I was just learning to dabble with composition a little bit- a colleague of my father who also taught at the Zakir Hussain College with him, Naseem Ajmal, heard my recorded voice singing Kabir. He is a poet in the Urdu language (in addition to being a professor of Mathematics!) and has a natural flair for discerning voices. He pointed out to my father that 'this voice is appropriate for singing ghazal'.. Father came home and shared the sentiment. For me this was by far the most unthinkable thing that could be.
But Naseem bhai was not giving up so easily. Somehow or the other I found myself in his presence. And there he was trying to explain to me the significance of Urdu poetry, the angst, the suffering it conveys and that not all of it is about wine and women- the manner I thought with my own limited exposure to the genre. The limitation of the exposure incidentally did not stem from my family- where ghazal was by far the most popular music heard and sung!! It was my own bias, which seemed to view ghazal as a lesser sibling of the classical music genre of khayal.
Even earlier than that one of my teachers, Dinanath-ji had been very keen that I should be singing ghazal and punjabi folk music- but I had an aversion to them then. The ghazals he sang himself were typically the sort of ghazals that talk of wine, women, pining and so forth- and I found that tedious, stereotyped and way beyond my league. But that was then.
Entry Naseem bhai, long discussions and lo and behold...my worldview expanded. And today, nearly eight years later I know that ghazal is the one thing that I really want to sing, perform and make a contribution in the world of music if I may.