By Vijay Darda | 07-02-2022
Lata Mangeshkar was not only The Nightingale of India but also a wonderful person and an epitome of simplicity, who will remain immortal in memories
What should I say & write… the magical voice has gone silent!
A huge treasure trove of memories of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar is neatly stored in my mind but today even the words are failing me. The heart is weeping and the pen is shaking while writing. What should I say.. what should I write.. The mesmerising voice that filled the lives of every generation not only in India but across the globe has gone silent! She was the real and timeless Goddess Saraswati incarnate in melody. There was so much purity and sincerity in her conduct and musical rendition that everyone wanted to venerate her. I still remember an interview of Bismillah Khan ji. He had said: “I always listened to Lata hoping that at some point she would sing incoherently, sometimes she would make a mistake! But no! No one can point a finger at her musical perfection.” Lataji was really a rare gem of India that shone brightly!
It was sometime in the 1980s when I first went to meet Lataji accompanied by great poet Suresh Bhatt at her ‘Prabhu Kunj’ residence in Mumbai. Lataji radiated such a warmth as if a brother had come on Rakshabandhan day. In fact, she considered Suresh Bhat as her brother. In that first meeting, I felt such a sense of belonging with her that our relationship simply took off. Our bond of affection and respect went on getting stronger. There were occasional meetings too. One fine day in 2005, she called me: “I have come to Nagpur, will it be possible for you to meet me?” I was struck by her simplicity, decency and humility. I said, “Didi, I will definitely come to meet you.” She said “we” not “I”. Surprised, I said, “Didi I did not get you!” She softly chipped in, “bring your better half too”. Later, I came to know that Jyotsna had invited her saying that we have started Jawaharlal Darda Sangeet Kala Akademi, so you come and bless us all. We both went to meet her. She radiated great affection and warmth all through. We felt as if we were meeting with our very close family member as she overwhelmed us with affection and affinity. Jyotsna invited her for meals at home. She said, “I will come sometime because I am busy with other work.” She spent an hour with us. In the meantime, Jyotsna brought some dishes of her choice cooked at home and requested her to have a bite. She liked the dishes very much and said, “This is my dinner!” I still remember that smile of hers.
I presented her a book featuring Vinoba Bhave’s photographs taken by Gautam Bajaj that we had published. She was so happy that she said, “this is Gita Mauli for me” and bowed before the book. She praised Jyotsna saying you have done a noble work by setting up the Jawaharlal Darda Sangeet Kala Akademi. I knew Babuji very well. I have had good relations with him since the time of the Congress session held in Nagpur in 1959. I had sung at that convention. My relationship with Babuji deepened. Actually this relationship became even sweeter due to NKP Salve and thespian Dilip Kumar.
When Lataji entered Parliament after being nominated to the Rajya Sabha in November 1999, we started meeting frequently. It was her endeavour to always be present in the House. She had also refused to take any allowance. When Parliament was in session, we used to have coffee while sitting in the Central Hall in our spare time. One day she asked me, “Will you please give out some amount from the MP fund for the hospital? Mangeshkar Hospital has been established in Pune for the treatment of cancer patients.” I said, “why not, Didi? I will, for sure.” She said, “But you have to give it to other people too, hence you give me just Rs 25 lakh, I will return this amount from my fund.” I immediately replied, “Didi, I do not do business in relationships. You have asked for money for a noble cause.” With her natural smile, she said whenever I needed it, I could just ask her for it. I immediately sent the cheque to her. Later, I got a call from her from Mumbai saying, “Bhau Dhanyawad (thank you, brother).”
Sitting in the Central Hall, she once asked me why these people fight so aggressively inside the Parliament and when they step into the Central Hall, there is bonhomie with political rivals sipping coffee and eating toast together! This does not happen in our industry. In our industry, even if there is a wordy duel with someone, they do not like to see each other’s face! She had revealed a dark secret of Bollywood!
One day I asked her to narrate the story of the recording of Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo… I said I have heard that the composer C Ramchandra and you were not on the best of terms. Then how did this recording happen? Lataji said this anecdote is no longer hidden. Everybody knows it. Kavi Pradeep ji wrote the song and asked C Ramchandra to ensure that this song is sung by Lata only saying, “I know that you do not like to keep company with her much. You may not like it but if you compose this song and Lata sings, the song will become immortal.” And it happened just like that!
Lataji used to sport an elegant ring. Once I asked her where she got the ring from? With an evergreen smile, she said, “how did it catch your attention?” and replied, “This was presented to me by the King of Bahrain.” So I and Lataji would discuss many such personal things. In fact, she knew both how to groom and handle relationships. When my wife Jyotsna said goodbye to this world, she called me from her landline and consoled me like an elder sister.
Didi’s demise is not only a personal loss for me, but also an irreparable loss for all time to come. Her departure marks the end of an era that will probably never return.