Ali Peter John
Outside my window, the rain which started as a drizzle and turned into a downpour is now threatening to be a deluge . And as my mind is flooded with memories of other times of such a weather , I suddenly hear the sweet sound of the Nightingale who has been a part of my life like it has been for millions during the last seventy years and which will I am sure be heard by billions in all the time to come.Her voice pierces through the rain and reaches my years . It is still ten more days to go before Independence Day but her immortal song “Ae mere watan ke logo “is playing in the “basti”near the building in which I survive and
as usual her voice transports me into another world . The “basti”seemingly is celebrating some kind of a Lata Mangeshkar festival and it is not the only “basti”to celebrate this kind of a rare festival which has now mingled with the history and culture of this country which has and will be proud of having a voice like this god-blessed voice which perhaps may never happen again or ever.And as I live in the world created by her magic, I think about some of the truths about a wonderful life like her life …..
Does anyone know that Lata Mangeshkar was first named Hema by her parents , Pandit Dinanath Mangeshkar and Mai ? She lived the first five years of her life as Hema and her name was changed to Lata when she was six . Who knows that the voice that has been enlightening , elevating and entertaining millions had gone to a Marathi school for only one day and could not go to school again ?
What is known about her is that she had to work in Marathi films first as a child artist and then as a sister and even as a leading lady when she was just thirteen years old . What is also known is the fact that her singer-father had trained her and her sister Asha as singers and had died when he was very young , leaving the responsibility of the family on the little Lata’s shoulders ….
What is also known is that she had to struggle her way to be accepted as a singer and what is also known is that she was rejected by some of the leading composers of the time because they believed that she had a very “squeaky and thin voice”. How she overcame all criticism and the hurdles thrown in her way is a story that will be remembered whenever history is written seriously and sincerely .
What is also known is that the Nightingale has been the voice of some of the greatest actresses of Hindi cinema , from Madhubala ,Meena Kumari, Nargis, Nutun, Waheeda Rehman ,Nanda, Mumtaz and down to Hema Malini , Rekha and Zeenat Aman and down to Sridevi ,Madhuri Dixit , Amrita Singh , Mandakini , Preity Zinta and Kajol besides many others . There was an unwritten rule that no big film and no actress could be if there was no Lata Mangeshkar …..
What is difficult to imagine is how a young woman from poor Maharashtrian family could make her niche in the hearts of kings , queens, presidents, prime ministers , holy men and sinners , millionaires , billionaires , the poor and even though those who had no place or voice in society, a country or the world.The girl who went to school just for a day was now the voice heard with admiration , love and reverence in the halls and institutions of learning in the country and the world and her command over languages was something masters of languages could not comprehend and are still confused and puzzled about.
How could a woman who was once only considered to be good only in Marathi and slowly in Hindi grow into an authority in singing in twenty five different languages and sing over twenty- five thousand songs in her outstanding and out of this world career ? How could anyone ever imagine that the singer who was not considered good enough sing at the most prestigious concert held in the most esteemed institutions all over the world, including the Royal Albert Hall and finally find a place in the Guiness Book of Records.
What is not known about her personal life is that she never got married because she wanted to dedicate her life to her mother and her three sisters , Meena,Asha and Usha and their only brother Pandit Hridaynath Mangeshkar . There are volumes written about her life , but very few of the stories have stood the test of time and the truth .
What is however one of the most unfortunate and painful truths about her precious life
is that she was supposed to be a victim of someone trying to poison her during one of her concert tours in England in the sixties , the entire truth about which is still not clear.
At no other time has one singer been admired as much as Lata Mangeshkar has . The Government of India honoured her with the Bharat Ratna which was the first and still the only award given to anyone from the film industry .
The composers who have compared her to a “Devi”and an angel and a divine being have vied with one another to sing her praises , among them being Ghulam Haider , Khemchand Prakash , Husnlal Bhagatram, Naushad, Khayyam, Shankar -Jaikishan and down to Laxmikant-Pyarelal who got their first break as composers because of her
The legends , Dilip Kumar , Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor couldn’t think of making films without her voice and this belief in her continued for the next five decades of legends and lesser beings. Her contemporary singers held her in the highest esteem and singers like, Mohammad Rafi , Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and Talat Mahmood ,
could not believe that there could be a human voice like hers . There is this story about Mohammad Rafi while he was recording a duet with her . He came out of the recording room and burst into tears and cried inconsolably . Meena , Lataji’s sister happened to pass by him and stopped when she saw Rafi Sahab crying and asked him what had gone wrong and he is said to have told Meena,”woh awaaz sun rahi ho ? woh Allaha ki dein hai , woh kudrat ka karishma hai, woh koi insaan thodi gaa rahi hai ? woh aatma aur rooh ki aawaz hai . Unka sur na kisi se mil sakta hai, na milega.Main aur mere jaise gaayak aayenge aur jaayenge , per Lata ki aawaz taqayaamat rahegi”….
I think the best tribute paid to the Nightingale was by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan . He was passing through one of the bussiest roads in Bombay , when he heard the Nightingale sing on a radio somewhere . He asked his driver to stop the car and touched both his ears in a sign of prayer and told his friends in the car ,”Allah ki pyaari aawaz aa rahi hai , ibaadat karne ka dil chaahta hai “
And generation today, generation next and the many more generations to come will say what Khan Sahab said about the most glorious voice of our time and for all time .
Gaaiye Lataji, gaate rahiye , yahi gaata hai mera dil aur har dil , dil se
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