I wish it wasn’t a piece of such sad news that brought me back to the blog, but it can’t be helped. This morning, I woke up to the news of the passing away of KK, one of most favourite singers. It felt like losing a friend who I have known for a long time. He must have meant a million things to millions of people, and there will be many eulogies written, but I’m sure of one thing that they will all have in common – the sense of losing a part of your life.
I grew up listening to Bollywood songs from the 50s to the 70s, and happened to mostly skip the 90s when they were happening around me. My go-to voices were always Rafi, Kishore or Mukesh, with Hemant da featuring in between. In a sense, music for me began and ended with the era my parents grew up in. Though I occasionally listened to Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan (and later, Sonu Nigam) I was stubbornly (though unintentionally) retro when it came to music. KK was the one who really made me realise that the 90s/2000s can have good music, too. I still remember when I first listened to Pal at a friend’s place, the ripped MP3 softly playing through top-of-the-line Creative speakers (you will get the reference if you’re from my generation). I remember thinking to myself “This guy sings well”. What I didn’t know at the time (and what I realised later) was that this guy not only sung well, but he also made me feel.
Make no mistake, singers like Rafi et al are absolute legends, the benchmarks against which every new singer is evaluated, and for good reason. Listening to them is like witnessing divinity, which is why it is easy to get overwhelmed. With KK, you never felt like you were standing on the ground looking at some heavenly figure up there. It always felt like a friend sitting next to you with his arm around your shoulder, vocalising exactly what you were feeling in your heart. Whether you were with your gang, swaying to Pal or Yaaron, or sitting on your bed in the dark of the night, softly sobbing to Aawarapan Banjarapan or Maine Dil Se Kaha, his voice tugged at your heartstrings every single time. It was what you would have sung, had you been blessed with even 1% of the ability that he was.
For all my sunshine outlook, I do carry some blue seas within me, especially in my late teens and early 20s. His songs gave an expression to what I was feeling within but couldn’t (or more precisely, didn’t want to) express on the outside. Whether it was the mushy Aankhon Mein Teri that mirrored what I felt when I saw “that one person” or the intensely dejected pathos of Tadap Tadap, there was always a KK song which gave words to what you left unspoken for whatever reason. When you remembered the last time you saw someone as they walked away, Alvida was there to assure you that what you felt was being understood by someone. No matter how much of an extrovert one is, they carry their own private universe within them. For a painful introvert like me, this was even more of a “Outsiders not allowed” zone. His songs were the “Hey, he’s singing what I’m feeling” moments inside this zone. In that sense, he was a trusted friend one allowed into the sanctum sanctorum.
You must have realised that the word I have used most often so far is “felt”, because that’s exactly who he was. He was someone who made you feel. That’s not something everyone can do to so many people at once. It takes a truly special human being to do so.
I hope his family and loved ones find the strength to cope with this immeasurable loss. For the rest of us, he will always be with us when we hit that “Play” button, giving a voice to what would otherwise stay unspoken in our hearts. We might say our goodbyes today, but as long as we feel, you will never be gone, KK!