These were the times of Ashraf Jehangir Qazi as a High Commissioner in India. When the show ended, we requested his younger daughter Maha Qazi, who was doing her masters in anthropology from Quaid-e-Azam University that time, to ask Begum Qazi if we could have a picture session with Vital Signs. She forwarded our request to Begum Qazi very politely. Begum Qazi laughed and said to my mom, “Saba! Let these girls have some pictures with Vital Signs or else they won’t sleep for the whole week”. I shall always be grateful to Maha.
The finest part of the event was autograph taking: There weren’t any papers or notepads available, so we all decided to hide white napkins from the Hotel and used them for autographs. I still have that signed white napkin in my closet, even after twelve years. One of us was a crazy fan of Fakhr-e-Alam(Yatagan), she asked Junaid about him.”I know him,” was his reply. The other Vital Signs members were a bit quiet. After the event, there was an official “Parcham Kushai”, flag hoisting ceremony next day, Vital signs were asked to perform in that event too, but they excused sympathetically, since they already had some other commitments and concerts on 14th of August.
I remember we were posted in New Delhi, my father was counselor (culture) and there were some nice plans about celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Pakistan. Most of us recommended having a concert at Taj on 13th of August, 1997. It was a dazzling evening and indeed one of the most memorable evenings of my life. The High Commission staff ordered a big cake of Pakistan’s map for the golden jubilee anniversary. Vital Signs started the evening with their hit songs like “Sanwali Saloni”, “Mera Dil”, “Gorey” and some other famous tracks. The show was nicely hosted by Junaid Jamshed. They were looking really stunning and were all dressed in black. Before the VS show, there was a series of some comical skits and parodies. We were anxiously waiting for Vital Signs’ performance. I remember some ladies muttering to each other, “God, I can’t believe that Pakistani men are so dashing and stunning, I am ready to go to Pakistan today”. The show continued for two hours and VS were requested to sing “Dil Dil Pakistan” in the end. Junaid was a bit reluctant and asked his audience before singing the song. But the Indian audience convinced him and they sang their most super hit patriotic track joyfully.
Some old women in their late 70s started developing a crush for Junaid. He laughed and said,
”Well, I have young girls going mad in my concerts, but this is the first time that I can see some old ladies as well”.
The show was followed by a cake cutting ceremony. The cake was specially designed like Pakistan’s map; the white area had thick white cream dressing and the green portion was topped with green jam. I still remember being the first one to ask for the biggest piece and still dreaming of some more pieces. Upon returning home, I excitedly told my brother about the autographs. He started making fun of me, “You and autographs, I wonder how Vital Signs gave you autographs, you were dressed like a nerd geek, wearing big glasses on even such a multi-colored event.” I had a fierce fight with him, telling him that I wasn’t a celebrity, just a fan of them, so they gave me the autographs. Next day, I anxiously waited for the pictures. Even my Indian friends were a great fan of the band; they kept asking me questions about the show.
Even today, almost after two decades, they have a huge list of fans, listening to their songs and playing covers. They managed to create relishing and mesmerizing music in a highly Islamized era, where there wasn’t any concept of concerts and shows, Vital signs had euphoria and charisma of their own. They were different individuals with their unique set of traits. The band produced only four albums in its eleven years, with very few of the songs going dreadful flops. Towards the end of 90’s, the members started drifting away and shifted their core energies to different fields. They are still legends, but the way they set a fresh trend in a dictatorship epoch, was distinctly appraising. Even today, little is known about the band’s disbanding reasons, but they will always be admired by millions of aficionados all over the world. Even after the disbanding, the VS legends have a whole list of fans. Shahi shifted his energies to music production and mastering, whereas Rohail’s amazing work can be seen at Coke studio. Many bands emerged and disbanded during 1990s, leaving meager information to the fans and world, but people still remember and want to read more and more about Vital Signs, even after twenty three years of band formation.
I attended one concert not of Vital Signs, but of Junaid Jamshed at Services Club Lahore, in 1999. Tickets were selling like hot cakes and we managed to get them only one day prior to the concert. Mom showed keen interest to attend the concert and we both attended it. I initially declined to attend the concert, but agreed afterwards. When the concert started, mom asked me,” I don’t see the dashing guys who came to India with Junaid,” I explained her that the band had disbanded and the members had drifted away.
We got seats in the last rows and were quite unhappy with our sitting plan. The show was organized by Col. Nawazish and some other Army people. When suddenly a junior of my father came to us and asked my mom, ”Bhabi, why you are sitting in the last rows, I guess Sadaf is getting quite bored, let us move to the VIP rows.” Mom declined to go but I agreed to proceed to the front rows. Later the audience created so much ruckus that Junaid asked girls to come forward and sit on the carpet, just in front of the stage. I remember it was pretty cold and there weren’t any proper heating arrangements, but the girls felt glad to sit on the carpet. We even sang some songs like “Us Rah Par”, “Aanknon Ko” and “O Sanama” with him. My father and little dog came to pick us when the show ended at 11 pm. Mom and I were very exhausted but kept discussing the show and other things till late at night.
Since only two of my class fellows attended the show, we had some very narrow-minded and customary teachers in our college, who were informed that we had attended the concert. The grapevine traveled so easily. One of them asked me especially next day, “Did you attend the concert; I wasn’t expecting it from you at least.” I felt a bit appalling, but didn’t say anything to him, since he was unaware of my fanatical likeliness for the band. In fact some brats came from very conservative and traditional families; they kept pointing and telling me that it was quite ghastly to go to concerts and musical shows and kept making stupid points. Even those who weren’t able to get the tickets exhibited the same attitude. It was a typical “Sour grapes” attitude, indeed and I could feel their envy easily. Even some other teachers kept speaking ill about bands and concerts. Those who had attended it merrily reached a conclusion that it was much better to have that day off from the college. At least we could have saved ourselves from nerdy criticism and orthodox remarks, but there wasn’t any way to avoid the nemesis.