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'If she is being mourned in Pakistan...'

By SUBHASH K JHA
February 09, 2022 11:39 IST
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'...as much as in India, it's only because she sang for mankind, not the details on the passport.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Lata Mangeshkar/Twitter

I had decided to not write an obituary on the Goddess Of All Melodious Things.

Obituaries are written for the dead.

The Goddess cannot die.

She will live through her songs for as long as civilisation exists.

As long as even one of her songs, mind you not the thousands that she has rendered to infinite durability, but just one like Raina Beeti Jaye, Aaj Socha Toh Aansoon Bhar Aaye, Ae Dilruba, Kitni Dard Bhari Yeh Raat Hai, Abke Na Sawan Barse, Saawan Ke Jhoole Pade...

Every one of these songs is worth infinitely more than the entire body of songs sung by every other singer in the universe.

Those who talk about her monopoly should listen to these songs.

I can send you a list of 200 songs of hers, each one a self-contained masterpiece on par with Picasso's Mona Lisa or the Kohinoor.

I have heard Main Hoon Teri Prem Deewani Mere Saiyan Mera Raja Diljani, an obscure R D Burman composition from a potboiler titled Azaad which didn't deserve the gem of a song, at least 500 times since it was first released in 1978.

I still don't know how she has sung it, the pauses she takes between the lines, the way she carries the notes from mid-wave to the highest octave within two lines: No singer in the world, not Tansen, not Bhimsen Joshi, not Pavarotti can do this. She is beyond any human explanation of excellence.

I am embarrassed to praise her when she is gone.

I had vowed I wouldn't.

After a lifetime of deep, unconditional, uninterrupted veneration, I had decided not to join the chorus of panegyrics after her going.

But then I saw some cynical writings where she was accused of going saffron after singing for Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. I heard discordant voices questioning her political allegiance.

 

IMAGE: Narendra Modi felicitates Lata Mangeshkar in 2014. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar

Yes, she was very fond of our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji.

She has, on many occasions, spoken to me about him warmly.

I remember on her birthday in 2019 when I called her in the morning to wish her and she gently asked me to call later.

'Abhi Modiji ka phone aane wala hai.'

I could not compete with that.

There was mutual fondness between the two that transcended politics.

Lataji's Allah Tero Naam Ishwar Tero Naam was no empty rhetoric.

If she is being mourned in Pakistan as much as in India, it's only because she sang for mankind, not the details on the passport.

Her songs owed allegiance to neither saffron nor green. They were a religion of their own, a colour so vibrant, deep, tapestried and rich, it had no human definition.

Keep her out of political prattle. She was neither right nor left.

She was. She is. She will be.

I saw tributes where the Goddess was accused of 'sabotaging' the careers of singers like Vani Jairam, Hemlata, Preeti Sagar and Suman Kalyanpur. With due respects to these singers, no singer in this world was competition for Lataji.

Because she was not of this world.

Lata bhakts believe she was Saraswati Mata reincarnated.

Why do you think she left us on the day of visarjan after Saraswati Puja?

I have not even begun to process her departure from this world.

I can't believe I will never be able to speak to her again.

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SUBHASH K JHA