ ਸਚਾ ਢੋਆ ॥
Baba liberated all four directions and nine divisions of the earth.
He spoke in awe of Satguru ji’s passion for every aspect of human life - from Naam Simran to bani, from music to arts, from sports to health, from vegetarianism to peace, from farming to technology and above all the welfare of Namdhari sangat. Time had flown by and by the time I realised, it was way past midnight.
As Satguru ji enumerated each of these aspects the same steely resolve came across as we had seen before, one that illustrated that He was but Himself a part of the whole, He was Nanak, an embodiment of Ram-Hari-Partap-Gur Jagjit, there was no illusion, it was the truth and it dawned upon me that we were lucky to have Him. And then in a matter of fact manner He said, “The worldly body had grown old and needed to be rejuvenated to carry the work forward.” I was in awe and wondered why did it take me so long to realise and embrace this? Perhaps it was divine intervention, this conversation was needed to remind me again that Yes, Satguru Jagjit Singh ji was right here, in front of me and He had spoken to me that night.
10 years is a long time yet that night is still fresh in my mind as I thank and count my blessings for that conversation. It has led me onto the path of truth that I would not have taken had it not been.
From then to now, every milestone that we cross as a community reminds me of the steely resolve from that day in March 2013. The grace and humbleness that we have seen grow out of the trying times of community. Every event, occasion, and personal word of motivation has only moved to safeguard, fulfil and go beyond the legacy of the previous Satguru. Perhaps now is not the time to reflect but to move forward with even more vigour, for 10 years is just a start in the era of the grace and benevolence of Satguru Uday Singh ji.
February 2007, Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji was giving darshan in Raagi Balwant Singh’s house. The happy occasion was the dastarbandi of his eldest son Basant Singh. Everyone was congratulating everyone when the conversation shifted to Satguru ji’s musical compositions and inevitably to Ustad Vilayat Hussain’s baithak at the very same place a few years back. I was carrying my laptop with me and as luck would have it a hard drive with the recording of the baithak. Immediately a screen was organised along with a project and moments later Satguru ji was reminiscing the baithak and enjoying the music. I couldn’t take my eyes off Satguru ji’s face, it was lit up with happiness. He looked at me and smiled and at that moment an idea struck, we had been sitting on a treasure trove of Satguru ji’s recordings for years without giving a thought that the same could be put together into a documentary that would help not only archive those recordings but also help the sangat savor the beauty and blessings of Satguru ji’s music. With a prayer on my lips I approached Satguru ji and requested Him to permit us to attempt to make the documentary, truth be told inside my heart I wanted to make something that would make Satguru ji smile always and music always did. Satguru ji looked around and then asked me how long would it take, I replied as much time as He think it would take. He smiled mysteriously and gave His approval for us to attempt to make the documentary. I was ecstatic, little did I realise that the answer to the question He had asked was something that we were never prepared for.
Years went by and we painstakingly collected all the recordings of Satguru ji and the baithaks’ with the help of Gurmukh Singh Sewak and Balbir Singh who had been recording Satguru ji’s precious moments, The challenge was that everything was recorded on VHS tapes and that data needed to be digitised, classified and rejuvenated even before we could start scripting. Then there was data to be collected across the world from the sangat where Satguru ji had held a concert or music sitting, which was, to be honest, every day of Satguru ji’s life. This process took several years and by the time we reached the stage of scripting it was 2012 and in December of that year, Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji merged with the eternal light. As mentioned in the beginning, that was a challenging time for all of us. All work had come to a halt and given the circumstances I wasn’t even sure that I would be able to complete it. On a professional note the project demanded a lot of resources and on the emotional front, every time I played any of Satguru ji’s singing or saw a baithak I would end up an emotional wreck. The mind played games and there were several moments where despite Satguru Uday Singh Ji’s benevolence, it was difficult to move on. By November 2013 I had given up all hope of completing the documentary. It was during these trying circumstances that one restless night when I was finding it difficult to sleep and was tossing in my bed, Satguru Jagjit Singh ji blessed me with a vision. I was transported to Partap Mandir, the program had just concluded and Satguru Jagjit Singh ji was on His way out. I was packing up the camera and other equipment just below the stage, Satguru ji approached and said “Hey you… listen to me…,” I looked up and around me to see who Satguru ji was calling out, I could see several people going about their jobs and then I heard Him again, “I am talking to you…,” I turned and saw Satguru ji pointing at me and he continued, “I want you to continue doing what you do. You will do a good job, continue doing what you do.” I was stunned, I could only nod my head and fold my hands in reverence and just like that I was transported back to my bed. Was it a vision, a dream, or just my subconscious mind that was playing tricks with me?
1030 am, the next day, I had all but forgotten about the vision when my phone rang and I received a call from Satguru Uday Singh Ji. I was stunned by the words that he spoke “I want you to continue doing what you do, I want you to translate Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji’s Updesh (sermons) into English,” he explained how a team was being put together for the same and how he thought I would be able to not only contribute to the effort but also seek solace and calm my mind. What struck me was the words that He had spoken, they are the same words as Satguru Jagjit Singh ji, the previous night. I immediately immersed myself in the translations and slowly started yearning to do more. By March 2014 after contributing to the translations, which culminated in the release of a book of Satguru Jagjit Singh ji’s updesh, I approached Satguru Uday Singh Ji and requested Him to bless and give us permission to attempt and finish Satguru Ji’s documentary. He immediately gave His permission and asked me to draft an update on what more was needed from their end to finish it. I immediately set up the task of going through what we had done so far and drew up a list that needed immediate attention. While we had collated a lot of material over the past 5 years and in the months following Satguru Jagjit Singh ji’s passing away we had recorded interviews of several of Satguru ji’s Hazuri Raagis and several well-known artists like Pt Yogesh Samsi, Pt Varinder Kumar Ji, Pt Ram Narayan and literary luminaries like Dr. Surjit Patar, the interviews of few maestros had alluded us, prominently among them were Ut Amjad Ali Khan and some of our own Namdhari maestros who were now residing abroad. We needed to record them at the earliest. Satguru Uday Singh ji immediately set up the task with us and soon we were interviewing Ut Amjad Ali Khan, Pt Birju Maharaj, and our very own Ut Sukhwinder singh ‘Pinky’ along with Raagi Baljit Singh in New Delhi. This was immediately followed up with more interviews when Satguru Ji traveled to the UK, where we interviewed Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishra, Ut Harbhajan Singh, Ut Dharambir Singh, Ut Surjit Singh, Ut Harjinder Pal Singh, and Ut Kiranpal Singh. The tour culminated with a concert by the duo, Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishra at the East London Gurdwara in the presence of Satguru ji. This was also the tour where the infamous violent attack on Satguru ji had taken place. What struck me most was Satguru ji’s poise and demeanour despite the obvious security concern and the anxiousness of the sangat. Not only did Satguru ji complete the visit as scheduled but went out of the way the assure and put the sangat at ease. He did this by guiding the sangat to divert their energies towards Naam Simran and concentrate on consolidating the community, especially the younger generation. Late evenings were given to listening to youngsters play classical music as well as to discussions on the benevolence of Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji.
Promptly after coming back from the UK, we started putting the data we had together along with the interviews and I started working on the screenplay and editing. Periodically over the next few months, we would come to Sri Bhaini Sahib and update Satguru ji with progress and discuss what we had achieved thus far. The Government of India organises the Film Bazaar in Goa every year in November, where filmmakers from across the world gather to meet and share their work in progress on documentaries and films. In November 2014, when I suggested that we should take the documentary, Sangeet Saroop Satguru, as it was being known by then, as a work in progress and pitch it there, Satguru ji immediately consented. With his kind blessings, we were able to present and reach several well-known journalists, including Nasreen Munni Kabir, a well-known BBC, Channel 4 journalist who was astounded by Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji’s musical journey. The fact that we were able to reach this far with just work in progress and garner feedback which was invaluable was all due to Satguru ji’s foresight and understanding of the modern media and the need to cross over internationally.
Working on the editing through the next 5 years, the narrative of the documentary had grown from being a 90 min film to a full-fledged documentary series on par with international content. Our quarterly updates and screenings with Satguru ji had grown more intricate and detailed. The need to have a good background score had always been of concern to me and when I voiced the same to Satguru ji, He immediately suggested that we draw up a plan and record our very Raagi’s in Sri Bhaini Sahib for the same.
An extended recording session was filmed in Sri Bhaini Sahib in April 2015, followed by a detailed interview of Raagi Balwant Singh in 2016 and then in 2018 with Satguru Ji, Mata ji, and Biba Ji. The missing pieces were falling into place with Satguru ji’s grace and blessings. In 2018 we were also lucky to discover a treasure trove of Satguru Ji’s recordings from Africa with the help of Mata ji from Suba Satnam Singh. Kirpal Singh Chana, Uday Chana, Gurdit Panesar, and Gursharn Singh Surdhar from the UK had also shared their collection with us by then. On each occasion, Satguru ji made it a personal endeavor to emphasise the need to collect everything possible, however small it was. In January 2019, when we were in the last stages of editing we felt that while Satguru Jagjit Singh ji used to bless the sangat of Bangkok very frequently we had very little material from there. The fact that Satguru ji’s physician, Dr. Narinder Pal was also from Bangkok was a bonus as that would tie in a lot of things in the story. When we shared this with Satguru ji, He immediately called Bibi Kawaljeet Kaur in Bangkok and sent us there. With her help, we were able to not only interview Dr. Narinder Pal but also Satguru Ji’s Sikhs like Jagjit Singh Azad, Hazuri Raagi, and a Music teacher at the erstwhile International School in Bangkok. We were also able to gather more photographs and recordings that added to the story so much more.
By April 2019 we had completed the editing and we decided to hold a private screening for Satguru Uday Singh ji and a few others who had been involved in the making of the documentary. We were nervous, excited, and a little apprehensive all at the same time.
The screening was held in Satguru ji’s residence and as the documentary played on the screen, I was transported back to the moments when I was editing those precious baithaks and how each of those moments were imbued with the blessings and grace of Satguru Jagjit Singh ji. As the documentary ended and the lights came on, there was a stunned silence. Satguru Uday Singh ji sat there for a few moments, his face was unreadable. We were not sure whether he liked it or not. But then he slowly got up, walked over to me, and hugged me. He said, “You have done a great job. Satguru Jagjit Singh ji would have been proud of you.” I felt a sense of relief and happiness wash over me. All the years of hard work had paid off.
And then He said, we are not done yet. I looked at Him, “We need to take this everywhere, show it to people who had never met Satguru Jagjit Singh ji, but who have been touched by His music and teachings.” And in those words I realised that the documentary was a journey that was guided by the blessings and grace of Satguru Jagjit Singh ji through Satguru Uday Singh Ji. He was there with us every step of the way, guiding us, inspiring us, and giving us the strength to carry on.
The documentary was not just a tribute to Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji, but also a testament to the power of His music and teachings to touch people’s lives and bring them closer to the divine. And that was now Satguru Uday Singh Ji’s endeavour. Touching people’s lives.
During the planning of the premiere of the documentary in Mumbai, we designed and sent Satguru ji the invitation card to seek His permission to go ahead and print it. The invitation had Satguru Ji’s name as the Chief Patron inviting everyone to the premiere, followed by the names of the dignitaries who were going to be present there. In our hurry to meet the print deadline, we had made an error in the font size by a mere 1 pt. Satguru ji’s name was designed in 1 pt smaller than the other dignitaries. Satguru ji noticed the difference and called up immediately and very humbly said, “Our chief patron is Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji and I am just His representative, in fact, the chief patron is Guru Nanak, shouldn’t Satguru ji’s name be in a larger font than other dignitaries?” I was stunned, in a simple sentence He had shown me He was not only Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji but Satguru Nanak Dev ji as well. That one sentence left an indelible impression on me, it changed everything forever, I realised that we were all so blessed as a community for the darshan of Satguru Uday Singh ji was indeed the darshan of Satguru Nanak Dev ji.
Sangeet Saroop Satgur was released by Satguru Uday Singh ji with Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma and Ut Zakir Hussain along with several other luminaries and the press present at the premiere screening in Mumbai at the Metro Cinemas. Mumbai was followed by exclusive screenings in Bangkok-Thailand, Birmingham-UK, and then in New Delhi where Satguru ji honoured Ut Amjad Ali Khan, Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishra, Pt Birju Maharaj, and several others. At every location the sangat graced in their white churidar kurtas, celebrating not only ‘Sangeet Saroop Satgur - Satguru Jagjit Singh Ji, but His Saroop - Satguru Uday Singh Ji.