On a lazy Sunday afternoon, as we walked along the busy Ginza street in Tokyo, I suddenly stopped in my steps, lo and behold, who do we see?
On Sundays, the main street in the Ginza area used to be closed for traffic.
Standing across the street from us was a tiny woman, an imposing giant, as if a sacred musical composition itself. Draped in a handloom saree, a tiny bindiya on her forehead, composed and demure, standing there was the lady, who can easily be called the flag bearer of the golden age of music. Her voice defined the sur of the heavens, the leh of the universe, the taal emanating form the core of the Earth. The embodiment of ancient ragas in a human form.
Lata Mangeshkar defined a whole era of human civilisation, not just music but life in all its forms. When historians will compile the history of the Subcontinent, of our times, there could be no complete history of a country from this region, of a household, of a family, of an individual, without the association of Lata’s eternal songs. Her songs being played in the background, on the old record discs in the drawing rooms or on the double spooled tape recorders in the verandahs and as time passed, on cassette players in the balconies and more recently on the cell phones everywhere. Her songs are hummed along on the long, winding road journeys or sung as the sun sets on the many walks on the sandy beach. Her delightful songs are the life of mehndi ceremonies or just randomly on the road blaring from the mini buses, entertaining, comforting thousands of souls as they go by their daily chores.
Lata is everywhere. In our homes, in our schools, in our parties, in our picnics. In our hearts in our souls. She was with us when it rained, she was with us when it snowed, she was in the mountains, she was in the desserts. She is in our marketplace, she is in our homes She is part of our lives just like she was part of the lives of our parents.
Her songs are not only entrenched in our musical memory but her melodious voice has become part of our past and part of our present in more ways than one.
That Sunday afternoon, Lataji stood across the street, in a white saree, shinning like a star in the sky
Developing a unique style of her own, she sang one hit song after another. Most appropriately titled “the Queen of Melody,” her soulful voice had no parallels.
To be immensely popular, decade after decade, in your own lifetime, is a luxury awarded to a very few.
Lata Mangeshkar sang for the heroines in the films produced in the 1940s and she sang for the heroines in the films produced in the 2000s. An absolute master of her own voice, she was an evergreen nightingale, she could have sung for the grand daughters of the heroines that she initially started with in the 1940s.
Lata Mangeshkar was a rare phenomenon. She becomes part of our history when she becomes part of our parents’ nostalgia. But she is also part of our own nostalgia and that of our children too.
Her diction, her pronunciation, her delivery of Urdu words, makes her songs alluring and timeless.
Lata sang thousands of songs, invoking thousands of emotions. Emotions of happiness and emotions of sadness. She sang of adventure and she sang of travel, she sang of romance and she sang of religiosity, she sang of nationalism and her songs invoked human beings eternal bond with the earth. In her repertoire of diverse songs, each song gets associated with some aspect of one s life and thus making Lata part of one’s living experience.
It is a surreal feeling to live in times when a legend of Lata Mangeshkar’s calibre lives on the same earth with you.
In the modern world of unprecedented connectivity, it was all the more surreal to see the legend interact on social media.
However, when I met her many many years ago, much before social media and much before the cell phones with their ready cameras, that Sunday afternoon, Lataji stood across the street, in a white saree, shinning like a star in the sky. As I walked across the street to meet her, it was a surreal experience to have met someone who lived in my history, was part of my own nostalgia, who lived in my present and in my future.