Though jubilant about Sachin's 100th 100, Lataji is not happy with the pressure that was put on the cricketer to score it.
"Why do we do this to the best of our artistes and sportspersons?" asks Lataji angrily. "Why do we place so much performance anxiety on them? People think it's been smooth-sailing all the way for me but I've gone through a rough patch in my career. There was a time when I was ready to quit. I fought back, and so did Sachin."
Lataji derides the pressure that was put on Tendulkar to score the 100th 100. "It was as if the other 99 hundred runs ceased to matter. I have to say we, as a nation, do not respect our greatest treasures. Sachin was going through a rough patch. Fortunately, he never gave in to the pressure to score. He continued to play because he loves the game. I understand that. I too never did what I do because I had to perform. I sang without thinking of how well it would turn out."
Lataji flares up at the mention of retirement for Sachin. "Why should he retire? Who decides to retire a singer or a sportsperson? Sachin will retire when he wants to."
Reminiscing about her long association with Sachin Lataji says, "I first saw him play at Sharjah. I remember a sandstorm hit the stadium. But Sachin stood his ground. He sat there with his cricket togs on waiting for the storm to pass. In him I saw the determination to excel that I always admire. I remember a few years ago, on Sachin's birthday on April 24, I was invited to his friend Raj Thackeray's home to meet him. I had taken a figurine of Sai Baba because I got to know Sachin is a Sai bhakt (follower)."
A huge cricket fan, Lataji's love for the game goes back to her childhood. "My father Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar was a cricket fan. I guess I inherited his love for the game. I watched my first live cricket match at the Brabourne Stadium when I was 15. I sat in the cheapest stall with a family friend and clapped like crazy. Later, many of the cricketers like Veenu Mankad, Vijay Hazare and Sunil Gavaskar became family friends. They would come home for meals. I remember once just before a big match, I had invited the Indian cricket team home. I had made gajar ka halwa for them. After they won the match, Dilip Vengsarkar came to my building on Peddar Road and shouted up to my flat that the gajar ka hawla had worked."
Says Lataji, "I am very fond of cricketers like Sunil Gavasakar and Sachin Tendulkar. Among the international cricketers, Gary Sobers was always my favourite. He would be so confident about his performance that he'd be making plans for after the match even before playing.
"But we steal our sportspersons' confidence by demanding too much from them," she says.
In the picture: Lata Mangeshkar presents Sachin Tendulkar an award in 2006. Photograph: Sahil Salvi