Reality of Ishmeet’s death dawns on Punjab

July 30th, 2008 - 1:17 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Alka Yagnik
By Jaideep Sarin
Ludhiana, July 30 (IANS) It was just a few months ago - eight to be precise - on a Gurpurab day (the birth anniversary of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev) Nov 24 last year that a simple-looking, soft spoken boy from a middle-class Ludhiana family became an icon for thousands of Punjabis and for the Sikh community. Just 18 years old then, Ishmeet Singh got millions of SMSes - lots of them coming from Punjab where Sikhs saw in him a new idol - to win the “Amul Star Voice of India” contest beating favourites Harshit Saxena and Toshi.

The singing sensation from this industrial city Tuesday left those many fans, friends, relatives and admirers with a lump in the throat after he drowned in the swimming pool of a beach resort near Male, the capital of the island country of Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

His modest home in Ludhiana’s Shastri Nagar - where celebrations had erupted just a few months ago when he was crowned winner by India’s best known singer Lata Mangeshkar during the show final in Mumbai - Tuesday evening wore a saddened and gloomy look with the news of Ishmeet’s untimely death being received with utter shock.

Such was the admiration for this young singer and his achievements that there was a virtual traffic jam outside his house here as a constant stream of friends, relatives and fans flocked to console the devastated family.

His mother Amritpal Kaur, who had recently shared the stage with him during another singing reality show on Star TV Tuesday remained glued to the Star News channel as the breaking news of her son’s death in Maldives was being shown.

His father Gurpinder Singh Sodhi, a modest property dealer here, and uncle Charan Kamal Singh (who remained in charge of his career after he made it big) were at a total loss on how to react.

The news of Ishmeet’s death had been broken to his father by the chief executive of the event management company Big Events Gurmit Makkar, who said the budding singer had died after drowning in the pool.

“I got a call from the event company official that he died. I don’t know anything else,” Ishmeet’s shocked father said.

In just a few months of being a celebrity, Ishmeet had rubbed shoulders with the likes of melody queens Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle, top singers Abhijeet, Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy and several others.

“I am too shocked to say anything now. He had a great future in singing ahead of him. I had suggested to him that he should practise classical singing which he promised to do. He even came to my house once and sang a beautiful song,” the legendary Lata Mangeshkar said Tuesday night.

Ishmeet had entered the singing contest last year with high hopes and even gave up his studies midway to pursue a career in singing after he won the contest. He was a second year student in a local college.

Ishmeet was in this city last week with his family and had even performed at a local event. He left for Mumbai Monday en route to Maldives for a carnival event to be held Aug 1.

Till Wednesday morning, the family was getting sketchy details of his death and how his body would be brought back.

This bustling city had scores of people lined up outside his house even as they and the whole of Punjab tried to come to grips with the reality that he was no more.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), which had honoured him earlier as a Sikh icon, said that Ishmeet had brought laurels to Punjab and the Sikhs.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal and former chief minister Amarinder Singh too condoled his death.

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