'At dinner, he made me sit next to him.'
'He listened to me for over two-and-a-half hours.'
Talat Aziz, the well-known ghazal artiste, recalls a memorable night of food and song as Subhash K Jha listens in:
It was the night of December 31, 1999, bringing in the new millennium at the Taj Garden Retreat, Kumarakom, Kerala.
I was personally invited by Atalji, who was then holidaying in Kerala.
I sang exclusively for Atalji and his family.
There were only 10 guests, no outsiders were invited.
I sang all his requests, mostly compositions by Ahmed Faraz Faiz.
Then, I sang a special number, which Nida Fazli had especially written for that evening.
I composed the tune and performed live that evening: Vrindavan Ke Kishan Kanhaiya, Allah Hoo, Bansi Radha Geeta Gayya Allah Hoo, Ek Hi Dariya Nee Peela Laal Hara... Apni Apni Sab Ki Naiyya Allah Hoo...
At dinner, he made me sit next to him.
He listened to me for over two-and-a-half hours.
By the time we ate, we had spent more than three hours talking.
I candidly spoke with him about the nation and society.
The greatness of the man was that he listened to me with a smile and never made me feel I was talking to the PM of the country.
When I read Atalji's musings in the newspaper the next day, I was pleasantly surprised to see he had mentioned all the topics we had discussed the night before.