Srinjoy Banerjee reminiscences about how Lata Mangeshkar’s music became a guiding factor in every step of his life, right from his toddler days.
Lataji could transport me into the world of sonority and submission. From the very embryonic stage of my quest for music, Lataji was prominently placed in my mind, soul and heart. Her presence remained a guiding factor that helped me hum and sing, learn to face the vagaries of life and free myself of moments that were strongly embedded in my thought process and my subconscious.
It was, perhaps, a bond that was predestined. I gathered from my parents that when I was two and a half years old, all that I could utter at that point of time was a little gurgling sound. An expert diagnosed that it was an indication of my being speech challenged for life, much to the woe and dismay of my parents. But the same gentleman, on his next, visit was surprised beyond words as he heard me crooning Paapi bichua, the immortal composition of the musical wizard Salil Chowdhury, and sung by none other than Lata Mangeshkar, the singer who ruled the hearts of music lovers the world over, for eight decades and more, until she breathed her last a few weeks back.
Now how did this miracle happen?
Lataji and I had a strong bonding that was obviously unknown to her as she did not have any inkling about my existence, quite like millions of her diehard fans all around the world. But for the ardent music lover I was then and still remain, she was more than a family member, a friend, philosopher and guide. She was a person who could silence my anger, bring me back to composure when I was distraught, pull me out of agonizing moments and fill me with everlasting happiness just through the sheer magic of her music!
My mother, who incidentally shared her birthday with Lataji, had a great sense of music as well. She didn’t speak much of Hindi but would close her eyes and hum whenever Ayega aanewala played and would sing along with her as she belted chartbusters like Ajeeb dastan yeh,mohe bhool gaye sanwaria, Aaja re mai to kabse, Aapki nazro ne samjha, Kahi deep jale in her impeccable voice and inimitable style.
A toddler then, I hardly understood the nuances of music but still was in full of admiration for all that I could understand and wouldn’t sleep until O basanti pawan pagal did not enter my ears. I would throw huge tantrums while eating if the weather-beaten gramophone of ours failed to play the sonorous notes of Lataji’s Nain so main nahi milao, a gem of a duet that still shines bright.
When I was growing up Lataji was always there in our household. It would be terribly unfair if I do not add the names of Mohd. Rafi, Asha Bhosle, Talat Mahmood, Geeta Dutt, Manna Dey, Mukesh, Suman Kalyanpur, Hemant Kumar, Sudha Malhotra and Mahendra Kapoor who also had been making a difference in my everyday growing process. But as I mentioned, Lataji always had a special corner in my heart. When the darkness would move towards light, she stood by me with the soothing expressions of Jaago Mohan pyare (Raag Bhairav). When the sun rose, the beautiful Jyoti kalash chalke (Raag Bhopali) would come in like a cascading waterfall. She would cajole me with Ja mai tose nahi bolu (Raag Bhairavi). That flute like lilt of Lataji would stay with me for many moments of bliss.
The song that mesmerized me the most and is still a part of my riyaz was Manmohana bade jhoothe (Raag Jaijaiwanti). Lataji was at her exquisite best in this rendition. Right from the initial alaap, to the progression of the sthayi and antara, each culminating in a taan, the song is a connoisseurs delight. By that time, on my mother’s insistence, I had started learning music and would make a pathetic attempt at singing a few lines of this great number. Initially, it was a mere apology of the song but my desperation to emulate her in whatever way possible, bore fruits. It made me follow her style with more articulation and anticipation. Thereafter, all my life I remained an Angulimal of sorts and tried singing many of her songs in different genres, styles and languages, until my voice started breaking up and the paucity in my calibre surfaced. Realising this, better sense prevailed and I stopped trying to be a male Lata Mangeshkar (I was too naive, childish and ignorant to realize her supremacy then) but continued listening to all her numbers with equal intensity. Be it the naughty Mera maam Reeta Christina or Kaise rahun chup – even in a genre that was Ashaji’s forte, Lataji could make her presence felt, remember Aa jane jaa, Mai kya karu ram and Ud ke pawanke – fun-filled and impish.
From the times she came on the scene and ruled, much has been written and spoken about Lataji by many connoisseurs, critics and music lovers. Accolades have poured in and will continue for months to come. But to me, Lataji would always remain the one who induced words in me, introduced the intricacies and nuances of music that make me sleep and wakes me up even when she is far, far removed from the human world.
Thank you Lataji for everything, for being who you are and what you gave us!
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