I CAN SENSE A WAVE OF PEOPLE FEELING MORE RELIGIOUS!
His rendering is from the ‘soul’; mesmerising with his invocation of the Gods and Goddes Siddharth Mohan started singing at the young age of 12. He can hold his audience to ransom for a few hours. Today, at 39, he believes his ‘saddhna’ has still a long way to go.
During your childhood, when you look back, can you recall any early indications of what you want to do? I believe you started singing when you were 11 or 12. Did you have any indications or did your parents say something which indicated that you may be heading for something which is so powerful like ‘bhakti’ and spiritual?
Not as such, because actually it all started in 1996. My mother did the Art of Living course. She did the basic course over there out of interest and she really liked it and like with all good experiences parents want to share them with their kids. So, she got me into that environment and because of this Art of Living experience, I got into singing.
At what age did you do the course?
I was 12 years old then. So this is a very special incident, a most important incident, which changed my life, I’ll say, because Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji came to Delhi and he was in Vasant Vihar and there was a ‘satsang’ happening on the Art of Living platform. He just talked at the ‘satsang’, and then just of the blue, gave the mic to me. That’s how my journey started and soon I was singing every Sunday!
I think I’ve been really blessed because he just stopped the ‘satsang’ and gave the mic to me, and that was the first time I had held a mic. After that, everything changed.
Also, subsequent to your getting influenced by Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji, you still took to engineering, what year was that?
That was 2002. Singing was a hobby for me. It wasn’t a full-time job. Never in my dreams did I ever imagine this would become my vocation. Also, I was very clear that because my father, he was a civil engineer. We lost him last year, God bless him. My brother, he too is a software engineer. I am the youngest of three siblings. My sister, she is around eight and a half years older to me, my brother, he is around seven years older to me. I am the unplanned child. I believe I am the blessed one. So, my purpose had to be different.
So, I wanted to become like my father. So, I got into mechanical engineering, I pursued that. I finished that also. During engineering days also, I used to travel for Art of Living. I used to do the ‘satsang’. But then soon came a time when I found it was difficult to keep a balancing act, between my hobby and my job.
At that time were you doing standalone performances on your own, or were you continuing to be influenced directly Sri Sir Ravi Shankar?
On my own as well. People used to hear me there, and, and they started calling me for their programmes also. That is how my audiences expanded and people got to know me. But after engineering got all over and I started working in oil and gas sector as a planning engineer for about 8 months. This is in 2007, I was 23.
So, when did the break happen?
And that time the problem started problem in the sense, my soul, my ‘atma’ was drawn towards singing. We are service class people. We did not have any background of being onn our own, it was difficult to imagine being without a salary!
Were you charging money for your performances at this time? Or, was it just still a hobby?
For private programmes, I did not ask for money; but many times, people out of their own choice did give whatever they felt was worthy. I did not think of money, so it was kind of okay with me.
I understand your family was somewhat reluctant when you wanted to quit your job?
No, in fact my father, he was supporting me in everything else. But like I said, around this time, balancing my singing and my job became tough. So, I decided, okay, no, I don’t belong inside a cubicle. I am destined for something else.
You took a conscious decision?
Yes. It was kind of a break point in my life regarding the job because meanwhile, I was preparing for GMAT also, and had plans to go to the US for further studies. It was the most logical thing to do. So, I quit my job and before quitting my job, because my mother, she is one of the senior most teachers in Art of Living. I told my mom and father, father said, okay, whatever you want to do, you should do that. My mother was disappointed and was worried about my future. During this time, I also sought the advice of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, if I should take up full time signing. He was emphatic and said yes, definitely, go for it.
At this time, you were thinking of singing full time, or was the idea to specifically sing bhajans only?
Bhajans and Sufi also. 2007 end, I left everything and got full-time into music and full-time into Art of Living. I used to travel for Art of Living without any charges. That was ‘seva’. I did this for 3 years and this is not for money but for spiritual growth.
I was asking you, what is ‘bhakti’ for you?
At first, I became popular for the ‘bhajan’ Achutam Keshavam and I’ve been singing that from the past 25 years. And over time, as I got deeper and deeper into bhakti I realized that energy is one. That universe and that energy, that is controlling everything, which is creating balance, which is doing imbalances, which is doing everything. Everything is connected. That is one energy, that energy manifests in ‘voh hi Ram hai, voh hi Krishan hai, voh hi nirakar ho gaye. That is formless. That supreme power is everywhere.
So now I am coming back to your question on what is bhakti. To feel that energy is bhakti. With bhajans, our feelings get pure and you experience this energy more deeply. Right now, we have a form and then go back to the formless and again return in a form. The only thing that is permanent is the divine presence. My life is good because of God and my Karma.
Your repertoire, the canvas of your songs, over different genres, whether it’s Sufi, whether it’s, uh, even gods and goddesses. Do you differentiate between one genre, another, or for you, everything is just the same. It is the manifestation of the same divine.
Yes. Everything is the same. God also came in a form and became formless. He came to tell us that you are human……. That energy which I feel in Kashi, that energy is tremendous. When I close my eyes and I think, I feel so much charged up. Imagine in our daily life, we cannot see the wifi signal, but it is there. We can’t see the mobile signal. But it is there. But you still charge your cell phone. Like that, how you, you can connect with the Supreme.
So Guruji (the one at Sultanpur) has been a big influence on you. I wanted to ask, how did you come in touch with Guruji and what kind of impact he had on your life?
Way back in 2010 I was still doing ‘seva’. It was a very rough time for me because everyone would question what work does this person do? 2010, I’ll say it changed my life and that is when I met Guruji. Financially I was nothing and then people do not think you have value and it was then I used to go to his Ashram.
After that because I think with my eyes closed, I could feel some energy there, and I got attracted to this energy. And back then, a handful of people were there. His following has increased after his demise. I would feel peace and calm there.
Then he passed away and now he gives darshan in dreams. He is still guru shakti. He came in a common devotee’s dreams and said that his ‘shoes/charan’ should be given to me and kept in my house. I am the chosen one. That’s how everything started changing inside me, around me. And everything started getting better.
You feel within you, that his blessings turned your career around?
I will not say career, his blessings turned me around. It is about a spiritual change, I felt now God is with me.
Your public performances, you have performed overseas also substantially. And you also sing at prayer meetings. How do you differentiate your performances?
It is the same. Same. Because I sing with my eyes closed. So, it does not matter.
Not a political question. In your span, you are much younger, have you noticed that the sense of religion has increased?
Yes, multifold. I can see it everywhere. Everyone is more religiously inclined and is willing to show it also. There is a wave of devotion in India.
Tell me a little bit about your family. Do you hear music all the time, which is spiritually inclined? Anything you want to share about; do you go for holidays?
I lead a normal family life, just as anyone else does. People have come to expect me in my kurta all the time, but when I am into any program, I dress normally. I take care of what I eat and what not to eat. I take care of my health and exercise frequently.
Holidays are holidays. I am a married man, and so I have to take care of my family, also have to keep my wife happy. We have a big bucket list, the places we want to visit, and she’s my best friend. And, so we love to travel whenever I get the chance. I go to malls and movies.
You mentioned fathering a child a few backs ago. How does it feel to be a father? Any special attachments?
Oh, this is very personal for me. My father passed away last May. My last words to him were that I was proud of him, that I would like to come back in my next left, with him as my father again. To which he replied that we was sure to come back to me in my present life, as my son. And, I believe he has!
So, what is your favorite destination?
We don’t go to the same place twice again. So, we have been to like Australia and everywhere, Europe and Maldives. I loved Kerala. We loved Goa.
About the business side of your singing. Where do you sell, how do you sell? Which has been the best seller? My other question is that at one point somewhere you have also thanked the digital world for giving you an opportunity to reach out to a much larger audience in the digital field.
In monetary terms now it is very convenient for any artist to reach listeners. YouTube is a very big platform and I have 6 lakh followers. My first album was launched in 2003. So, from the past 20 years, there have been many albums. Now everything is digital. Now only one song is released.
Which is the most popular song in your career?
I think it’s Mere Sat Guruji, Achutam Keshavam, Guruji mantra and there are many. I have been very blessed with the content, and I am able to reach out to a wider audience. I sing with my emotions. I am first a devotee and then I am a singer.
But did you train yourself as a singer?
Yes. My guru was Pandit Shankar Sharmaji in East Delhi and then Krishna Kant Ji and then finally I learnt from Vajaspati.
Which is your favourite instrument? It must be the flute, I would imagine?
The Flute, yes. It is also the oldest instrument. It is very connected to us also.
Where do you see yourself going? You are only 39.
Next is that I want to reach out to more people and have more programmes.
But do you realize that through your soulful signing, you are able to influence a large audience?
That is the biggest gift I can get. I get the biggest satisfaction; people feel the emotions.
Tell me in your exclusive scene of Bhajan singing, I am using this expression for lack of any other word, competitors. How is the overall scene developing?
First of all, I never felt any competition. There is no competition in devotion…
You normally prefer large gatherings or you are very happy with 15/20 as well… How many people are there as your ideal?
No, I love to perform for 15, 20 because at large gatherings, many people, they, they start socializing. Because for me it is a serious affair, I prefer to have a very disciplined audience.
But at the Guruji satsangs, how many people land up?
No, no, more than that. Like thousands also come sometimes.
But you don’t impose any restrictions on your audience?
I do that. We must be quiet. I do not allow any snacks or anything to be served in between, apart from what they give as prasad. And, and so, uh, uh, apart from that, nothing is allowed. That’s what, one and a half hours of your devotion. It is not about money. It is not about if somebody is paying extra, they can have snacks in between. I cannot sing if people are inattentive. It has to stop. And that’s the way it should be. When I was nobody also, then back then also, it was the same, these are my decisions and I want to be like this, okay, this, this… these are the rules and regulations.