Nightingale of India: A tribute to the eternal Lata Mangeshkar

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 Hamaare Baad Mehfil Mein Yeh Afsaane Bayaan Hoge

Bollywood playback singer Lata Mangeshkar looks at a bouquet she received on her 75th birthday during a celebration in Bombay September 28, 2003. REUTERS/Sherwin Crasto/File Photo/

That Lata Mangeshkar, who died February 6, is gone from this world is hard to believe. But is she really gone? Our lives are still filled with her music. We still have all that treasure of her songs that she left behind for us. Even here, in this different world, in this different country. We can still hear her voice when we want. So how is she gone from our lives – of us Indians who brought her with us and have loved her for years across continents?

Most of us have had memories of falling in love with one of her songs at ages when we did not even understand the meanings of the words. How early did Lata Mangeshkar become a part of our lives is hard to tell. She was there – just everywhere, on ‘Vividh Bharati’, on ‘Binaca Geet Mala’, on ‘Radio Ceylon’, on television, day and night.

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Some of us have had heartache for the country we left behind with Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘aalaap’ calling us, Aa Ja Re, Aaja in the song Aa Ab Laut Chale. Many of us have drawn great consolation to go on with life in the Covid Era from Kabhi To Milegi Kahin To Milegi Baharon Ki Manzil. Not to speak of our intense involvement with the eternally romantic Lag Jaa Gale, or the light hearted Saanvale Salone Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, or the poignant and mystical Mai Ri Main Kaase Kahun Peer Apne Jeeyaki.

Lata Mangeshkar songs were like a delicate flower. The music compositions, the poetic lyrics bound together by the unparalleled voice which went straight to our hearts riding on the notes of music, giving us great hope, solace and peace, explaining the game of life and encouraging us to go on, find success, find love, and if not, to still go on, no matter what our age.

Loving Lata Mangeshkar has always been a part of most of us. Dr. Veera Mookerjee, a licensed Mental Health professional told News India Times she has been singing Mangeshkar songs since her childhood. She said she remembered her parents bringing home a cassette player and some music cassettes when she was still a child of six. Listening to those cassettes, she learned to sing along the Lata Mangeshkar songs, she said. “My mom had a diary in which she had written down all her favorite songs. I used to open that and start singing. I later realized I was singing Lata Mangeshkar songs,” Mookerjee said. “Every night my young daughter and I sing those old songs from my mother’s diary. I am transferring to her my feeling that music can bring a lot of solace to your heart,” she added.

Mookerjee said she learned music from her mother who is a trained classical singer and dancer. Singing classical raga based Hindi songs was ‘riyaaz’ for her. “I use singing as a mood enhancer and a mood stabilizer, to help me go through situations and moods,” said Mookerjee. Mookerjee said she always hums along with any of Lata Mangeshkar songs.

Yeh Zindagi Usiki Hai is the first song Mookerjee came to know. Her all time favorite is Hum Pyar Mein Jalne Walon Ko.  “It is such a philosophical song if you remove the romantic aspect. It tells you to accept grief as part of life and go on,” Mookerjee said. She said she also likes the rare Ai ishq yeh sab duniya wale bekar ki baten karte hai. Mookerjee also likes Lata Mangeshkar’s Shraddhanjali collection in which she has paid homage to pioneers of vocal music, and particularly likes the rendition of Man Re Tu Kaahe Na Dheer Dhare, she said. “When she sang it, it was therapeutic,” added Mookerjee.

A military vehicle carrying the body of late Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar moves through a road during Mangeshkar’s funeral procession in Mumbai, India, February 6, 2022. REUTERS/Niharika Kulkarni

“Lata Mangeshkar reached every heart in some way and every one’s reaction would be different to her songs,” she added. To her, the songs’ appeal was in their melody. “I feel that Lata Mangeshkar had a haunting, soft, slow going, and slow paced voice. There was something soothing and very relaxing in her voice,” Mookerjee said.

New York based Filmmaker Tirlok Malik told News India Times he prefers to rejoice in the kind of life Lata Mangeshkar had. “Hers was a life well lived. She had so much respect, and so much affection from everywhere,” Malik said.

Malik said his first acquaintance with Lata Mangeshkar songs was in his teenage years when he saw a film with her song Lag Jaa Gale Ke Phir Yeh Haseen Raat Ho Na Ho. “That was a beautiful romantic song, and very philosophical too,” Malik said. His all time favorite is Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hai. “It is a song which speaks of life’s reality, of the continuity of life in spite of troubles. And her voice makes us understand this in such a soothing and calming manner,” Malik added.

Malik said he remembered meeting her in person at one of her recording sessions during one of his visits to India. “She was as gentle and warm and graceful as she has been described,” he said. Malik also remembered talking about her song Kanto Se Khinch Ke Yeh Aanchal from the film Guide. “I was sitting and chatting with Dev (Anand) Sahab who was on a visit to the U.S. and Dev Sahab spoke of the song as one of his favorites,” Malik said. “It has so much positive energy and is so philosophical,” Malik said, adding his father also liked the song.

Ketana Gosalia’s early conscious memories of listening to Lata Mangeshkar are from her high school days when she used to go to films with her friends to see how a song was portrayed. “It was around that time that I began paying attention to which songs were sung by Lata Mangeshkar,” Gosalia who is a homemaker based in New York, told News India Times. She said she has liked all of Lata Mangeshkar songs since then. Gosalia spoke of her living in Mumbai at the Haaji Ali circle and seeing Lata Mangeshkar occasionally, particularly at the voting booths. “She never demanded special attention,” Gosalia remembered. Seeing her on stage in New York during her U.S. tour in 1997, was a special treat for Gosalia, she said.

“I like Lata Mangeshkar songs from the film Aandhi,” Gosalia said. Baiya Na Dharo from the film Dastak, Tribute to K.L. Saigal, and the soft whispers of Bahon Mein Chale Aao are other songs she likes. Gosalia’s favorites are Lata Mangeshkar’s Gujarati songs, especially her bhajan Odhaji Re Mara Vala Ne Jai Ne Kahejo. Gosalia said she finds Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina the most hummable of Lata Mangeshkar songs.

Priti Thakar of Virginia came to know Lata Mangeshkar songs at the age of eight, she told News India Times. She said she grew up in the sixties and loves old songs from that time and listens to them even today. “I remember Lata Mangeshkar’s Ai Mere Vatan Ke Logon which played on every Republic Day. “I also remember her Ai Maalik Tere Bande Hum from V. Shantaram’s film. Thakar said growing up in Mumbai, she watched old films on television and got an opportunity to hear older songs of Lata Mangeshkar. Thakar listens to Lata Mangeshkar songs often while driving to work. “And I often hum along with her,” she said. “One song which has stayed with me over the years, is the song from the film Veer Zhara, Tere Liye Ham Bhi Jiye Hothon Ko Siye,” Thakar said.

Thakar likes all the different songs of Lata Mangeshkar – sad, happy, romantic or Desh Bhakti songs. She also likes her recital of the Hanuman Chalisa, she said. Being brought up in Mumbai, she was used to Lata Mangeshkar’s Marathi songs which she likes even now. “The beauty about Lata Mangeshkar songs was that no matter which language you heard her sing, she sounded like a native speaker of that language, with correct pronunciations and diction,” said Thakar. Lata Mangeshkar’s life was an inspirational life, according to Thakar. “That she survived in a male dominated industry of that time with her talent, learning constantly and working hard is amazing. She got the highest respect and she earned it with effort,” Thakar added.

For Anand Bhatt, known as an internationally recognized solo music artist, a composer, and for his heavy rock group Anand Clique, Lata Mangeshkar songs have been a part of his childhood. He told News India Times that the first time he heard a Lata Mangeshkar song was at the age of five when he heard his parents’ friend sing her songs at their home music parties. He later found many treasurable songs among his parents’ records collection, he said.

“My all time favorite is her Duniya Badal Rahi Hai,” Bhatt said, speaking about the 1951 song which tells of facing troubles and turning the negatives of life into positives. Bhatt said he likes Lata Mangeshkar’s old songs from the Black and White film era. Those were the times when the voice, the music and the words were refreshingly simple. One of Bhatt’s favorites of those times is Mehfil Mein Jal Uthi Shama.

While all of Lata Mangeshkar songs were melodious, Aap Ki Nazaron Ne Samjha inspired Bhatt most, he said. “It is one of the catchiest melodies of that era,” Bhat said. “In fact, ten years ago, I got to record the song Tus Ojos Me Dicen (Aap Ki Nazaron Ne Samjha) for Latin friends in Spanish inspired by that melody,” he said. His parents’ friend from their music parties sang the Hindi part, Bhatt said.

Lata Mangeshkar had been creating precious songs, one by one, to fill our hearts with priceless song-gems to last us for the whole of our lives, leaving the treasure for us. It is up to us to do what we can with the treasure. We can place the song-gems in safekeeping or we can just be careless and lose them. It is our responsibility. She herself is not going to be here. But life will go on. She foresaw it years ago, and sang

Hamare baad ab mehfil mein afsaane bayaan honge

Baharen ham ko dhoondhengi na jaane ham kahaan honge

Isi andaaz se zumega mausam gaayegi duniya

Muhobbat phir haseen hogi nazaare phir jawaan honge

Baharen ham ko dhoondhengi na jaane ham kahaan honge

 

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