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Lata in my memories

by Dr. Dhirendra Tripathi

How does one describe Lata Mangeshkar's journey in one's life?!

You are suddenly taken aback-it's like being told to describe how enchanting one's breath is-so essential and so much taken for granted; you are at a loss for words!

If Lata Mangeshkar were to be described as the spice in my musical life, it would be akin to living in the enchanting spice town of Alleppy, Kerala; every moment, every breath you take is a continuous fragrance of spices so much is her voice interwoven in my life!

Let me make a feeble attempt to recollect. Flashback to those teenage years of single channel Doordarshan… Sunday movies…the first stirring s of pangs of love….Goonj Uthi Shehnai...Lata’s Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet!

Mujhko agar bhool jaoge tum/mujhse agar door jaoge tum/
Meri mohabbat mein woh taaseer hai,ke khinch ke mere paas aoge tum.

It sparked such longing in the yearning heart!

Or the Dogri song heard at a Himachali wedding in Palampur…"Bhala sipaya dogariya"! Stuck in the head for years, I finally traced it through YouTube and lo, behold! Who should the singer be?!Only Lata’s voice can haunt you like this for decades!

No festival was ever complete without her voice. The days of Ganesh utsav and the LP player! The crisp early morning air would herald the ten day festival with Lata’s Sukh karta dukh harta wafting from the mandal pandal cone loudspeakers! And you knew an immense joyous ten days of loitering with friends, full of boisterous aartis and fragrance of incense awaited you! Times have changed with snazzy cover versions, but the charm of her Ganesh songs is eternal. I still play them at home all days during Ganesh utsav!

Holi’s Holika dahan ceremony brings another flood of memories. It used to be a day-long celebration of games in our society grounds and uncannily Lata’s songs from Albela- "Shola jo bhadke dil mera dhadke” ;or  “Shaam dhale khidki tale tum seeti bajana chood do" provided the backdrop for exchange of furtive glances with the colony belles. I still request these songs to be played for old time’s sake!

There was this another exciting thing during Ganesh utsav and Holi- the movies being played on strung makeshift screens from a spool of films on a projector!

For years my mind kept toying with questions like ‘Would Madhubala’s devastating heartbreaking beauty in Mahal’s "Aayegaa aayegaa, ayegaa aanewala” be the same without Lata’s haunting, mesmerizing voice? Would Leena Chandawarkar look so enticingly beautiful in Mehboob Ki Mehndi’’s  "Jaane kyun log mohabbat kiya karte hain" without Lata’s ethereal backup? Would Mumtaz in Do Raaste’s Bindiya chamkegi be as charming without Lata’s lilting teasing voice saying Main kahan le jaun meri laung ka lashkara?’

Then there were these enchanting night-long rewind and replay sessions of Lata-songs such as ‘Sajana o sajna sun kya kahe kangana’ on the cassette player. While getting my cassettes recorded, a list of most loved songs was chosen from the alphabetical film-songs book. I was amazed that in this exercise more than half the songs were Lata’s solos or duets by default!

You also had those special songs that you had to send for higher search and taping for rare finds like "Aap yun faaslon se guzarte rahe’ and  Aapne aap raaton mein’ from Shankar Hussain; or ‘Sapera been bajaa been bajaa”   from Bhai Bhai.

The good old cassette era ended to give way to CDs. But I still dust up my cassettes and cassette player occasionally and play it with nostalgia.

At every stage of growing up she was there! From the volatile 16-17 year old’s iconic “Solah baras ki baali umar ko salaam" in "Ek Duuje Ke Liye" to the juvenile Bobby's "Ankhiyon ko rehne de ankhiyon ke aas paas" all romantic departures found solace in "Tera jaana dil ke armaano ka lut jaana" or Hum tere pyar mein saara aalam  kho baithe'" or 'Nigahein kyun bhatakti hain', 

When the mischievous feelings of  "Yun hi raahon mein khade hain tera kya lete hain/Dekh lete hani jalan dil ki bujha lete hain,..Daga daga wai wai” transformed into altruistic love vibes strumming the strings of the heart "Hamne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehakti khushboo ,haath se chhoo ke ise rishton ka ilzaam naa do" was there to provide words for those feelings.

"Phaili huee hain sapno ki baahen,aaja chal dein kahin door" was there when thoughts of eloping reigned;"Chandan sa badan chanchal chitwan" when you saw the unattainable beauty; "Ajeeb dastaan hai yeh kahan shuru kahan khatam" or "Chhod de saari duniya kisike liye yeh munaasib nahi aadmi ke liye" after each heart break till finally "Tera jalwa jisne dekha woh tera ho gaya" ushered in requited love!

Neither this nor that- "Neti Neti" the philosophy espoused by Jainism-Metaphor for the innate longings of the soul, somehow finds fulfilled in Lataji’s songs. And such a peace prevails! Meditate on these to see the above truth- Maai ri main kaase kahoon….Mogra phulala…..Runuzunu runuzunu re bhramara... Maai maai kaise jiyun….Maalvoon taak deep…. Sakhya re ghaayaal mee harini...Songs of Lekin….Songs of Pakeeza….and so many more such gems!

For decades, nay centuries  to come Lata Mangeshkar will have nurtured the joys, anguishes ,the wistfulness, the yearnings of generations in so many tangible and innumerable intangible ways!

Thank you Latajii! There can be nobody like you ever!

About the author
Dr. Dhirendra Tripathi

Dr Dhirendra Tripathi, an alumnus of Sion Hospital (Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College,is a General and Laparoscopic surgeon,working as senior medical officer,department of Surgery,ESIS scheme,at Mulund,Mumbai.