(Late) Shri Hem Chandra Jain

A Generous Agra Niwasi and a Music Lover

On the 16th of September Mr. Jain's son, Professor Apurva Jain emailed the sad news that my friend and fellow collector of ancient Hindi songs had passed away on 14th evening. He had sent his last email to me on the 13th 9:05 pm enclosing the latest list of 22 songs that he needed from me. I am still recovering from the shock. I am always listening to songs from the 30s and 40s on my iPod and remembering him.

Hem Jain Mid

Brief Biography

He was born in Shikohabad (a city in Uttar Pradesh about 35 miles west of the world famous city of Agra) c. 1932 in a  traditional Jain business family. After finishing Teacher Training, he was employed at N. N. Jain College in Shikohabad and, later, at M. D. Jain College Agra. While teaching, he continued his education and obtained a degree in Philosophy. In 1951, he got married to Mrs. Sarla Jain who remained his life-long companion and shared his ideology. In 1957, he moved to Bhopal to work for the Life Insurance Corporation. He was transferred to Agra in 1961 where he remained for the rest of his life until his untimely passing away on the 14th of September 2007. He is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters.

His Multi-dimensional Personality   

From a young age, he was influenced by the leftist world view and throughout his life, remained active in the Trade Union movement and in the Agra Communist Party.  He was also very active in the various cultural activities in Agra. He was a founder member of the Agra Film Society, one of the earliest such societies in India. He was also very supportive of Triveni Kala Sangam, Jan Natya Sangh and, ISCUS, the Indo-Soviet Cultural Society. He was a chess lover and always encouraged others to learn and play the game. He was foremost in establishing the Agra Chess Association. For  a long time, he wrote film reviews for the famous Agra daily Sainik. He was a connoisseur of classical music, film music and of Rabindra Sangeet. He had a huge collection of discs and tapes. In his last years, he was in correspondence with music lovers all over the world via Internet.

He was known for his clear thinking, his unbroken faith and his love of a good debate. He was always surrounded by friends and disciples with whom he shared his deep knowledge and study. His family and friends (I and Dr. Manohar Lal Kapur are lucky to count ourselves among them) will always remember him.

The preceding is based on a note that his son, Professor Apurva Jain, wrote for a local newspaper. It is in Hindi and can be read here:

Professor Apurva Jain's note

He also supplied the photo above and more that can be seen here:

Some more photos

My interactions with Jain Sahib

Our friendship started from the first day he emailed me on December 8, 2006 asking about a song of Khurshid Anwar on my website. As I found out later, he was full of information about songs, lyricists and music directors and he always had thirst for more knowledge. I replied him that the info came from Khurshid Anwar's son, a good friend of mine. From the next few email exchanges it became clear that our interests in Hindi Film Music are identical! Our cut-off year was 1956. Turned out, we had both collected thousands of songs from 1931-1960 or so.

He gave me his phone number, I called him up one night and we had a long conversation. He obviously liked all the MDs from the 30s and 40 but Anil Biswas was his favorite. He wanted to have all the songs of all his favorite MDs. He did not express much interest in movies, except one. He wanted to know if I had Aurat (1940). Thanks to my friend Dr. Kapur, I had and I sent it to him by Global Express mail! He was very happy to watch this movie again after so many years.

We decided that we must exchange our songs. I was extremely happy to note that he was absolutely generous about sharing. He mentioned that he was not like others (he named two collectors, one from Calcutta and another from Delhi) who are after money or like another famous one who wrote a column for Screen, who is 'afraid' to share. I had digitized about 40% of my collection and I immediately mailed it to him as mp3 files on 6 DVDs. He had not yet digitized his collection, although he was planning to. He immediately proceeded to do so year wise and started sending me songs by gmail. There were quite a lot of rare songs that I had no hopes of getting from anywhere else. There were songs from rare singers, rare MDs, rare lyricists. One special collection he sent me was all the songs from the first 20 movies of Naushad that he had obtained from the personal collection of Naushad himself!

In the meantime, he complained politely that the songs I had sent to him DVDs were not labeled and so he would have to listen to all of them to decipher which ones they were. I immediately dropped everything and my top priority became renaming the thousands of mp3 files. I sent about 3,000 renamed files from 1931 to about 1945 to him. After that we worked in parallel; I renaming the files and he digitizing his songs and sending them to me. Unfortunately he passed away when he reached 1947, letter D.  I have been sharing many of these songs with the music lovers all over the world via my website. I plan to put up all of them, time permitting.

In his conversations and emails he mentioned  that he was a founding member and secretary of the 5th film club in India, the Agra Film Society, the first one being the famous one founded by Ray and Dasgupta in Calcutta. He also collected film magazines and books and perused them religiously. His prize collection is  a whole set of the Filmfare magazine from the beginning, which, knowledgeable people have told me, even Times of India does not have!

The very first song he sent me was the 1935 song, Tere Poojan Ko Bhagawan by Ratan Bai (Mother of Saroj Shilotri, more popularly known as Shobhana Smarth). I had heard this song only from my grandmother. I was thrilled to hear it in the voice of the original singer.

He always wrote very detailed emails commenting on  songs, MDs and giving other useful info and opinions. His lengthiest email came after I posted a few songs from Meera (1947). I liked the email so much that I reproduced it in its entirety on my website:

His detailed comments on Meera 1947 and MSS

Of course, he also shared the correct songs from this film with the whole world!

He had been sporadic contributor to the Usenet Indian music group

RMIM

In fact, he participated in RJGK (Rim Jhim Geeton Ki) 45 in 1998.  Interestingly, it turns out that Radha and Apurva Jain had also participated in and aced RJGK 52 in 1999!

I had planned to include a page on him on my website. I requested him to tell him about his life and his view of the word. He wrote,"Nothing is private in my life" and he promised to write about himself.  I understand that he started writing it, but, unfortunately, passed away before completing it.  With heavy heart, I conclude this brief tribute to him. May his soul rest in peace!

Acknowledgment

I am grateful to Professor Apurva Jain for sharing photos and information about his dad so generously.
 
Back to Surjit Singh's Home Page